Vestiges of a Lost Carolingian Bible Discovered at Princeton

Ink offset on the upper board of EXI Oversize 5707.674q

The fifteenth-century binding of Princeton University Library’s copy of Nicolaus de Ausmo, Supplementum Summae Pisanellae et Canones poenitentiales (Venice: Franciscus Renner, de Heilbronn and Nicolaus de Frankfordia, 1474), preserves the ghostly remains of one of the greatest of all lost books: the ninth-century “Tours Bible” of Trier, a large-format manuscript written at Tours ca. 835 as part of the religious reforms initiated by Charlemagne (742–814), later deposited at the Imperial Benedictine Abbey of St Maximin in Trier, only to be discarded for use as binding waste in Trier during the fifteenth century.

Since the closure of the St Maximin in Trier in 1802, approximately 85 fragments from this lost Carolingian Bible have come to light, all within fifteenth-century book bindings from this monastery’s library. Many are preserved in Trier’s Stadtbibliothek, while others are in Vienna, London, Berlin, Bonn, Koblenz, Walberberg, and three institutions in the United States: Indiana University’s Lilly Library, Cornell University’s Olin Library, and the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Carolingian ink offset on the lower board, reversed and enhanced image.

Princeton’s vestiges of this lost Carolingian Bible are neither a full vellum leaf nor a small fragment, but rather the reversed offset of ninth-century minuscule script, written in red and black ink, which has adhered to the Trier binding’s bare wooden boards, formerly covered by two vellum fragments from the discarded Tours Bible, which were removed at an unknown date. Decipherable with the aid of enhanced digital images shown in reverse, the preserved text consists of the Latin chapter summaries for 4 Kings (IV Regum), which would have preceded the beginning of that biblical book. The vellum leaf that bore this offset text, which was cut into two pieces and pasted down horizontally across the interior surfaces of the upper and lower boards, appears not to have survived. Thus, the offset in the Princeton binding is the only witness to its existence and the only record of its contents.

Detail of the Moutier-Grandval Bible. London, The British Library © British Library Board.

Some idea of the lost Tours Bible from Trier may be obtained by comparing the offset discovered at Princeton to the same biblical text in the ninth-century “Moutier-Grandval Bible” at the British Library, one of the greatest of all surviving Carolingian manuscripts. In both bibles, a red-ink rubric reads “Incipit capitulatio de Libro regum quarto,” while a series of Roman chapter numerals and initial Ds written in red ink descends the left side of the column. The script and spacing exhibited in each of the bibles is closely comparable, suggesting that they were produced within the same scriptorium.

Comparison of the Princeton offset (top) and Moutier-Grandval Bible in London (bottom).

Inscription on f. 1r

The Princeton copy of Nicolaus de Ausmo, printed in Venice in 1474, reached St Maximin in Trier soon after its publication. There, presumably during the later 1470s, it was inscribed “Ex libris Imperialis Monasterij S. Maximinj” and was bound (with the Carolingian Bible fragments) in wooden boards covered with blind-tooled calfskin; one of the tools impressed into the leather verifies its early provenance, bearing the words “Codex sancti Maximini.”

Detail of binding: “Codex sancti Maximini” stamp

 

 

When St Maximin in Trier was dissolved in 1802, many of its library’s books went to the local Stadtbibliothek, but many others were scattered to the four winds. The Nicolaus de Ausmo of 1474, along with several other books from St Maximin, became part of the collection of Joseph von Görres (1776–1848), a German writer and historian in Koblenz. His collection of printed books was sold by Süddeutsches Antiquariat in Munich (Katalog 32, dated 1903 [i.e. 1902]), no. 2. The catalogue entry mentioned the book’s provenance from St Maximin in Trier, but not the Carolingian binding waste or its offset. The book was owned next by Edward Duff Balken (1874–1960), Princeton Class of 1897, who presented it to Princeton University Library in 1940. The Carolingian offset was discovered and identified by Eric White on March 29, 2018, during preparations for a meeting of RBSC’s Rare Books Working Group, an informal book history workshop for interested Princeton University graduate students.

For further reading:

Die Touronische Bibel der Abtei St. Maximin vor Trier: Faksimile der erhaltenen Blätter… Ed. Reiner Nolden (Trier, 2002).

Florentine Mütherich, “Die Touronische Bibel von St. Maximin in Trier,” in: Studies in Carolingian Manuscript Illumination (London, 2004), 341-60.

