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LOST GUTENBERG: The Astounding Story
Bibliophile price: £7.00
The Gutenberg Bible was one of the first printed books and only 48 or 49 survive, many of them incomplete or damaged. Number 45 is one of the most perfect in terms of its condition. The bibles were printed without illustration and it was up to the first owners to decorate the margins and title pages, making each one unique. The author starts by describing the moment in 1950 when Estelle Doheny, a woman who had weathered financial scandal to become one of the wealthiest book-collectors in America, opened the box containing number 45 in the sweltering heat of her Los Angeles mansion. The customs officials had repacked it negligently, but the 15th century book was not damaged. No 45 is one of the few volumes to retain their original binding, and the illustrations on the vellum are richly coloured and elaborate. Estelle was the only woman collector who had purchased a Gutenberg Bible, and the author takes volume 45 back through its collecting history with the previous four owners. The Earl of Gosford purchased it in 1836 to adorn the eccentric Gosford Castle in Northern Ireland, and for him the book was just another old volume that demonstrated his wealth and taste. His rival in the collecting world was the second Earl Spencer, ancestor of Princess Diana, who himself had a Gutenberg Bible. On Gosford's death, the Bible went in 1884 to British bibliophile Lord William Tyssen-Amherst, whose dealer and adviser was none other than the legendary Bernard Quaritch. Comprehensively embezzled by his solicitor, William had to sell up and the next owner was the heir to Lea and Perrins Worcester sauce, who himself had to sell when his porcelain business collapsed. Today the book belongs to Keio University, Japan, and was the first of the Gutenbergs to be digitised. 294pp, bibliography, notes, beautiful black and white photos.

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