The First Printing of the Famous Koberger Bible

BIBLIA LATINA.

(Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 16 November 1475). 432 x 288 mm. (17 x 11 1/4"). [480] leaves, lacking the final blank (as usual) and lacking the final leaf (which is printed on recto only). Double column, 48 lines, gothic type. First Koberger Edition.

A binding incorporating the original(?) bevelled lower board and a probably later upper board, contemporary tooled calf covering about 60 percent of the sides (the remainder, including the spine, covered with well-matching modern calf), raised bands, later red morocco label. Manuscript running titles, paragraph marks, and numerous one- to six-line initials, all in red ink, and WITH A VERY FINE SIX-LINE ELABORATELY INCISED ILLUMINATED INITIAL at the beginning of Genesis, the "I" painted pink on a tooled gilt ground, framed in green and with multi-colored acanthus leaves and flowers extending into the margins. With contemporary quiring in manuscript in lower margins. A duplicate from the Bibliotheca Publica Regia Stuttgartensis (about which see below), with their armorial stamp (and two others that are illegible) on the first page. Dibdin, "Bibliotheca Spenceriana" 15; Copinger 22; Darlowe & Moule, p. 909; Goff B-543; BMC II, 413; ISTC ib00543000. The binding very solidly restored and perfectly agreeable; first leaf with about a quarter of the page excised and repaired with plain paper (about half of one text column on both sides lost), first two leaves and last few quires with expert restoration to corners and edges (not affected the text), first and last few leaves a little soiled, a scattering of tiny wormholes to a handful of quires, other insignificant imperfections, but the vast majority of leaves clean and fresh, and with ample margins throughout.

Proclaimed by Dibdin to be "a magnificent . . . performance," this impressive tome is the celebrated first Bible from the press of the famous Anton Koberger (ca. 1440-1513). Like others of his earliest books, the present imposing volume is among the most beautiful of all Koberger productions, and it is noteworthy because its page-for-page contents are identical with those of the Gutenberg Bible (whereas his 1477 and later Bibles represent departures). A former goldsmith from a prominent family of artisans, Koberger was undoubtedly the most prosperous member of the Renaissance printing trade. He established his press in Nuremberg in 1472 and quickly became one of the most prolific printers in the business, outstripping Schoeffer of Mainz by 1480. He produced about 200 works by 1500, including the most famous illustrated work of the era, the "Nuremberg Chronicle." By Copinger's count, Koberger published 16 editions of the Bible (15 in Latin and one in German) over the course of 25 years, as well as numerous philosophical and theological works on as many as 24 presses under his own supervision; although most Koberger books have Nuremberg imprints, he had books printed for him at several other locations, and he had sales outlets from Paris and Lyon to Budapest and Warsaw. As a wholesaler, this "king of booksellers" also handled all the major scientific works of the period and dominated the book trade in Europe. In addition to being an important "first" in the career of a major incunabular printer, this volume has physical attributes that add greatly to its appeal and to the experience of handling it. Imposing size and heft give it a commanding presence; the text is skillfully printed and attractively rubricated; and the clean, bright paper is thick and crackles as one turns the leaves. With few exceptions, this Bible appears at auction in unpleasant condition or defective; copies that qualify as at least palatable fetch in excess of $20,000 (St. John Hornby's handsomely embellished copy brought $62,500 in 2013). Our copy has the added prestige of coming from an illustrious public ducal library founded in 1765 by Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg (now part of the Württembergische Landesbibliothek). Eugen was especially interested in acquiring Bibles for the library, which today includes more than 20,000 items and is considered to be one of the most important such collections in the world.
(CEH1922)

Add to Cart Price: $15,000.00

PJP Catalog: 76.026

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