The Only Copy in America of Virgil’s Bucolica [Strasbourg: Heinrich Eggestein, ca. 1473-74]

Vergilius Maro, Publius. Bucolica [Strasbourg : Heinrich Eggestein, about 1473-74] f°. Goff V-203.      Oversize VRG 2945.325.001q

Given the rich holdings of Virgil’s poetry in Princeton University Library, one of the world’s foremost repositories of fifteenth-century editions of his works, it is perhaps easy to overlook the collection’s earliest separate edition of the Bucolica, which is one of only five copies to survive and the only copy preserved outside of continental Europe. Written in 42–39 BCE, the Bucolica (Latin ‘On the care of cattle’) was Virgil’s first major work, preceding the Georgics and the Aeneid. The Bucolica consists of ten brief eclogues that evoke the idyllic scenes and daily hardships of rural life within the Roman Empire. The poems were sensationally popular in ancient Rome and have never gone out of favor, as medieval Christians admired Virgil’s mastery of Latin verse and perceived messianic themes in his imagery. Virgil became Dante’s hero, and readers of the Renaissance esteemed Virgil above all other poets. In modern times, improved editions of his works, as well as reliable translations, continue to find a broad readership.

The first printing of the works of Virgil, including the Bucolica, Georgics, and the Aeneid, appears to be the folio edition published in Rome c. 1469 by Conradus Sweynheym and Arnoldus Pannartz. Princeton University Library is one of eight institutions to hold that edition, and the only one outside of Europe. The first separate printing of the Bucolica appeared in a smaller quarto format from the Cologne press of Ulrich Zel, c. 1470, which is known in only eleven copies.

Princeton’s earliest Bucolica, from the second separate edition, was printed in Strasbourg by Heinrich Eggestein about 1473-74. It is a slender Chancery folio (30.9 × 21.2 cm) of sixteen leaves in which the poems were composed in a single narrow column of 27 lines per page, spaciously leaded as in a school book. In the past the edition has been dated variously as c. 1468, c. 1470, and c. 1472. The earlier dates are clearly too early, falling before Eggestein introduced his type known as ‘4:99G’, used here, which also appeared in datable editions from 1471 to 1473. The dating of c. 1472 for Eggestein’s Bucolica, cited in most of the prevailing bibliographies, accords with the printer’s chronology but it does not take into account the key evidence of his paper supply. Paul Needham, the Scheide Librarian at Princeton, has determined that the watermarks found in the Bucolica, depicting a Bull’s Head surmounted by a Tau Cross, belong to a Chancery paper stock from Basel that also was used c. 1474 in Valascus de Taranta, Tractatus de epidemia et peste [Basel: Martin Flach, c. 1474]. Needham suggests that the best dating for Eggestein’s Bucolica is therefore c. 1473-74.

Eggestein’s edition of the Bucolica first came to light in 1810, when the French bibliographer Jacques-Charles Brunet (1780–1867) described it in his Manuel de libraire, vol. 2 (p. 648), citing the copy then owned by Comte Léon d’Ourches (1766–1843) of Nancy. The confident attribution in 1810 of an unsigned Bucolica to Eggestein exhibits a precocious knowledge of early Strasbourg typefaces. In the following year that same copy of the Bucolica was sold in the Catalogue des livres rares, précieux et bien conditionnés du cabinet de M. Léon d’Ourches (Paris: Jacques-Charles Brunet, 1811), lot 619, to the Parisian booksellers Guillaume De Bure l’aîné and his two sons; soon thereafter the De Bure frères sold that book to the Bibliothèque nationale de France, where it remains.

Duru’s 1853 binding.

Princeton University’s copy of Eggestein’s Bucolica was the second to emerge, one of only two copies ever to appear on the rare book market. It was first recorded in the German bookseller Fidelis Butsch’s Catalog einer ausgewählten Sammlung von Inkunabeln, literarischen Curiositäten und Seltenheiten (Augsburg, 1851), p. 35. In 1853 it was rebound by the fashionable Parisian binder Hippolyte Duru in brown morocco (goatskin) paneled in blind with darkened fillets, gold corner fleurons, and inner dentelles in gold over marbled endpapers, with all edges gilt.

Duru’s stamp.

Inside front cover.

The Princeton copy also bears the bookplate of the Parisian printer and book collector Ambroise Firmin-Didot (1790–1876), who is probably the owner who brought the book to Paris from Augsburg to be rebound by Duru. In the Catalogue illustré des livres précieux manuscrits et imprimés faisant partie de la bibliothèque de m. Ambroise Firmin-Didot (Paris, 1878), the Bucolica was sold as lot 104. Soon it came into the possession of Rev. William Makellar (1836–1896), a not particularly wealthy Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh who managed to acquire a Gutenberg Bible in 1885. In the Catalogue of the Extensive Library of Valuable Books and Manuscripts of the Late Rev. William Makellar (London, 1898), Sotheby’s sold the Bucolica as lot 3127 to the Piccadilly bookseller James Toovey (1813–1893) for £22; Toovey kept it within his ‘reserve’ collection, most of which his heirs sold to J. Pierpont Morgan of New York in 1899. However, the Bucolica, and many other important editions of Virgil (including the rare first edition of c. 1469), went instead to Morgan’s nephew, Junius Spencer Morgan (1867–1932), an 1888 graduate of the College of New Jersey, which is now known as Princeton University. An outstanding amateur scholar, philanthropist, and collector of art and books, Morgan gave the entirety of his great collection of Virgil editions, encompassing more than 700 titles, to his alma mater over a period of many years. His is the only copy of Eggestein’s Bucolica ever to leave continental Europe.

