The Old Testament Copy

Most copies are bound in two volumes, the first composed of the Old Testament from Genesis through Psalms, the second comprising the rest of the Old Testament (Proverbs through Maccabees II) along with the New Testament. Here, however, the entire Old Testament is bound in one extra-large volume, and there is no evidence that it was ever accompanied by the New Testament.
Furthermore, it contains twenty-two pages with unique "replacement" typesettings, more than in any other surviving copy of B42. The unique settings occur on leaves I,1r–2r; I,3r–8v; I,10r–10v; I,45r–46v; and I,130r. Why the printers went to so much trouble to reset so many pages is a question that may be answered on the basis of textual evidence and an analysis of watermarks, which indicate that these pages were reset at the very end of the press run. The printers may have been making a last-minute attempt to compensate for sheets found to be either missing or incomplete. If so, they could have been doing their part to make good use of leftover sheets, almost but not quite enough to assemble one or two complete Old Testaments that could be sold on their own. Such was the price of books at this time that they could expect a handsome profit in return for this extra effort.

At least six quires in the Old Testament copy contains faint marks of a compositor or compositors who were using those sheets to set up the text of the 1462 Bible printed by Fust and Schoeffer. Typical examples of these marks can be found on leaves I, 302v (“congregati # sunt”) and I, 309r (“affer- | tis # munera”). The “sister” Gutenberg Bible in Burgos contains similar marks in three of its quires. With some exceptions, these marks indicate page breaks in the 1462 Bible, places where the compositor could begin a new stint of typesetting. This is the earliest surviving example of marked-up printer’s copy and an extraordinary survival. Ordinarily the printers would have discarded the marked-up sheets after finishing their work on the new edition. In this instance, however, they retained some of the sheets and even had them illuminated with the expectation that they would be sold someday. Like the replacement settings, these compositor’s marks are evidence that these earliest products of the press were highly valued and carefully preserved during this period of technological transition.