A Fine Copy of the First Octavo Bible, in Early Pigskin

BIBLIA INTEGRA. (POOR MAN'S BIBLE).

(Basel: Johann Froben, 27 June 1491). 185 x 110 mm. (6 1/2 x 4 1/2"). [493] (of 496) leaves (lacking only the three blanks a1 and 2E7-8). Double column, 56 lines plus headline in gothic type. FIRST OCTAVO PRINTING, First Froben Edition.

FINE OLD (17th or 18th century) BLIND-STAMPED PIGSKIN, covers with multiple frames of plain rules and foliate rolls, central panel with gilt supralibros of an abbot or a bishop with crossed keys below a plain miter, raised bands, two later tan morocco labels, two original brass clasps. Rubricated in red, capitals struck with red, initials in red or blue, opening of Jerome's prologue (a2r) with 16-line maiblumen initial "F" in red and blue with a 19-line descender, the space between the horizontal lines of the "F" with an apparently contemporaneous drawing of a haloed man on a bright pink ground, a4r with eight-line initial "D" in blue containing a slightly amateurish painted face in colors. Front pastedown with ex-libris of Pauli Menso; title page with round black ink stamp containing crossed keys and "P. B. S. P." and with older ink inscription mostly washed away; recto of second leaf with faded blue ink library stamp. Copinger, Incunabula Biblica 90; Goff B-592; BMC III, 789; ISTC ib00592000. Pigskin lightly soiled and rubbed, three leaves with lower fore-edge corner repaired (text trivially affected), head margin trimmed a bit close (touching headlines of perhaps a dozen leaves), occasional minor marginal stains or other trivial imperfections, but AN ESPECIALLY FINE COPY, the text remarkably clean and fresh, the bottom and fore margins comfortable, and in a very pleasing binding.

In an early unrestored binding, this is an especially pleasing copy of the first Bible to be printed in octavo format, and the first book known to have been issued by Johann Froben (1460-1527), a central figure in the printing history of the 15th and early 16th centuries. He was also the friend and employer of Erasmus, and played a key role both in the intellectual ferment of the northern Renaissance and the theological turmoil of the Reformation. Whereas previously published larger format Bibles had a nobler appearance, one that was thought to be appropriate for their weighty content, they were cumbersome and expensive. The present item's portability, generally recognized accuracy, and innovative summation of chapter contents (an idea apparently borrowed from Kesler's 1487 Bible) earned it widespread acceptance as well as the sobriquet of "the poor man's bible." Although the smaller format was a movement forward for printed scripture, it also looked backward to the days of the manuscript pocket Bible, which had been produced in large numbers in 13th century scriptoria, particularly in France, and which had been written in almost microscopic hands. The small type used here was originally thought to have been produced by Froben's former employer Amerbach, but scholars now believe it was Froben's own creation, and a considerable technical accomplishment. Copies of this Bible often appear incomplete, and they are seldom found in a little-worn contemporary binding. The supralibros indicates that our volume was owned by a senior cleric rather than a travelling preacher, which may account for its fine state of preservation.
(ST15094)

Keywords: Froben

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PJP Catalog: 75.111

BIBLIA INTEGRA. (POOR MAN'S BIBLE). BIBLE IN LATIN.
BIBLIA INTEGRA. (POOR MAN'S BIBLE).
BIBLIA INTEGRA. (POOR MAN'S BIBLE).
BIBLIA INTEGRA. (POOR MAN'S BIBLE).