Appendix 1

The 42-Line Bible: A Possible: Balance Sheet

DEBTS

First, the loans: Gutenberg’s original 150 gulden, plus the 1,600 handed over by Fust, plus interest, plus compound interest.

Total: about 2,200 gulden.

OUTGOINGS

Gutenberg’s expenditure on the Bible alone has been calculated by the German book historian, Leonard Hoffmann:

Six presses:

 

240

Typecases and other fittings:

 

60

Rent for three years:

 

30

Heating:

 

20

Three hand moulds:

 

60

Typecasting metals:

 

100

Ink:

 

30

Paper:

 

400

Vellum:

 

300

Wages:

 

800

Bible (as exemplar for sales):

 

80

Total:

 

2,120

This just about matches the loans he had. But he was not working only on the Bible. He had another workshop to run, with several other projects in hand: the Donatus (a good 5,000 of those), and who knows how many of the Sibylline Prophecies and indulgences and other publications now lost. So we should include another (smaller) workshop, additional staff, more metal, more ink, more vellum, more paper – a lot more paper, because of the higher print runs. How should we cost this? As a guideline, when the monastery of St Ulrich in Augsburg established a printing office in 1472, by which time the new industry was well established and costs had dropped, the ten presses and types cost 702 gulden. So, as a back-of-the-envelope estimate, let’s say he spent the amount of the original loans, another 2,200 gulden

Total outgoings: around 4,400 gulden, minimum.

INCOME

The extra costs would have to be financed by sales from the minor projects, for which estimates have to be extremely rough. A Donatus might have sold for half a gulden, the pamphlets and calendars for less, an indulgence for a tenth of a gulden. But each project would have been printed and sold in thousands. We could be talking of an income of 4,000+, spread over the six years 1449–55. In any event, we know that income from this source was not enough to cover costs.

For the Bible venture, we are on more solid ground. As an aid to ballpark figures, consider the following:

• a handwritten Bible of equivalent quality cost between 60 and 100 gulden;

• Gutenberg would have needed to undercut scribal copies, especially as his own would need to be rubricated and bound;

• a book printed on paper cost about a third of a vellum one.

With these and other considerations in mind, estimates suggest that the 42-Line Bible should have yielded:

30–45 vellum copies @ 50g.:

 

1,500–2,250

135–150 paper copies @ 20g.:

 

2,700–3,000

Total:

 

4,200–5,250

THE BOTTOM LINE

So Gutenberg’s rounded-out estimated balance sheet for 1449–55 might run something like this:

Costs (inc. debts):

 

4,500

Income received:

 

4,000

Income projected:

 

5,000

Profit in 1455:

 

Zero or minus

Projected profit, minimum:

 

4,500

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