1455 Gutenberg Bible Among $300 Million In Rare Books Donated To Princeton

A Gutenberg Bible is perhaps the crown jewel in a cache of rare books donated to Princeton University by the late William H. Scheide. The Bible is part of the Scheide Library, which has been showcased at Princeton’s Firestone Library since 1959, and contains a collector’s dream of important, rare books and manuscripts.

The collection includes the first six Bibles ever printed, including the very first 1455 Gutenberg Bible. Produced in Mainz, Germany, the Bible is printed in Latin and contains many colorful illustrations alongside the text.

“At its core, the Scheide Library is the richest collection anywhere of the first documents printed in 15th-century Europe,” said Anthony Grafton, Princeton’s Henry Putnam University Professor of History.

“But its magnificent books and manuscripts illuminate many areas, from the printing of the Bible to the ways in which the greatest composers created their music.”

Gutenberg Bible

Apart from the Bibles, the donation also includes the original printing of the Declaration of Independence and Shakespeare’s first, second, third, and fourth folios. Along with Beethoven’s autographed music sketchbook for 1815-16, the collection includes autographed manuscripts from other classical music greats like Bach, Mozart, Schubert, and Wagner.

Another featured piece of American history includes an autographed speech by Abraham Lincoln from 1856 addressing the problems of slavery. There’s also a letter from Ulysses S. Grant and telegram copy books authored by him detailing the last weeks of the Civil War.

According to Town Topics, Scheide left his collection of some 2,500 rare books and manuscripts to his alma mater, Princeton University, after his death in 2014 at the age of 100. The collection, including the Gutenberg Bibles, is estimated to be worth nearly $300 million and represents the largest ever donation to the university.

“Through Bill Scheide’s generosity, one of the greatest collections of rare books [Bibles] and manuscripts in the world today will have a permanent home here,” said University President Christopher L. Eisgruber.

The university plans to leave the library intact, without removing any of the Bibles or other books and documents from it. Princeton intends to gradually digitize all of the content and make it available on the university’s website.

Bibles from Scheide collection.

“This collection is the fulfillment of the dreams of three generations of Scheide book men,” said Judith McCartin Scheide, Mr. Scheide’s widow.

“Having it reside permanently at Princeton is a testament to the joy Bill took in sharing the books, papers, manuscripts, letters, music, and posters with others — those were some of his happiest times.”

The Inquisitr previously reported on a Bible nearly one thousand years older than the first-ever printed Gutenberg Bible of 1455. This Bible dated to about 1,500 years ago and was written on animal skins.

[Image via Flickr/CC]