A NOBLE FRAGMENT. BEING A LEAF OF THE GUTENBERG BIBLE, 1450-1455.
With a Bibliographical Essay by A. Edward Newton
- New York: Gabriel Wells, 1921.
- Folio, (actual leaf 15 1/2 x 11 1/4 inches; 393 x 287 mm.)
- Original full black blindstamped morocco by Stikeman & Co., front cover lettered in gilt. Gilt turn-ins, grey endpapers, original slipcase
-  pp. of text, with title-page and one initial letter printed in red.
Price: $120,000.00 other currencies
Order Nr. 92498
Designed by Bruce Rogers and printed by William Edwin Rudge. (Printing and the Mind of Man 1, Goff B-526B, Leaf Book - Chalmers 18, Disbound and Dispersed #7). Literature: BMC I, 17; H 3031*; Bod-inc B-237; BSB-Ink B-408; GW 4201; ISTC ib00526000.
Original unwatermarked paper leaf from the Gutenberg Bible is hinged into a dark blue Morocco leather portfolio and slip-case. The leaf here contains parts of the 2nd Book of Esdras, chapters 14 and 15, with forty-two lines of black ink, double columned, with red and blue Lombardic Capitals. The leaf has minor staining and handling marks, one very small hole in bottom corner, near hinge, type in very good condition. The leaf in this copy is very clean except for minor foxing at edges, with ink that is still very black and crisp. The morocco cover has some wear to spine and edges, slip-case in poor structural condition, with several seams coming apart. A remarkably fresh and lovely example of the "greatest of all printed books" (PMM).
Provenance: Christies, June 9, 1993, lot 14; The Estate of John Donnelly. Acquired by Joseph Sabin in 1920.
This "greatest of all printed books," the Gutenberg Bible was the first book printed from movable type in the Western hemisphere (PMM). Only forty-eight copies of it are known, most of which are incomplete. This leaf was removed from the imperfect Mannheim-Zouch-Sabin copy after it was acquired by the New York bookseller Gabriel Wells. Wells broke up the copy in 1921 and offered the leaves separately, bound along with A. Edward Newton's eloquent essay. This "copy contained 593 leaves and, because it lacked 48 leaves, he considered it so imperfect as to reduce considerably its sales potential. He therefore decided to divide the Bible into as many whole books as possible and to sell these, as well as the single leaves remaining to collectors and institutions..." (The 500th Anniversary Pictorial Census of the Gutenberg Bible (Chicago: The Coverdale Press, 1961).
Every copy, leaf, or fragment of this Bible represents a rare tangible piece of cultural history, and an immense achievement in the art and craft of printing. "Its printers were competing in the market hitherto supplied by the producers of high-class manuscripts. The design of the book and the layout of the book were therefore based on the book-hand and manuscript design of the day, and a very high standard of press-work was required-and obtained-to enable the new mechanical product to compete successfully with its hand-produced rivals. Standards were set in quality of paper and blackness of ink, in design and professional skill, which the printers of later generations have found difficult to maintain" (PMM).
"Wells commissioned A. Edward Newton, who had recently published The Amenitites of Book Collecting and Kindred Affections (Boston: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1918), a compilation of enthusiastic essays on the joys of the pursuit and ownership of books, to write an essay to accompany the leaf. Newton's essay, along with an original leaf...and the leaf book, in its now familiar form, was born." (Disbound and Dispersed, page 70, 2005).