Title:The Lost Gutenberg: The Astounding Story of One Book’s Five-Hundred-Year Odyssey
Author: Margaret Leslie Davis
Hardcover: ISBN: 978-1592408672, $27
Imprint: New York: TarcherPerigee, 2019
“The never-before-told story of one extremely rare copy of the Gutenberg Bible, and its impact on the lives of the fanatical few who were lucky enough to own it.
For rare-book collectors, an original copy of the Gutenberg Bible–of which there are fewer than 50 in existence–represents the ultimate prize. Here, Margaret Leslie Davis recounts five centuries in the life of one copy, from its creation by Johannes Gutenberg, through the hands of monks, an earl, the Worcestershire sauce king, and a nuclear physicist to its ultimate resting place, in a steel vault in Tokyo. Estelle Doheny, the first woman collector to add the book to her library and its last private owner, tipped the Bible onto a trajectory that forever changed our understanding of the first mechanically printed book.
The Lost Gutenberg draws readers into this incredible saga, immersing them in the lust for beauty, prestige, and knowledge that this rarest of books sparked in its owners. Exploring books as objects of obsession across centuries, this is a must-read for history buffs, book collectors, seekers of hidden treasures, and anyone who has ever craved a remarkable book–and its untold stories.
“The remarkable tale of ‘Number 45,’ one of the finest copies of the Gutenberg Bible in existence… Davis does a fine job telling a fascinating story that touches on the origin of books, the passion of collectors, the unseen world of rare-book dealers, and the lives of the super-rich, past and present. A great read for any book lover.”—Kirkus (starred review)
“An addictive and engaging look at the ‘competitive, catty and slightly angst-ridden’ heart of the world of book collecting…. The Lost Gutenberg reads like a comedy of manners starring the cast of an Ayn Rand novel…. It’s improbable and riveting.”—Jef Rouner, Houston Chronicle
“A gripping, well-researched account of the importance of books as cultural artifacts and of one particular work that transformed the world, as well as the lives of those who owned a copy, that will appeal especially to bibliophiles.”—Library Journal
“The Lost Gutenberg has two protagonists: a singularly beautiful copy of the Gutenberg Bible—known as #45—and the California heiress who emerged from scandal to chase it. Along the way, Davis takes in the larger-than-life stories of the aristocrats, libertines, billionaires, and bibliomaniacs who all competed to own this unique piece of literary history. A fascinating exploration of the shifting value we place on rare books, and the shifting wealth and power of those who hunt them.”—Michael Blanding, New York Times bestselling author of The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps
“Bibliophiles love books, and none more than the book collector’s dream of dreams, a Gutenberg Bible. Davis tells not just with skill but also with sympathy and even love. A richly informative but finally a deeply moving story.”—Jack Miles, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of God: A Biography