Incunabulum Incunabulorum: The Gutenberg Bible on Vellum in the Vollbehr Collection

Incunabulum Incunabulorum: The Gutenberg Bible on Vellum in the Vollbehr Collection

Incunabulum Incunabulorum: The Gutenberg Bible on Vellum in the Vollbehr Collection

Incunabulum Incunabulorum: The Gutenberg Bible on Vellum in the Vollbehr Collection

Excerpt

The most precious masterpiece of the earliest Christian art of printing, as all booklovers are agreed, is Johannes Gutenberg's Bible in Latin. The choicest of all the forty-five specimens of Gutenberg Bibles still remaining in existence, so all connoisseurs of early printing likewise are agreed, are the twelve printed on vellum. Of this famous first and only parchment edition there remain but three perfect specimens of the complete Scriptures. To wit: The two volume Gutenberg Bible acquired by the French Bibliothèque Royale in 1788; another two volume Gutenberg Bible acquired by the British Museum in 1846; and the famous three volume Gutenberg Bible of the Carinthian monastery of St. Paul, acquired in 1926 by Dr. Otto H. F. Vollbehr of Berlin for $305,000, the highest recorded price ever paid for any book. Yet Dr. W. S. Rosenbach, the well-known antiquary of Philadelphia, in his "Books and Bidders" has predicted that the next price of a mere paper copy of this rarest of books will be more than one million dollars.

Inasmuch as that particular Bible on vellum is not only the costliest book in the world, but is also the only Gutenberg Bible bound long ago in three volumes--all others from that earliest press having been bound in two--this cornerstone of the great Vollbehr Collection of 3,000 fifteenth century prints may fitly be called an incunabulum incunabulorum, or the book of earliest printed books.

When newspapers all over the world printed a despatch from Vienna reporting Dr. Vollbehr's acquisition of a Gutenberg Bible from an old abbey in a valley of the Carinthian Alps for the staggering price of $305,000 that bibliophile forthwith was overwhelmed with written offers of old family Bibles, some of which were scarcely worth the price of the postage stamps on the envelopes. Some of the letter writers had got the idea that a "Mr. Gutenberg" had recently died in some out-of-the-way place in the Alps and that his widow or children had disposed of his . . .

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