Appraisal Video: (4:42)
GUEST: My father bought it from a friend of my mother's, who was a book collector. And she felt threatened having the book in her home, so my dad-- big heart-- decided he would buy it, because he thought it was of value.
APPRAISER: And when was this?
GUEST: Um, sometime in the early 1970s.
APPRAISER: And did she have any idea what the book was, or did she describe it to your father in any way?
GUEST: My father was told that it was a Bible.
APPRAISER: Oh, I see. One of the first books off the Gutenberg press. Well, I think we can probably lay that to rest. It's not a Bible. It's not from Gutenberg's press, but it is near the date of Gutenberg. It's indeed what we term in rare-book parlance as an incunable, meaning that it came from the cradle of printing. That's books printed in the Western world between 1450 and 1501. This is in its, probably, first binding. And I see that it's suffered some damage. And I'll remove the cover for the ease of looking at it. It says here that it's the second volume of the works of Saint Ambrosius, printed in Basel-- that's Switzerland-- by John Amerbach in 1492. And indeed that's exactly what the book is. It's part two of a three-part work published in 1492 in Basel. And it's finely printed, as you see, in double column, on good quality, strong paper. The binding is on wood, solid wooden boards, oaken boards, and these tools are very much Amerbach of Basel's workshop, where he would have had a book bound at that time. You mentioned that the transaction between your father and the collector took place in the early 1970s.
APPRAISER: Do you know how much the transaction involved?
GUEST: My father paid $3,000 for the book.
APPRAISER: $3,000? In the early 1970s?
APPRAISER: Complete copies of the work, in full three volumes, have been selling in the last ten years for under $5,000. But what I noticed that's of great interest to me is on the spine of the book, you've got this red label, which is nothing to do with Basel. This red label is firmly English, and it's English in style of the... probably late 17th or early 18th century. And what caught my eye in particular is... as well as this note, which is in a 19th century hand, we see this note up here. It's in a much earlier English hand, probably mid-16th century, and it says here "Henricus" and then "VII"-- or VIII-- "Rex." That's King of England, France and Ireland, which firmly, in my mind, connects this particular book with English royalty in some way. I'm hoping, and think, it's probably Henry VII. He died in 1509. And when the monasteries were dissolved under Henry VIII in the 1530s, a lot of these Christian texts were dispersed, and the books came to be other people's property that the king saw fit. If a connection with Henry VII could be established for this text, I would put the value of this at between $10,000 and $15,000 now, at auction.
GUEST: And how would we authenticate that?
APPRAISER: Well, the way to do it would be to compare it with handwriting from that time. If it didn't have that inscription, the value would have been, in my opinion, $800 to $1,200, due to the damage internally. Thank you so much for bringing it in, and I think it must be the oldest thing I've ever seen on the show.