Gutenberg Bible Pages Up For Auction

Soethby's / Soethby's

These days, the Bible is the most frequently published book in the world. But book collectors will tell you that the original Gutenberg Bible of the 15th Century—the first major Western book to be printed using movable type—is the rarest and most coveted text. Just 180 copies of the Latin text were originally printed in 1455, and just 49 of those are thought to still exist today (of which only half are complete texts).

As you can imagine, copies of the Bible are quite valuable. The last complete text to appear on the market sold in 1987 for $5.4 million (over $11 million in today’s money). But collectors with cash to spare are in luck: Although it’s not a full text, tomorrow eight pages of a 1455 Gutenberg Bible will hit the auction block at Sotheby's New York. The eight-leaf section includes the entire Book of Esther, preceded by the end of the Book of Judith and the prologue of Jerome to Esther, and followed by the prologue of Jerome to Job. It is expected to sell for between $500,000 and $700,000.

Although the Bible’s fame comes largely from its historical status as one of the first printed books, there are still variations between the copies because at the time, illuminations and rubrications—red text added for emphasis—were done by hand.

[h/t Artnet]