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The Lost Gutenberg: The Astounding Story of One Book's Five-Hundred-Year Odyssey

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  455 ratings  ·  103 reviews
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
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Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 19th 2019 by Tarcherperigee
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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Start your review of The Lost Gutenberg: The Astounding Story of One Book's Five-Hundred-Year Odyssey
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
The title of this is a little misleading-the book is not really lost, but a number of its owners over the last ~200 years have had to sell it to make ends meet. Also, before the 1800s, we dont really know where it was, so the focus is really only on the more recent history of the book, particularly American oil heiress Estelle Doheny, her quest to obtain a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, among other valuable books, and its final destination (Japan). ...more
Dale Harcombe
With less than 50 copies of the Gutenberg Bible in existence, to acquire one was always going to be a major coup. This book tells the story of number 45, purported to be one of the finest copies of the Gutenberg Bibles. The story is not so much about the printing and early history of the book, although there is a little of that. Rather, it reveals more about those who acquired the book at various times since the nineteenth century. For the most part its viewed more as a status symbol than for ...more
Patricia
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very readable and interesting with good explanations of issues in the rare books world. The subtitle is somewhat misleading in that aside from the original printing techniques of the 1450s, only the last 183 years of the Bible are discussed. (Not the Five-Hundred-Year Odyssey of the subtitle.) Apparently its whereabouts from the 1450s to 1836 are not known. Recommended for anyone interested in rare books.
Mark
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
Though Margaret Leslie Davis's book is centered around a copy of the famous Gutenberg Bible (designated Number 45), it's really about the people who have sought, owned, and studied it over the course of two centuries. After a short description of the book's origins in the 15th century, she picks up the story with Archibald Acheson, 3rd Earl of Gosford, who purchases the book in 1836. While her reasons for starting with him go largely unmentioned (she does reference the book's previous owner, a ...more
Marks54
May 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first heard about this book a few weeks ago on a trip to Michigan and picked up a copy at a local bookstore. It is an odd but intriguing story. The book is a biography of a book - Gutenberg Bible #45. Ms. Davis tells of the story of the book through the story of its owners moving from the British aristocracy to the world of big time book collectors and eventually into the Downey collection as part of a bequest to a Catholic seminary in Southern California.

But there is more. I thought the story
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Lena
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoy books about books, so I was looking forward to what promised to be a compelling tale of one of the most important books in history. There's no question that there is a lot of interesting information in Davis's telling of the story of a particular Gutenberg Bible referred to as No. 43, and I learned quite a lot about its historical underpinnings and the rare book trade in reading it.

Ultimately, however, my feelings about the book suffered from the false advertising of the title and
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Erik Graff
May 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: bibliophiles
Recommended to Erik by: Kelly Kingdon
Shelves: history
The Gutenberg Bible may have been the first substantial book in the West printed with moveable type. Forty-nine, more or less complete, copies are known to exist. This is the story of one of them, the last of them to have been sold by a private collector to this date.

Actually, most of the text concerns itself with the bible's owners since the early 19th century, two lesser foci being its scientific examination and digital representation in recent years. There isn't much about the history of
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Kris
Jan 14, 2020 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
I was bored from the beginning and never grew interested in what she was saying, so I decided to stop. Not worth my time. This copy of a Gutenberg wasnt lost, and the author doesnt write about its 500 year history. She mostly gives biographies for the people who owned it within the last 150 years full of boring trivia that doesnt have to do with books. The history of book printing can be interesting if told well. This isnt it. ...more
Cassandra Louise
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Purchased for me as a random gift by my brother because it screamed Cassandra, this story is a wonderful adventure into the long extended history of THE book. It introduced me to the world of high profile book collecting, the acclaim owning books can bring, and the realm of book-fans: bibliophiles. I highly recommend the read if youre a history buff or love the art of books. Its enjoyable and informative, educational and intriguing.

Rate Procedure:

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - I loved the book so much I would reread
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Lynn
The 45th Gutenberg Bible made on vellum made its journey to different owners around the world in great shape despite its age. This book tells the fascinating story of its journey around the world as wealthy owners auctioned it.
Jodi
Feb 10, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not exactly hold-onto-your-chairs exciting, but fascinating in history-is-cool kind of way.

Eden
Dec 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf-history
2019 bk 417. This book was interesting in that I learned a great deal of what makes up the earliest books, how using the print itself to analyze a book's history to determine what pages are original or not. But mostly I was left sad, sad for the woman who so badly wanted a Gutenberg Bible for her own collection because of the loss of her sight before she could see the book and sad for the other owners who each went through troubles of their own.
Laura
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These are the stories that intrigue me most! A bit of real mystery being unraveled, the overlapping stories of people involved, and amazing amounts of research to weave it all together. The writing was well done, making an unusual story a great one.
Straw
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If this is your thing, you are going to love this book.
Marcus Hobson
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a history book with a difference. It is about a piece of history, one of the bibles published by Johannes Gutenberg before August 1456. While we learn a good deal about the book and how it was printed, our focus is on the history and ownership from 1836 to the present day.
This richly bound volume is one of the most sought-after pieces of printing in the world, but the stories of its owners over the last 180 years is equally fascinating. The fact that these owners were individuals and not
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Emma
**3.5 stars** (I liked this book better than The Library Book, but not enough to give it 4 stars, ya know?)

