The Complete Epistle of Paul to the Romans from the Gutenberg Bible

Collection ID







Mainz, (Germany)




Printed on paper, with painted initials


15.6 × 11.6 × .8 in. (39.7 × 29.4 × 2.1 cm)

Exhibit Location

On view in The History of the Bible, Revolutionary Words

This fragment of the Gutenberg Bible contains the entire Epistle of Paul to the Romans printed on paper by 1455. A close study of the pages reveals that the 42-line text is printed on paper marked with three of the four known Gutenberg watermarks (both oxen, and one of the grape clusters). Although it is one of the “Noble Fragments” sold by Gabriel Wells from an incomplete Gutenberg Bible in 1921, it lacks the blue morocco cover and the essay by Alfred Edward Newton usually found with such fragments. Instead, it has a reddish-brown morocco cover stamped with the words “The Epistle Of St. Paul To The Romans from The Gutenberg Bible 1450–1455” in gilt letters. Inside, there is a calligraphic dedicatory inscription on vellum, in English, to Archbishop John J. Cantwell of Los Angeles from Mrs. Edward L. Doheny, dated 1939.

Printed by 1455 in Mainz, Germany, by Johannes Gutenberg. Acquired before July 21, 1789, by Carl-Theodor von Pfalz-Sulzbach (1724–1799) and Maria Elisabeth Augusta von Sulzbach (1721–1794) of Mannheim;[1] Delivered shortly after Carl-Theodor von Pfalz-Sulzbach’s death to the Bavarian Court Library in Munich (which became the Bavarian Royal Library in 1804);[2] Purchased on August 23, 1832, by Robert Curzon, 14th Baron Zouche (1810–1873); By descent in 1873 to Robert Nathaniel Cecil George Curzon, 15th Baron Zouche; By descent in 1915 to Darea Curzon, 16th Baroness Zouche; By descent in 1917 to Mary Cecil Frankland, 17th Baroness Zouche; Purchased at auction in 1920 by Frank M. Sabin; Purchased in 1920 by Gabriel Wells (1862–1946), who broke the Bible up to sell as book-length fragments and single pages with the blue binding and “Noble Fragment” essay in 1921.[3] Sold at auction on March 4, 1926, by the American Art Association.[4] Acquired by Carrie Estelle Doheny (1875–1958);[5] Presented in 1939 to John J. Cantwell, the Archbishop of Los Angeles.[6] Acquired before 1956 by St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, CA, and kept in the seminary library;[7] Purchased on February 2, 1988, at the Christie’s auction in Camarillo, CA, by bookdealer H. P. Kraus (1907–1988).[8] Acquired by Martin Schøyen;[9] Purchased in 2010 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Donated in 2012 to Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.

Notes: [1] Carl-Theodor von Pfalz-Sulzbach, also known as Charles Theodore, was the Electoral Prince of the Palatinate and, later, the Electoral Prince of Bavaria. Theodor pursued the goal of building a scientific library with a collection of antiquarian literature. [2] Sold in their duplicate sale in 1832 for 350 guilders. [3] The provenance from the late 18th through the early 20th centuries is taken from Eric Marshall White, Editio Princeps: A History of the Gutenberg Bible (Harvey Miller Publishers: London, 2017), 132–133. This Gutenberg Bible was the source of all the so-called “Noble Fragments,” and the Morgan Library gives very similar provenance on their website for their fragment [4] The auction catalog with a reproduction of the first page of the fragment can be found at$b188254;view=1up;seq=3;size=200; the fragment is item number 215. It is clear from the reproduction that a small amount of paint from the initial R covers part of the rubricated word specialis above the R, which matches the appearance of Museum of the Bible’s fragment. The auction included the estate of the Pittsburgh bibliophile Hannah M. Standish, but since the catalog does not mention her bookplate being inside the front cover, it is doubtful that she ever owned it. [5] Ownership established from the dedication on the flyleaf inside the front cover. She was the second wife of the oil magnate Edward L. Doheny until his death in 1935. Edward Doheny was implicated in the Teapot Dome scandal, but never convicted; he also served as the inspiration for one of the characters in Upton Sinclair’s Oil!, which inspired the movie There Will Be Blood. [6] Presentation established by the dedication on the flyleaf inside the front cover. Cantwell was the first archbishop of Los Angeles, serving in this capacity from 1936 to 1947, having previously been the bishop of the Monterey-Los Angeles/Los Angeles-San Diego diocese since 1917. [7] It is unclear exactly when the seminary acquired the fragment. It was in their possession by 1956 when Don Cleveland Norman conducted research for The 500th Anniversary Pictorial Census of the Gutenberg Bible (The Coverdale Press: Chicago, 1961). It could have been as early as 1939, when Carrie Doheny presented it to Archbishop Cantwell, if he placed it there for safe-keeping. It could have been part of the archbishop’s estate in 1947. The seminary included it with other items that had belonged to Carrie Doheny in the seminary auction in 1988. [8] The Los Angeles Times reported on the auction of the Doheny collection: [9] The acquisition date is uncertain, but occurred between Kraus’s death in November 1988 and December 1991, when the Schøyen Collection put it up for auction at Sotheby’s. The Sotheby’s catalog included a description of the calligraphic dedication on the frontispiece and credited Graily Hewitt as the calligrapher. The fragment did not sell at this time.


Eric Marshall White, Editio Princeps: A History of the Gutenberg Bible (Harvey Miller Publishers: London, 2017).

Steve Green, Jackie Green, and William High, This Dangerous Book (Harper Collins: New York, 2017).

Don Cleveland Norman, The 500th Anniversary Pictorial Census of the Gutenberg Bible (The Coverdale Press: Chicago, 1961).

Museum of the Bible Publications:

Jerry A. Pattengale, ed., Museum of the Bible Curriculum (Museum of the Bible and Compedia Software & Hardware Ltd., 2016–2017).

Jennifer Atwood and Stacey L. Douglas, eds., Passages: Exploring the Bible in Four Movements: An Exhibition Guide (Museum of the Bible, 2015), 14.

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