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Exhibit of the Month

November 2019

The Sheet of the Gutenberg Bible
(Mainz, ca 1454, National Library of the CR, shelf mark 39 B 54)

Johann Gutenberg decided to show advantages of his new technology of book produduction, tested so far only on small titles, on printing the Latin Bible. He started the production itself in Mainz in 1452 and finished it around 1454. The Gutenberg Bible became a symbol of the typographic age and it is the world´s most expensive printed book ever. Out of the originally printed 180 copies, only less than fifty have been preserved to this day. Prague lost the copy of the Gutenberg Bible in the beginning of the 19th century, when it mysteriously disappeared from the Nostitz Library at the Lesser Town. Through various auction houses it finally arrived in the library, established in California by railroad tycoon Henry E. Huntigton. Until the recent discovery of two copies of the so called Mainz Indulgence, the only Gutenberg print kept in our territory was one incomplete sheet from the Gutenberg Bible (Isaiah 7,25–10,13; with handmade red and blue initials and numbers of biblical chapters, added later), which the National Library acquired by purchase of Prague lawyer and collector Zdeněk Pobuda in 1946. He bought it before the World War II in the Antiquariat Gilhofer in Vienna. It belongs to a larger set of twenty four sheets, discovered in the beginning of the 1920s in the holdings of the University Library in Freiburg im Breisgau. In the mid-16th century, they were reused by a bookbinder as waste material for the production of cardboard. The Freiburg Library has kept only three sheets in its collections and sold the rest.

Nov 01, 2019
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