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The Lost Gutenberg

This is a fascinating and detailed account of a Gutenberg Bible, the people responsible for its printing, and those people who owned it afterwards. The author has extensively researched historical details to an extraordinary degree. She has unearthed information of household budgets, expenditures and lifestyles in the families where this beautifully illustrated book resided.

Only forty- five copies of this Bible were printed. In most cases the second volume has been lost. This is true with Bible number 45 also. This copy retained its original binding and a calf skin cover that has a lattice motif of small diamonds, which surround six stamps.

Johann Gutenberg was born around 1400. His father worked at a mint, and it is thought that this is where Johann developed an interest in metal plates and engraving. At this time, artisans across Europe were searching for a way to speed up the production of written texts. This is a task which Johann developed and refined to produce many manuscripts.

The first owner of this treasured book was an Irish Earl who was more concerned with owning rare books, than appreciating the true beauty of this unique and amazing work. The story of the Gosford family is outlined and reflects the interest shown in rare collections.

British Bibliophile, Lord Tyssen-Amherst, acquired the Gutenberg Bible in 1884.His story tells us that, rather than have the book shelved, he and his daughter pored over the beautifully illuminated pictures and letters.

They used a magnifying glass to detect register marks and details as well as study the text. On one page a mistake was made, and some small red dots were put underneath it. The dots must have been overlooked as they and the mistake, remain today.

The next owner of this treasure is Charles Perrins, who inherited a huge fortune from his father’s Lea & Perrins Worcestershire business. After desperate measures to keep the book, it is eventually sold to an American multimillionaire. It is his wife who purchases the Bible, and her story is a remarkable one as well.

The research which details the making and process of printing the Gutenberg Bible, the family stories at the time and the journey through time for this treasure, makes compelling reading. A must for all bibliophiles.


Author Margaret Leslie Davis
Publisher Allen and Unwin
ISBN 9781760529611
Distributor Allen and Unwin
Released May 2019