8 Pages From Gutenberg Bible to Fetch Over $500K at Sotheby's New York Auction

The Bible
The Gutenberg Bible, first printed book. |

Pages from a copy of the first Bible to be published on a printing press might fetch well over $500,000 at an auction held in New York Friday morning.

Sotheby's in New York will put on auction eight pages from a Gutenberg Bible, with the estimated value listed between $500,000 - $700,000.

According to the Sotheby website entry, the pages come from the 15th century printing of the Good Book, specifically the Old Testament book of Esther.

"Handsomely rubricated in red and blue (initial I of Esther in red-blue interlock with pale green ink filigree, headlines of alternate red-blue lombards," reads the entry.

"[C]hapter numbers of alternate red-blue elements, chapter initials alternately red and blue, red capital strokes, tituli to prologue to Esther, Esther, and first prologue to Job in red textura, following the printed rubrication guide issued with copies of the Gutenberg Bible …"

David Trobisch, director of the Green Collection, which is one of the world's largest private collections of rare biblical texts and artifacts, told The Christian Post that even one page of a Gutenberg Bible can be highly valued.

"The going rate for one page of a Gutenberg Bible is about $100,000," said Trobisch, who serves as collections director for the soon to be opened Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C.

"Complete copies are not available on the market, so there is nothing to compare them to in terms of market value. What is offered on the market today are single pages, not any complete copies that I'm aware of."

According to Sotheby's, the book of Esther fragment was likely part of a Bible that was located in an unknown convent or church in modern day Germany before eventually being sold to the auction company in 1920.

Bibles of historic worth and strong provenance have been known to fetch sales that match or exceed their originally assumed value.

In 2012 a British company called Omega Auctions of Stockport, Cheshire sold off the Bible of Elvis Presley, getting the American equivalent of $95,000; it was more than double their original expected price.

"It was a really exciting atmosphere in the room, we had 300 people and there was bidding online and on the telephone across the world," said Karen Fairweather to media.

"There were three rival bidders on the phone and once it got over £20,000 [$32,000] each bid was taking a while, because they each had a price in mind for the Bible and they were thinking about it."

Regarding the Gutenberg Bible pages, Trobisch told CP that he was "very optimistic that these pages will sell for" at least $500,000.

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