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GERMAN PUBLISHER PLANS TO SELL COPIES OF RARE BOOK FOR $16,425

SHARE GERMAN PUBLISHER PLANS TO SELL COPIES OF RARE BOOK FOR $16,425

Act now while the supply lasts, and you can buy a rare facsimile of an 11th-century, illuminated German manuscript for only $16,425. After March 15, the price will rise to $19,205.

This is what S. Fischer Verlag of Frankfurt, the publisher, has told prospective German buyers interested in acquiring a 410-page, gilded copy of a pericope, a collection of richly illustrated Latin scriptural passages commissioned by Emperor Henry II of Germany in 1012 and now the property of the Bavarian State Library in Munich."It is not the most expensive book in the world," said Gabriele Shettle, a marketing assistant at the publishing house, who hopes that institutions and wealthy art lovers in Japan and America will also be undeterred.

Insel Verlag, another Frankfurt publisher, produced an edition of 1,000 copies of a 12th-century German illuminated manuscript, the Gospel of Henry the Lionhearted, five years ago and offered 950 of them at a subscription price of $19,868, which later went up to $22,517.

The unexpected financial strain of Germany's reunification in 1990, along with a recession that followed a surge in interest rates, kept them from selling like hot cakes, and a few are apparently still available.

But now, with German economic institutes and the government confidently asserting that the recession is over, Fischer and its co-publisher, Verlag Muller & Schindler of Stuttgart, plan to bring out 500 copies of Henry II's gift to the Bamberg Cathedral, hand-lettered, gilded and richly bound for him on the island of Reichenau in the Lake of Constance.

The facsimiles, on pages measuring 121/2 by 163/4 inches, are hand-gilded with 23 1/2-carat gold and bound the way the original was, in green silk and silver and gold medallions.

The original, taken apart for the preparation of the facsimile and for later preservation and restoration, is on display in the National Museum in Munich.

"This has given the book a new lease on life," Shettle said. The Bavarian State Library will receive a facsimile as part of the arrangement.

"We are selling this book through booksellers only, not directly to individual customers," she said. Bookstores could obtain it at a trade discount, though one considerably less than the 33 percent reduction prevailing for trade books in Germany, said Shettle.

"The price overseas booksellers choose to charge for it is beyond our control," she said.