Junius Spencer Morgan (1867–1932). Princeton, Class of 1888.

Three other copies of Eggestein’s Bucolica have come to light. One is part of a Sammelband of several works preserved at the University Library in Freiburg im Breisgau; another was found at the Cathedral Library in Hildesheim in 1908; a third was identified among the thousands of incunables at the Bavarian State Library in Munich. Mysteriously, as in the Princeton copy, the rubricator of the Munich copy mistook the first word of the Bucolica, ‘[T]ityre,’ and filled in a colored initial ‘S’ instead, so that it reads ‘Sityre.’ With its ample margins and clean white paper, the Princeton copy is perhaps the finest of the five that survive.

Rubricator’s beautiful mistake: S instead of T.

Princeton Acquires a Vellum Fragment of the Gutenberg Bible Preserved as a Book Cover

Biblia Latina (The 42-Line Bible). [Mainz: Johannes Gutenberg, c. 1455].

Princeton University Library’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections is pleased to announce the acquisition of the most significant specimen of the ‘Gutenberg Bible’ discovered during this century. This single leaf printed on vellum (calfskin) is a remarkable survival from what is widely considered the first book printed in Europe: the large folio Latin Bible that demonstrated the immense potential of the typographic method that Johannes Gutenberg, with financial backing from Johann Fust, developed in Mainz during the early 1450s. Given that Princeton University has been a leading center for Gutenberg-related studies ever since 1958, when the Scheide Library and its beautifully preserved two-volume paper copy of this Bible were deposited in Firestone Library (the collection was bequeathed to Princeton by William H. Scheide in 2014), the new vellum fragment provides welcome additional avenues for research into the early history of printing in the West.1

The fragment owes its survival to the fact that – more than two centuries after the Bible was printed, and long after its historical significance had been forgotten – its vellum was considered useful as recycled waste from which to make book covers. Although this grim fate once was common among obsolete books of all descriptions, this is in fact the only specimen of the Gutenberg Bible still preserved as a book binding ever to appear on the rare book market. Clearly, a discarded copy of the Gutenberg Bible was cut into hundreds of pieces for this purpose – but where, and when? The Princeton fragment itself provides evidence of unusual specificity, as it still encloses a copy of the Erneuerte und verbesserte Landes- und Procesz-Ordnung, an ordinance of litigation within the Electorate of Saxony, printed at Cöthen, Germany, in 1666. Moreover, a contemporary inscription indicates that the slender quarto volume was owned by the noted jurist Adam Cortrejus (1637–1706), who earned his doctorate at Jena in 1666, long served as Syndic in Halle, and died in Magdeburg. This owner’s limited itinerary and the strictly local interest of the Cöthen law book both suggest that the bindery of this book – and likewise the lost Gutenberg Bible – should be localized to Saxony-Anhalt, northwest of Leipzig, during the last decades of seventeenth century.

This localization is especially interesting in light of Eric White’s previous research, published in 2010, concerning several dozen other vellum fragments of the Gutenberg Bible that survive as binding waste.2 Categorized by their distinct styles of rubrication (headlines, initials, and chapter numerals added by hand), these fall into eleven groups, each localized to the region in which they first were discovered, or were used as binding waste. One such group, consisting of six identically rubricated leaves, includes three leaves found in 1819 on two different bindings at the Landes- und Universitätsbibliothek in Dresden, two leaves at the Grolier Club in New York City owned by Friedrich Barnheim at Insterburg in 1867, another leaf sold by the Leipzig antiquarian Theodor Oswald Weigel by 1865 (now at the Museo Correr in Venice), as well as a leaf from Apocalypse formerly at the Universitätsbibliothek in Breslau, now lost. Dr. White localized this otherwise lost Gutenberg Bible to the vicinity of Dresden and predicted that any yet-to-be-discovered fragments exhibiting the same rubrication style very likely would hail from that same region. The fact that the rubrication exhibited by the Princeton fragment closely matches that of the Dresden group indicates that all seven fragments derive from the same lost Bible. Moreover, the three German towns associated with Princeton’s binding – Cöthen, Halle, and Magdeburg – are just to the northwest of Dresden and Leipzig.

Front cover, turned sideways, showing the rubricated initial and the chapter numeral v.

Initial F on the Princeton binding.                            Initial F on a fragment found in Dresden.

Detail of front cover, showing rubricated headline PA RA [-lipomenon], i.e., I Chronicles.

