Cremona

[A repeat from April 9, 2012] Cremona is a city of 72,000 in the Northern (Lombardy) area of Italy.  The city has a long and storied history.   It is known for many things but it is famous for one — violins.   Beginning in the 16th Century, Cremona was home to three legendary luthier families:  Amati, Stradivari and Guarneri.  While some folks will associate the names Guarneri and Amati with fine violins, everyone knows the name Stradivarius.

When I was young, I read a lot about treasure — the Lost Dutchman Mine, the Oak Island Mystery, the San Saba River treasure, Padre Island doubloons and so on.  I read books like Frank Dobie’s classic Coronado’s Children.   And I always longed to one day go hunting for these treasures or rarities like a Gutenberg Bible (post of 8/18/11) or a Stradivarius violin.  I’ve come close to a Gutenberg on two occasions (another story) but the Stradivarius has escaped me. 

During his lifetime, Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) made about 1,100 instruments.  A few hundred survive and those few are rare and valuable.  Why?  Because the sound is near perfection.  Antonio created his works of musical art with spruce tops, willow blocks and maple backs, ribs and neck.  The technique has been duplicated but the sound never replicated.  There is thought that the coatings on the wood made the difference.  So far, the exact recipe remains a mystery.

I still think of taking a sabbatical someday — and heading off in search of a Gutenberg Bible or a Stradivarius violin.   Or maybe the Lost Dutchman Mine . . . . .

The Gutenberg Bible

No book has received the attention or acclaim as the Gutenberg Bible.  The first example of mass-produced printing using “movable type,” the Gutenberg Bible is surely the rarest and most unique example of the printing art.  The Gutenberg Bible was first produced by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450’s with the financial backing of Johann Fust.  The Bible was completed in an “edition” of approximately 180 two volume sets (Old Testament/New Testament) with perhaps 100 on vellum (no one is quite sure).  The great curiosity is that today only 48 are known.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutenberg_Bible

I first became interested in the Gutenberg Bible when I acquired the rare book room of the Boca Grande (FL) Library in 1984.  The one rarity they would not sell was a page from an original 42 line Gutenberg Bible (grrrrr).  While it is speculated that the remainder of Gutenberg’s Bibles have been destroyed over the centuries, I have my own theory.  I believe that somewhere – out there – there is a copy or two of the Gutenberg Bible.  Lying undiscovered, layered with dust, laced with cobwebs and swarming with dust mites.  My daughter has suggested that I take a sabbatical to hunt for this treasure much as I did in the ’80’s when I traveled to Spain and Portugal every few months on the hunt for manuscript rarities.  I may still do this. . . . 

The last Gutenberg Bible (Old Testament volume only) sold in 1987  for $5.5 million.  Today, one might fetch $30 million.  Individual leaves sell well into five figures.  If and when I find a Gutenberg Bible, I may then go on a quest – to seek out the yet undiscovered ships’ logs from that 1492 voyage of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. . . . .  

Cremona

Cremona is a city of 75,000 in the Northern (Lombardy) area of Italy.  The city has a long and storied history.   It is known for many things but it is famous for one — violins.   Beginning in the 16th Century, Cremona was home to three legendary luthier families:  Amati, Stradivari and Guarneri.  While many associate the names Guarneri and Amati with fine violins, everyone knows the name Stradivarius.

When I was young, I read a lot about treasure — the Lost Dutchman Mine, the Oak Island Mystery, the San Saba River treasure, Padre Island doubloons and so on.  I avidly read books like Frank Dobie’s classic Coronado’s Children.   And I always longed to one day go hunting for these treasures or rarities like a Gutenberg Bible (post of 8/18/11) or a Stradivarius violin.  I’ve come close to a Gutenberg (another story) but the Stradivarius has escaped me. 

During his lifetime, Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) made about 1,100 instruments.  A few hundred survive and those that do are rare and valuable.  Why?  Because the sound is near perfection.  Antonio created his works of musical art with spruce tops, willow blocks and maple backs, ribs and neck.  The technique has been duplicated but the sound never replicated.  There is thought that the coatings on the wood made the difference.  So far, the exact recipe remains a mystery.

I still think of taking a sabbatical someday — and heading off in search of a Gutenberg Bible or a Stradivarius violin.   Or maybe the Lost Dutchman Mine. . . . .

The Gutenberg Bible

No book has received the attention nor the acclaim as the Gutenberg Bible.  The first example of mass-produced printing by using movable type, the Gutenberg Bible is surely the rarest and most unique example of the printing art.  This two-volume (Old Testament/New Testament) Bible was first produced by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450’s with the financial backing of Jonathan Fust.  The Bible was completed in an “edition” of between 180 and 300 two volume sets with perhaps 100 on vellum (no one is quite sure).  The great curiosity is that today only 47 are known.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gutenberg_Bible

I first became interested in the Gutenberg Bible when I purchased the rare book room of the Boca Grande (FL) Library in 1984.  The one rarity they would not sell was a page from an original 42 line Gutenberg Bible.  While the theory is that the remainder of Gutenberg’s “printing” has been destroyed over the centuries, I have a theory that somewhere – out there – there are copies of the Gutenberg Bible lying undiscovered, layered with dust and laced with cobwebs.  My daughter has suggested that I take a sabbatical to hunt for this treasure much as I did in the ’80’s when I was in Spain and Portugal every few months on the hunt for manuscript rarities.  I’d love it. . . . .  

The last Gutenberg Bible (Old Testament volume only) sold in 1987  for $5.5 million.  Individual leaves sell for five figures.  If and when I find a Gutenberg Bible, my next adventure will be seek out the yet undiscovered ship’s logs from that 1492 voyage of the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. . . . .