500-year-old book, a history of the world, surfaces in small town
2011-04-25 0:00

By Brian Skoloff | Newser.com / AP


Book dealer Ken Sanders has seen a lot of nothing in his decades appraising "rare" finds pulled from attics and basements, storage sheds and closets.

Sanders, who occasionally appraises items for PBSs Antiques Roadshow, often employs "the fine art of letting people down gently."

But on a recent Saturday while volunteering at a fundraiser for the small town museum in Sandy, Utah, just south of Salt Lake, Sanders got the surprise of a lifetime.

"Late in the afternoon, a man sat down and started unwrapping a book from a big plastic sack, informing me he had a really, really old book and he thought it might be worth some money," he said. "I kinda start, oh boy, Ive heard this before."

Then he produced a tattered, partial copy of the 500-year-old Nuremberg Chronicle.

The German language edition printed by Anton Koberger and published in 1493 is a world history beginning in biblical times. Its considered to be one of the earliest and most lavishly illustrated books produced after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and revolutionized publishing.

"I was just absolutely astounded. I was flabbergasted, particularly here in the interior West," Sanders said. "We might see a lot of rare Mormon books and other treasures, but you dont expect to see a five centuries old book, you dont expect to see one of the oldest printed books in the world pop up in Sandy, Utah."


April 23, 2011, Utah book dealer Ken Sanders looks over a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle published in 1493. (AP Photo/Brian Skoloff)

The books owner has declined to be identified, but Sanders said it was passed down to the man by his great uncle and had been just gathering dust in his attic for decades.

Because of the cotton bond paper it was printed on, not wood pulp paper like most present-day works, Sanders said the remaining pages have been well-preserved albeit literally coming apart at the seams

"Barring further calamity or disaster, it will last another 500 years," he said.

And Sanders is certain its not a fake.

"It passes the smell test," he said. "Im not sure theres ever been a forger born who is ambitious enough to hand-create a five centuries old book in a manner sufficient enough to fool people."


Page depicting Constantinople with added hand-colouring. Wikipedia


But whats it actually worth? Turns out, not much.

It is believed there are several hundred copies in circulation worldwide, making it not-so-rare of a find, and about two-thirds of its pages are missing.

Still, its not the monetary value that excites Sanders.

"Just the opportunity to handle something from the very beginning of the printed word and the book itself, especially, ironically, in the 21st century with all this talk of the death of the book, and here we have a book thats survived 500-plus years," he said. "Its just exciting ... The value of an artifact like this to me is the least interesting part of it all."

Sanders is displaying the copy at his rare book shop in Salt Lake City.

San Francisco-based antiquities book dealer John Windle said if this copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle were in mint condition and fully intact, it could be worth up to a million dollars.

One in such shape sold last year at a London auction for about $850,000, Windle said, but not so much because its such a rare find.

"The rarity of the book has almost nothing to do with its value," he said. "If youre collecting monuments of printing history, monuments of human history, if youre collecting achievements of the human spirit through the printed word, this is one of the foundation books ... Every book collector wants a copy of that book or at least some pages from it."

Windle noted that while its worth to collectors is priceless, it is "probably the most common book from the 15th century making its way onto the market these days."

"We have a saying in the book trade: theres nothing as common as a rare book," he added.

Because of this books tattered state, Windle said its likely worth less than $50,000.

"It basically kills the value," he said. "If it turned up in perfect condition in Salt Lake City, now that would be amazing. That would be astounding."

Luise Poulton, curator and head of rare books at the University of Utahs J. Willard Marriott Library, called it "an exciting find," but largely just because of the way it surfaced.

"Its that classic story," said Poulton, who has several pages from another copy of a Nuremberg Chronicle on display. "You really never know whats in your attic."

Article from: newser.com






Video from: YouTube.com

"A man walking into a Sandy, Utah museum unwraps a plastic bag, revealing an original copy of The Nuremberg Chronicle, one of the worlds oldest printed books dating to 1493. Now, it is for sale, possibly worth up to $100,000. (April 25)"



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