An essentially complete section of middle Cretaceous to Paleocene, calcareous, pelagic sediments is exposed at Gubbio, in the Umbrian Apennines of Italy. This, the first of five papers, presents the lithostratigraphic and sedimentological basis for subsequent discussions of biostratigraphy and magnetic stratigraphy. Biogenic coccolith-globigerinid oozes were deposited along with a constant but low background of fine terrigenous detritus at a mean sedimentation rate (compacted) of 6.6 m/m.y. from Albian to Eocene time; individual stages deviate from this by a factor of two. Short-term variations in carbonate input yielded a sequence of limestone beds punctuated by thin shale interbeds. These shale-limestone couplets accumulated in time spans between 20,000 and 100,000 yr, and the thin shales may represent up to one-half of the total time. Modification by diagenetic solution, tectonic shear, and weathering render shale interbeds unsuitable for magnetic work. The limestone beds, first bioturbated and then compacted and cemented during diagenesis, appear likely to have recorded magnetic history at intervals on the order of 50,000 yr, sufficient to provide a good record of polarity changes. Moderate to high states of oxidation prevailed except in Aptian-Albian and a portion of Turonian to Santonian times.