The Gutenberg Bible

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2013-08-24 bible gutenberg british library

On 24 August 1456, Gutenberg printed the first book in Europe using movable type. Using a converted grape press and the skins from many, many animals rather than paper, Gutenberg began to produce the 42-line Bible (so-called because of the 42 lines of text on the page). The decorated capital letters and beautiful ornamental elements were added by hand so that the printed Bible resembled the hand-written versions people were used to–however the time to produce the book was much, much shorter. In the first print run, 30 Bibles were printed, 4 originals with all 1282 pages intact are known to have survived.

This is the introductory page to the Proverbs. The illustrations depict scenes from the natural world: monkeys, birds and flowers, suggesting echoes of Eden. The text is very legible and is made clearer by the use of highlighted first letters for new sentences.

Picture Credit: Gutenberg’s (42-line) Bible: Opening of Proverbs. Johann Gutenberg, Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer. Mainz, 1455 , British Library C.9.d.4, f.1 , Copyright © The British Library Board

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