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ByDaily Mail Reporter
Updated: 20:03 GMT, 25 April 2011
It is one of those household jobs no one likes to do.
But clearing out the attic could be a lot more rewarding than just the satisfaction of knowing you’ve struck it off the list.
A Utah man found a rare 500-year-old Nuremberg Chronicle which had been gathering dust in his attic for decades.
Tattered: The rare 500-year-old Nuremberg Chronicle was published in 1493. If it had been in mint condition, it could have fetched up to a million dollars
Find: Ken Sanders looks over a copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle published in 1493 which is now on display at Ken Sanders Rare Books in Salt Lake City
The man, who does not want to be identified, took it to book dealer Ken Sanders who occasionally appraises items for PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.
While volunteering at a fund-raiser for the small town museum in Sandy, Utah, Mr Sanders said he got the surprise of a lifetime.
He said: ‘Late in the afternoon, a man sat down and started unwrapping a book from a big plastic sack, informing me he had a really, really old book and he thought it might be worth some money.
‘I kinda start, oh boy, I’ve heard this before.’
Then he produced the tattered, partial copy of the 500-year-old Nuremberg Chronicle.
The German language edition printed by Anton Koberger and published in 1493 is a world history beginning in biblical times.
It’s considered to be one of the earliest and most lavishly illustrated books produced after Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and revolutionized publishing.
Mr Sanders said: ‘I was just absolutely astounded. I was flabbergasted, particularly here in the interior West. We might see a lot of rare Mormon books and other treasures, but you don’t expect to see a five centuries old book, you don’t expect to see one of the oldest printed books in the world pop up in Sandy, Utah.’
One man’s treasure: Utah book dealer Ken Sanders came across the 500-year-old German language edition Chronicle while appraising items brought in by locals at a fundraiser for the town museum in Sandy
The book’s owner said it was passed down by his great uncle and had been just gathering dust in his attic for decades.
Because of the cotton bond paper it was printed on, not wood pulp paper like most present-day works, Mr Sanders said the remaining pages have been well-preserved albeit literally coming apart at the seams
And he assures it is certainly not a fake.
‘It passes the smell test,’ he said. ‘I’m not sure there’s ever been a forger born who is ambitious enough to hand-create a five centuries old book in a manner sufficient enough to fool people.’
Unfortunately for the book’s owner, Mr Sander’s enthusiasm is not matched by monetary value, as the book is not worth very much.
It is believed there are several hundred copies in circulation worldwide, making it not-so-rare of a find, and about two-thirds of its pages are missing.
Still, it’s not the monetary value that excites Mr Sanders.
He said: ‘Just the opportunity to handle something from the very beginning of the printed word and the book itself, especially, ironically, in the 21st century with all this talk of the death of the book, and here we have a book that’s survived 500-plus years.
‘It’s just exciting … The value of an artefact like this to me is the least interesting part of it all.’
San Francisco-based antiquities book dealer John Windle said if this copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle were in mint condition and fully intact, it could be worth up to a million dollars.
One in such shape sold last year at a London auction for about $850,000, Mr Windle said, but not so much because it’s such a rare find.
He said: ‘The rarity of the book has almost nothing to do with its value. If you’re collecting monuments of printing history, monuments of human history, if you’re collecting achievements of the human spirit through the printed word, this is one of the foundation books.
‘Every book collector wants a copy of that book or at least some pages from it.’
Because of this book’s tattered state, he said it’s likely worth less than $50,000.
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