The Gutenberg Bible

The Gutenberg Bible was the first substantial book to be printed in Europe. The man after whom it is named, Johann Gutenberg, was a citizen of Mainz in Germany. The Bible was probably intended for churches or, and despite the huge financial value of copies today, it was not intended to rival the most sumptuous illuminated manuscripts. The printing of the Gutenberg Bible was a turning-point in European culture, but what is truly remarkable is that the first large-scale printed book in Europe should also be one of the finest. When printed, the typeface produced black-and-white pages that are eminently readable and have an abstract beauty. The quality of the printing itself is uniformly high and the ink is a rich black. Rarely has a new technology been used with such sure-footed skill and artistry. Of the copies of the Gutenberg Bible that once existed, forty-eight survive reasonably intact today, twelve on parchment and the rest on paper. This copy is shown open at the beginning of St John’s Gospel.


Hand-drawn initials

In Latin; 643 leaves in two volumes, 400 x 286 mm

French binding by Nicolas-Denis le jeune (1731-1790) in 1785 (his ticket): green goatskin with gold tooling