The topic of this book is really interesting if you love books and love the history of books. I definitely think it does what it tells you it's going to do: follows the story of this one copy of the Gutenberg Bible through time. And it definitely has a fascinating and mysterious story.

Before I get into the few problems I had with this book, can I just say that the Catholic Church as an
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Hilda Hansen
Jun 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
Seldom do I say simply, "Wow!" when I finish reading a book, but that was all i could say upon completing The Lost Gutenberg. Margaret Leslie Davis has crafted a masterpiece in her account of the history of the Gutenberg Bible known as No. 45. Her very readable account gives life to the book and its owners through the centuries, creating an emotional connection between subject and reader. Her passion for the story of this bit of cultural and religious history, her meticulous research, and her ...more
Kim
An enthralling story about a most significant book in the history of books. Certainly the one that was sold for the highest record breaking amount at Auction. A 500 year old book, it was one of the first editions created on a printing press, more recently last century it was one of the first to be examined using a particle accelerator. Eventually digitised and available to all over the internet.
For someone who loves book collecting but hasn't anywhere near the funds to indulge the way I'd like
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Kathleen
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a fascinating book that follows the ownership and study of Gutenberg Bible #45. The story of those who owned the book and the story of the book itself and the study of it were extraordinary. This is not exactly a page-turner of a book, but it is one you want to keep reading. It carries all the romance, sorrow, failure and success of the lives of the people who own it. If you love books, this is worth you while to read.
Alismcg
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
the collecting of books is . . . the summum bonum [highest good] of the acquisitive desire, for the reason that books brought together by plan and purposely kept together are a social force to be reckoned with, as long as people have clear eyes and free minds. - Lawrence Clark Powell

A fascinating unfolding of the frenzy of wealthy collectors and dealers of rare books after the single most valuable book in the world.
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Mamabee
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popsugar-2019
As a lover of books, an amateur but enthusiastic history buff, and a Christian who has read the Bible cover to cover several times, this book ticked all the boxes for me! Davis does a wonderful job tying together the stories of the very different people who are known to have owned a particular copy of the Gutenberg Bible (number 45). The Gutenberg becomes a character in its own right by the end of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this.
Elizabeth
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Who would've thought a book on the history of one copy of the most famous book in the world could be so fascinating? I loved that it tracked both the history of Gutenberg's printing process and why his bible was so revolutionary, while melding it with the history of Number 45 and its various owners.
Marianne Curtis
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although it wasn't the thriller I thought it was going to be, it was still pretty interesting to follow Gutenberg 45 through its history.
Angie Boyter
Nov 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vine
A disappointment. This is a 3-. Full review on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/review/R1X63T5...
Alison
Jul 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Historically, this book is a gem in the sense it is meticulously researched and the reading of the story isnt too bad, but is a trifle long winded in some places. But still, the history and story of a book and its owners is interesting in itself, although one could come to the conclusion that the poor book is cursed, since most of the owners were forced to resell it after problems, the majority of them monetary. Still, if you want to know about one of the longest living printed books in the ...more
Laura O'Kane
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating look at the journey of one copy of "the most important book in the world."
Tina
Not only did I learn about the Gutenberg Bible in this well researched book, but I also learned about the history of books and book collecting specifically.
Karla Cook
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My husband is a second-generation printer so I am fascinated with the history of printing, especially when you consider how the invention of the printing press truly changed the world. I was interested to learn more about the Gutenberg Bibles and how several of them have been preserved over the centuries.

Fascinating things I learned in this book:
* Gutenberg only printed the pages of the Bible. It was up to the purchaser to have it bound.
* The pages have wide margins which allowed the purchaser
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Steve Majerus-Collins
I'm not sure why I picked up this book beyond a vague interest in old books and a desire to read something different. It turned out to be, well, vaguely interesting. It's written well enough, but a number of times I found myself shaking my head at its shaky command of history, such as mentioning a U-boat infested Atlantic before World War I even started.
I did learn quite a bit about Gutenberg's famous bibles and something of his place in the print revolution, gaining a bit more respect for what
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Jared
Jun 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the fascinating story of one of the worlds most expensive print booksa first edition of the Gutenberg Bible (B45), and its journey from its creation to the present day. First of all, as several other reviewers have noted, the title The LOST Gutenberg is rather misleading, as the book has never been officially lost, and Davis story presents an unbroken chain of custody from the initial acquisition by a private collector (1836) down to the present day.

Whats most fascinating here are the
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Margaret Leslie Davis is a graduate of Georgetown University and earned her master's in professional writing at the University of Southern California.

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As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of young ...
47 likes · 11 comments
“Printing meant arranging the letters into words, the words into perfectly straight lines, and the lines into even blocks of text to be inked and pressed onto paper or vellum. And each small step of the process, which sounds so mundane today, required invention.” 1 likes
“Decades later, it's striking to see the archival center clearly articulating the value of collections like Estelle's, using words that no one in the archdiocese could muster at the time of the sale: "The Archival Center," its website says today, "long ago embraced the notion expressed by Lawrence Clark Powell that: 'the collecting of books is...the summum bonum {highest good} of the acquisitive desire, for the reason that books brought together by plan and purposely kept together are a social force to be reckoned with, as long as people have clear eyes and free minds.” 0 likes
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