Detail of headline P found in Dresden.                          Detail of headline A found in Leipzig.

The Princeton binding was discovered by Stefan Krüger, a bookseller in Cologne, within an unexamined mixed lot of mainly 19th-century law books auctioned in Bonn c. 2006. Krüger made no announcement of his discovery until November 2016, when he advertised online that the binding would be sold on January 26, 2017, at the 31st annual Ludwigsburg Antiquaria, held near Stuttgart. In accordance with the traditions of that fair, the item would be available at a substantial (but by no means inflated) fixed price to the first applicant, or, in the event of a broader interest, to the winner of a lottery among those in attendance.

Chaos ensued on the first day of the Ludwigsburg fair, where at least 76 bidders (including Princeton’s Curator of Rare Books) drew lots for the item. The winning number belonged to a member of a consortium of German dealers headed by the independent bookseller Detlev Auvermann, an emigré to London who formerly had worked for Quaritch, Ltd. He agreed to Princeton’s immediate request for ‘first refusal’ upon determination of his sale price. While Princeton University Library administrators contemplated this major purchase, Auvermann expressed his intention to offer the item at the annual New York Book Antiquarian Book Fair beginning on March 9, 2017. The negotiations formalizing Princeton’s acquisition were completed at the end of February, and Auvermann was able to display the binding at the New York fair, marked ‘sold.’ Princeton took possession of the item on March 12.

Although the surface of the Bible fragment is somewhat abraded and stained, as is usual for vellum leaves used as book coverings, the condition of the binding is excellent; the structure is intact, and the connections between the spine and the covers are strong. Internally, the 1666 Cöthen law book is in very good original condition. A new clam-shell box covered in navy blue Asahi backcloth was created by Princeton’s Collections Conservator, Lindsey Hobbs.

Today, 36 paper copies and 12 vellum copies of the Gutenberg Bible survive reasonably intact, either as complete Bibles or as incomplete bound volumes. Added to these are an incomplete paper copy dismantled in 1920 for sale as individual books or single leaves, and three copies on paper and eleven copies on vellum known only from binding waste. The study of the impact of early printing in Europe is well served by giving closer scholarly attention to the fourteen copies, including the one represented by Princeton’s fragment, that may not survive in the form of books, but which do survive, nevertheless.

VALUE TO RESEARCH AND INSTRUCTION AT PRINCETON

Like William Scheide himself, Princeton’s librarians, particularly the successive Scheide Librarians, have researched and published on many aspects of Gutenberg’s invention and the earliest printed books. Moreover, Princeton’s faculty have embedded book history into the university’s curriculum and are training their undergraduate and graduate students to approach the discipline with open-minded curiosity and direct experience of the original artifacts. This major acquisition is intended to continue and enrich that tradition:

  • Princeton’s acquisition of the Gutenberg fragment brings a historically unique and physically ‘at risk’ survival from the first European printing enterprise into permanent institutional protection.
  • Whereas all other Gutenberg Bible leaves discovered since 1900 have been removed from their host bindings, destroying historical evidence, Princeton’s purchase of this specimen establishes forever the premium value of leaving early binding waste intact.
  • Contributing to an emerging field of book history research – the loss of books – this ‘miraculous’ fragmentary survival effectively encapsulates the extreme fluctuations in the Gutenberg Bible’s historical fortune over five centuries.
  • To a degree unsurpassed by any similar specimen, this fragment and its host volume document the time and place at which an otherwise lost copy of the Gutenberg Bible was discarded for use as waste material for book bindings.
  • The physical states of the Gutenberg Bible in Princeton’s Scheide Library and this the fragment perfectly complement each other: two paper volumes in their original binding preserved in benign neglect in Erfurt until 1840 vs. a vellum fragment from a copy cut apart by a binder c. 1666. No American library holds a similar pairing.
  • Prior to this acquisition, Princeton owned the Scheide copy of the Gutenberg Bible and 19 paper leaves from 3 others (worldwide, only the Morgan Library represents as many copies). The addition of this fragment introduces a specimen printed on vellum and provides the unique opportunity to analyze the varied rubrication and provenance evidence of five copies of the Gutenberg Bible in one library.

Call #: (ExI) 2017-0006N

https://pulsearch.princeton.edu/catalog/10138910

 

Eric White, PhD
Curator of Rare Books
Princeton University Library

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              1 Paul Needham, The Invention and Early Spread of European Printing as Represented in the Scheide Library (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Library, 2007).

              2 Eric Marshall White, ‘The Gutenberg Bibles that Survive as Binder’s Waste’, in Early Printed Books as Material Objects. Proceedings of the Conference Organized by the IFLA Rare Books and Manuscripts Section. Munich, 19-21 August 2009. Bettina Wagner and Marcia Reed, eds. (Berlin: Walter De Gruyter, 2010), 21-35.