Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Mr. Newton Bonds With Budapest

Library at Melk Abbey
Here is another city of Mr. Newton's that I have not visited. He almost didn't either. At the time this piece was written, Buda was the old city and Pest was the new. I don't know when it became one.

He relates to the reader histories of the city, talks of music, the difficulty of the Hungarian language, and the style and taste of the people.

But before he traveled east from Vienna to Budapest, he headed west and wrote of  his lunch with the Abbot of Melk.

The Abbot, who is a delightful old man, became much interested when I told him - my wife acting as interpreter - that I had seen his famous Gutenberg Bible sold at auction in New York. This is the Bible that Dr. Rosenbach bought for $106,000 and sold to Mrs. Harkness, who gave it to the Library at Yale.

"Has it a good home?" the Abbot inquired. I assured him that it had.

"I was sorry to part with it," the old man went on to say, "but we have many noble books in our library, which you shall see after lunch, and we had to have money for some very necessary repairs. We are very poor now."

Content with this world, sure of the next, no wife to order him about - the Abbot has much to be thankful for. I have never before thought of turning Abbot. It is a matter deserving consideration.

According to Wikipedia, there are eleven copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the United States; five of them are complete. I have viewed copies at the Library of Congress,  the Huntington Library in California, and the British Library.

The last complete copy that sold was in 1978 and it brought $2.2 million. It is in Stuttgart. The price of a complete copy today is estimated at $25-35 million.

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