Monuments of Early Greek Printing

Originally exhibited December 14, 2018–May 20, 2019
Entry Hall


The influence of Greek language and literature on modern culture is as profound as it is underappreciated. The widespread use of Latin throughout much of European history tends to obscure the Greek origins of seminal literature. But much of the scripture, history, and mythology with which people are familiar today originated in Greek texts. These survived because of scholars and theologians who endeavored to preserve works from destruction, collecting and copying them by hand and teaching others to read and appreciate their lessons.

The dissemination of classical Greek literature and Byzantine scholarship was greatly advanced by the advent of printing with movable type in Europe in the fifteenth century. Printers in Italy were especially significant in the promotion of classical education, aided by an influx of Greek scholars fleeing centers of learning such as Constantinople and Thessaloniki in the Byzantine Empire as it fell to the Ottoman Empire. While the New Testament was originally composed in Greek, and the Old Testament was first translated into Greek in the third century BCE, the earliest printed editions of the Bible employed the popular and authoritative Latin of the Vulgate composed by Saint Jerome in the fourth century. The Bible was not printed in Greek until the sixteenth century, when editors and printers competed to publish the first editions.

Many landmark Greek publications from the early decades of printing today reside in North Texas. The first printed publication of a work in its original language is referred to as the editio princeps. Many of the items in this exhibition claim this title. In some cases the work displayed is one of a small number to have been printed and known to exist today. Thus, this selection offers a glimpse into the richness and significance of materials accessible for study and appreciation at Bridwell Library Special Collections.


Bridwell Library Special Collections