Even with a print run of fewer than 200 copies, the Gutenberg Bible was a major undertaking. A complete copy, like the Ransom Center’s, includes 1,277 large pages that have text printed on them. Each full page required that approximately 2,500 individual pieces of metal type be set by hand, one at a time. And some pages had to be set twice, because Gutenberg decided to increase the Bible’s print run. With some rough multiplication, we end up with well over 3,000,000 times that someone had to pick up a piece of type and put it into a page forme and, then, after all copies of that page had been printed, take that piece of type out of the page forme and put it back so it could be used again. I think we’d all agree that that’s a lot of work.
As many readers of this blog will know, Johann Gutenberg and Johann Fust’s Biblia latina (Mainz, 1454–1455) represents the first substantial book printed from moveable type on a printing press. Without question, it is a milestone in information technology. And yet, it is important to remember that [Read more…] about Instructions for reading aloud in the Gutenberg Bible
Biblia Latina. Mainz: Johann Gutenberg, 1454–55.
Genesis, Chapter I. Volume I:5r
Among the most striking features of the two volume Gutenberg Bible is the consistency of its printing and the elegance of its letterforms: the rich black ink, evenly pressed into the page resembles the applied precision of a pen—and for good reason. The typeface of the Gutenberg Bible is based on the standard hand-written letterform used in religious works of the late-medieval period: Textura, also referred to as Blackletter, or Gothic. The letters have strong vertical stokes and a boxy appearance. The exact technique by which Gutenberg cast his type in lead is not fully agreed upon by scholars, but it is generally thought that the types were produced by casting molten metal into small letter-shaped molds.
The Ransom Center launched updated websites for its two permanent exhibitions, the Gutenberg Bible and the First Photograph. The websites contain information, interactive components, and content geared toward children related to each exhibition.
The Gutenberg Bible is the first substantial book printed from movable type on a printing press. It was printed in Johann Gutenberg’s shop in Mainz, Germany, between 1450 and 1455. View a video demonstrating Gutenberg’s printing process.
Gutenberg’s invention revolutionized the distribution of knowledge by making it possible to produce many accurate copies of a single work in a relatively short amount of time. View a map that shows the spread of printing after Gutenberg.
Visitors can turn the pages of the Gutenberg Bible, view the pages in high-resolution, and browse by Books of the Bible or page characteristics, including famous passages, illuminations, and watermarks.
The Ransom Center holds one of five complete copies in the United States. View a map of where the other Gutenberg Bibles are housed.
The First Photograph, which Frenchman Joseph Nicéphore Niépce produced in 1826, is the foundation of the Ransom Center’s photography collection. The 8 x 6.5-inch heliograph depicts a view just outside the workroom window of Niépce’s estate in Le Gras in east central France.
Website visitors can watch an animated video showing how the First Photograph was made as well as create a virtual heliograph of themselves using a webcam; the virtual heliograph image replicates the photographic technique used to create the First Photograph.
The website offers content geared for younger visitors, including digital coloring pages of the Gutenberg Bible and First Photograph and the opportunity to use Gutenberg’s process to print their own message.
The website was made possible through a generous gift by Margaret Hight.