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Harvey Miller
E. White
Editio princeps: A History of the Gutenberg Bible

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465 p., 14 b/w ill. + 103 colour ill., 225 x 300 mm, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-909400-84-9
Languages: English, Latin, German
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Retail price: EUR 120,00 excl. tax
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The Gutenberg Bible is widely recognized as Europe’s first printed book, a book that forever changed the world. However, despite its initial impact, fame was fleeting: for the better part of three centuries the Bible was virtually forgotten; only after two centuries of tenacious and contentious scholarship did it attain its iconic status as a monument of human invention. Editio princeps: A History of the Gutenberg Bible is the first book to tell the whole story of Europe’s first printed edition, describing its creation at Mainz circa 1455, its impact on fifteenth-century life and religion, its fall into oblivion during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and its rediscovery and rise to worldwide fame during the centuries thereafter. This comprehensive study examines the forty-nine surviving Gutenberg Bibles, and fragments of at least fourteen others, in the chronological order in which they came to light. Combining close analysis of material clues within the Bibles themselves with fresh documentary discoveries, the book reconstructs the history of each copy in unprecedented depth, from its earliest known context through every change of ownership up to the present day. Along the way it introduces the colorful cast of proud possessors, crafty booksellers, observant travelers, and scholarly librarians who shaped our understanding of Europe’s first printed book. Bringing the ‘biographies’ of all the Gutenberg Bibles together for the first time, this richly illustrated study contextualizes both the historic cultural impact of the editio princeps and its transformation into a world treasure.


Eric Marshall White, PhD, became Curator of Rare Books at Princeton University Library in 2015 after eighteen years as Curator of Special Collections at Southern Methodist University's Bridwell Library. A specialist in early European printing, he has published numerous articles and exhibition catalogues on rare books.


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations - Preface and Acknowledgments

Part One: Editio princeps

Chapter 1. Europe’s First Printer

Chapter 2. The Work of the Books

Chapter 3. A Book without a History


Part Two: A History of the Gutenberg Bible

Chapter 4. The First Fruits of the Eighteenth Century

1702 (before): Berlin, Staatsbibliothek Preussischer Kulturbesitz (vellum)

1745: Aschaffenburg, Hofbibliothek (paper)

1760: Washington, D.C., Library of Congress (vellum)

1761: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France (vellum)

1763: Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine (paper)

1765: Lille, Abbé Favier; present location uncertain (paper)

1766: London, British Library (vellum)

1775 (circa): Göttingen, Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek (vellum)

1780: Leipzig, Universitätsbibliothek (vellum)

1787: New York, Morgan Library (complete paper copy)

1789: Mainz, Gutenberg-Museum (paper, two volumes)

1789: Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France (paper)

1789: ‘Mannheim’, dispersed as ‘Noble Fragments’ in 1921 (paper)

1789: (supposedly) Mainz, Cathedral Library (paper or vellum?)

1790: Manchester, John Rylands Library (paper)

1790: Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (paper)

1791: Oxford, Bodleian Library (paper)

1791: Lisbon, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal (paper)

1793: New York Public Library (paper)

1794 (before): Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (paper)

1796: Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland (paper)

1797: Windsor, Eton College Library (paper)

1797: Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica (paper)

1797: Fulda, Hessische Landesbibliothek (vellum)

1798 (not after): London, British Library (paper)

1798: Stuttgart, Württembergische Landesbibliothek (paper)

1800 (before): Cologny, Bibliotheca Bodmeriana (paper)


Chapter 5. The Long Harvest of the Nineteenth Century

1801: (supposedly) ‘à Paris, chez Merlin de Thionville’ (vellum?)

1803: Frankfurt am Main, Stadt- und Universitätsbibliothek (paper)

1803: Trier, Stadtbibliothek (paper)

1807: Saint-Omer, Bibliothèque publique de la ville (paper)

1812: Mons, Bibliothèque centrale, vol. I; vol. II dispersed (‘Trier II’, paper)

1813: San Marino, CA, Henry E. Huntington Library (vellum)

1813: Cambridge, MA, Harvard University, Widener Library (paper)

1816: Austin, TX, University of Texas, Harry Ransom Center (paper)

1819: ‘Dresden’, nine leaves used as binder’s waste (vellum)

1822: Vatican City, Biblioteca Apostolica (vellum)

1828: Moscow, State University, Lomonosov Library (paper)

1836: ‘Mainz’, eight leaves used as binder’s waste (vellum)

1838: Princeton, NJ, Princeton University, Scheide Library (paper)

1839: New Haven, CT, Yale University, Beinecke Library (paper)

1840: Tokyo, Keio University Library (paper)

1858: New York, Morgan Library (vellum)

1862 (before): Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotek (paper)

1872: London, Lambeth Palace, Archiepiscopal Library (New Testament, vellum)

1874: New York, Morgan Library (Old Testament, paper)

1875: ‘Murbach’, seven leaves used as binder’s waste (vellum)

1878: Moscow, Russian State Library (vellum)

1889: Cambridge, University Library (paper)

1897: Pelplin, Muzeum Diecezjalnym (paper)

1898: ‘English Carthusians’, a single leaf used as binder’s waste (vellum)


Chapter 6. The Last Gleanings of the Twentieth Century

1904: ‘Vadstena’, sixty leaves used as binder’s waste (vellum)

1907: ‘Paderborn’, a single leaf used as binder’s waste (vellum)

1909: ‘Durlach’, four leaves used as binder’s waste (vellum)

1910 (circa): Burgos, Biblioteca Pública del Estado (paper)

1910 (circa): Seville, Biblioteca Universitaria y Provincial (paper)

1911: Mainz, Gutenberg-Museum (paper, vol. II only)

1911: ‘Vienna’, nineteen leaves used as binder’s waste (paper)

1911: ‘Eichstätt’, two leaves used as binder’s waste (vellum)

1918 (circa): ‘Esztergom’, nine leaves used as binder’s waste (vellum)

1921: ‘Zürich’, twenty-four leaves used as binder’s waste (paper)

1969 (circa): ‘Paris’, a single leaf used as binder’s waste (vellum)

1975: Kassel, Universitätsbibliothek, from Immenhausen (paper)

1977: ‘Cologne’, a single leaf used as binder’s waste (vellum)

1983: ‘Strasbourg’, three leaves used as binder’s waste (paper)

1996: Schleswig, Schloss Gottorf; from Rendsburg, Marienkirche (paper)


Epilogue: Fertile Ground for the Twenty-First Century

2017: ‘Leipzig’, a single leaf used as binder’s waste (vellum)


Part Three: A Census of Gutenberg Bibles

I. Surviving Copies (including fragments)

II. Additional Recorded Survivals (present locations unknown)

III. Notional Copies (not otherwise recorded)

IV. Accessory Fragments (not from completed Bibles)

V. Doubtful Copies and ‘Ghosts’



General Index

Provenance Index

Index of Fifteenth-Century Editions

Interest Classification:
Fine Arts & Performing Arts
Art History (general)
Medieval art history

This publication is also distributed by: ISD, Marston
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