The Gutenberg Bible – World’s Most Famous Bible

Johann Gutenberg was a German skilled in engraving and metalworking. He and his associates, Peter Schoeffer and Johann Fust, printed the Gutenberg Bible in Germany’s Mainz in 1455. Thus, Gutenberg made the scriptures potentially accessible to every individual. According to some sources, just 48 copies of the Gutenberg Bible are known to have survived, of which 36 are printed on paper and 12 on vellum. To own a piece of history, you can get a facsimile reproduction of the Gutenberg Bible.

The Gutenberg Bible in Latin text is a two-volume work, which was printed in 42-line columns. During the later stages of this Bible’s production, six compositors worked on it simultaneously. Sometimes, the Gutenberg Bible is called the Mazarin Bible, because the first copy that the bibliographers described was located in Cardinal Mazarin’s Paris-based library.

Knowing Johann Gutenberg Better

In the 1440s, Johann Gutenberg started experimenting with new ways of printing, similar to several other Europeans. Everyone was trying to find a cheaper and faster way to produce books. Typically, the Europeans used woodcuts or hand stamps, which were an improvement over handwritten text. Yet, they were still utterly slow.

Though printing with moveable type was developed earlier in East Asia, it was still unknown in Europe. The earliest type of this form of printing is documented in some 11th century Chinese sources. In the 13th century, a moveable metal type was built in Korea. From the early 15th century, several officially commissioned fonts began being created in Korea.

Meanwhile, Johann Gutenberg continued with his experiments. Since he was skilled in engraving and metal working, he had an advantage over many others. During his stay in Strasbourg, he perfected quite a few unique ideas. One was an adjustable hand-held mold that could be used to cast any letter precisely and in large quantities. Another was a sturdy tin alloy that melted and solidified rapidly without distortion. He also developed a modified printing press and oil-based ink.

Though it took him many more years, he finally finished printing the Bible in 1455 using moveable type. In Europe, the Gutenberg Bible was the earliest full-scale work that was printed with the use of a moveable type.

Features of the Gutenberg Bible

This Bible had no page numbers, title page, and innovations to differentiate it from a manuscript copyist’s work. Apparently, this was what Gutenberg desired. Though the Gutenberg Bible used space uneconomically, it depicts a certain level of technical efficiency not significantly improved upon prior to the 19th century. This Bible’s Gothic type is grand in appearance, has a medieval feeling, and is a little less pointed and compressed than other examples that emerged soon.

Final Words

The technological breakthrough of Johann Gutenberg - the German printer, is a landmark in the history of printed Bibles. Had it not been for his relentless pursuit of cheaper and speedier printing modes during his time, the Gutenberg Bible wouldn’t have seen the light of day. Since not everyone can afford the steeply-priced rare original copy, the best way to own the Gutenberg Bible is to buy a facsimile reproduction from a reputed dealer of rare and antique Bibles.