The Gutenberg Bible is the first printed book and also one of the finest. It is printed in royal folio 39 x 28 cm in two columns per page of Gothic script imitating luxury manuscripts. Three years are needed to print 180 copies of this edition, from 1452 to 1455.
This is a superb technical achievement already including the strict alignment of the edges of columns, what is now called justification. A copyist took three years to complete a manuscript of the same magnitude, 643 folios distributed in two volumes.
This amazing productivity is not sufficient to ensure profitability. The book is printed only in black and areas are left free for the client to execute the initials and illuminations. The Gutenberg Bible can not compete with the manuscripts. Fust is upset.
In 1921 a bookseller decides to disassemble a copy that was already incomplete for selling it per individual sheet. However, he has the good sense of keeping together those surviving folios that constitute a complete chapter of the Bible.
Thus, the Book of Esther is composed of eight consecutive sheets from the Volume I. This set of good freshness had been deprived of two initials cut off at an unidentified date and now replaced by fac simile in front and back. It belonged since 1922 to the Jewish Theological Seminary which decided to sell it, preferring to encourage their researchers to the study of Hebrew texts.
The Book of Esther from the Bible of Gutenberg and Fust is estimated $ 500K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on June 19, lot 1.