BIBLE: German. Nuremberg: Anton Koberger, 17 February 1483.

$ 75,000.00

2 volumes. Folio (15 4/8 x 10 4/8 inches; 392 x 267 mm).

Collation: [1 4 2-4 8 5 6 6-37 8 39 6; 40-73 8 74-76 6]. 583 leaves (of 586, lacking blank leaves 39/6, 40/1 and 76/6), foliated (with errors).

Types: 10:120G (text), 11:162G (headings and headlines). Double column, 50 lines and headline.

109 woodcuts (87 in the Old Testament and 12 in the New Testament) from 108 blocks, ALL WITH CONTEMPORARY HAND-COLORING in green, orange, yellow, ochre and maroon, very probably executed in Koberger's shop, the creation of Eve woodcut on fol. 2/1r with AN ADDITIONAL BLUE PIGMENT AND ON A GROUND OF BURNISHED AND GAUFFRED GOLD LEAF. Spaces for initials, rubricated: 6- and 9-line initials on 1/1r, 2/1r and 40/2r supplied in blue or red with white modeling on a BURNISHED AND GAUFFRED GOLD ground within green and red borders with small extensions, other 6- and 9-line Lombard initials in parti-colored red and blue, smaller initials in red or blue, paragraph marks and capital strokes in red (lacking the 3 blanks, moderate to severe dampstaining to volume one, marginal dampstaining mainly at front and back of volume II, occasional fungal spotting, damp causing partial loss to gold leaf of initial on I:2/1r and short tear to woodcut on folio CCXXXVv (31/1), partially washing out the coloring of some woodcuts and initials toward the end of volume one, damp-softening to last 50 leaves, volume II front free endpaper partly detached, first leaf repaired along gutter and soiled, both volumes with gutters of first 2 quires reinforced and with large marginal repairs to last few leaves). 

Eighteenth-century German deerskin over thick pasteboard, covers tooled in blind with leafy vine roll-tooled border and intersecting diagonals forming four compartments each with a small foliate lozenge stamp, spine in six compartments, black and tan calf lettering-pieces, edges stained red (rebacked, original backstrips preserved, worn and rubbed, inner hinges split).

Provenance: Eighteenth-century German note on the edition in lower margin of first leaf: "Diese rare bibel... hat.. von Uffenbach in seinem Catalogo für 75 fl geschätzt Const...", one or two marginal notes in the same hand; Charles Eliot Norton, signatures on front paste-downs, one dated 1890, presentation bookplates to: Harvard College Library, ink accession stamps on first leaves dated May 4 1905, release stamps on bookplates; with Christie's, 19 May 1995, lot 110.

Ninth edition of the Bible in German, the first to be printed in Nuremberg, and the only German edition printed by Koberger.

The text, derived from Zainer's first German Bible of 1475/6, was used in all succeeding pre-Lutheran High German editions. The woodcuts, attributed to the "Master of the Cologne Bibles", and probably based on the pen drawings in a Dutch manuscript now in Berlin (Berlin Ms. germ. fol. 516), were first used in the Cologne printer Heinrich Quentell's two Low German Bibles of c. 1478 (Goff B-636 and 637), with which Koberger appears to have been associated. The cuts exerted a decisive influence on later Bible illustrations, becoming the prototype for later German Bible illustrations in particular, "fixing 109 as the standard number of woodcuts used. But if the succeeding editions use Koberger [ie., the Cologne woodcuts] as a basic source... they consistently reduce the size of their cuts" (In Remembrance of Creation 113). Koberger had the types cut specially for this edition of approximately 1000-1500 copies, which was sold in three forms, uncolored, colored in 3 tints only, and fully colored as in the present copy, with the first woodcut and the major initials heightened in gold.

From the library of celebrated American scholar and critic Charles Eliot Norton, who because of his close ties with Britain, "was perhaps the single most significant personal link between American and British intellectual life, introducing books and people from one side of the Atlantic to the other" (James Turner for ANB).

Norton was a respected professor, art historian and literary critic at Harvard from 1873, the year his wife died, and intimate friend of the Brownings, Arthur Clough, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Elizabeth Gaskell, John Simon, William Morris, Edward and Georgiana Burne-Jones and John Ruskin,  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), Samuel G. Ward, Leslie Stephen, Dickens, Mill, Darwin, G. H. Lewes, and George Eliot Thomas and Carlyle.

"By the late 1880s Norton had become the most prominent cultural critic in the United States, though ill health from time to time stemmed his prodigious output. He urged improvement of aesthetic taste, education, and intellectual life, performing for Americans something like the function of Matthew Arnold in England" (James Turner for ANB)H 3137*; GW 4303; Pellechet 2375; Polain (B) 670; IGI 1713; BMC II 424; Schramm XVII p. 8; Schreiber 3461; Fairfax Murray German 63; J. Strachan, Early Bible Illustrations (Cambridge 1957), pp. 13-15; Goff B-632.