Single Leaf from the Gutenberg Bible

Latin Bible. Biblia latina.
Mainz: Johann Gutenberg, 1454–1455.
Single leaf printed on paper. (06118)

In 1454–1455 the Latin Bibles printed by Johannes Gutenberg (ca. 1400–1468) and his associates at Mainz offered readers a form of textual stability that was entirely revolutionary: for the first time, hundreds of readers in monasteries and universities across Europe were able to work with virtually identical, complete, and carefully edited copies of the Paris Vulgate. Even if the work did contain typographic inaccuracies, the first Western book printed in multiple copies became the foundation of the textual uniformity that underlies the modern definition of an “edition.” Although Gutenberg was not a scholar, his edition established the standard version of the Latin Bible until the publication in 1592 of the Clementine Bible, the official Latin Vulgate biblical text of the Catholic Church.

This single paper leaf is from an extremely damaged copy of the Gutenberg Bible that was taken apart by the bookseller Gabriel Wells in 1920. Issued with A. Edward Newton’s accompanying essay “A Noble Fragment,” it is one of several hundred leaves that once constituted a duplicate copy of the Gutenberg Bible that the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich sold to the English collector Robert Curzon in 1832. The text of the present leaf, consisting of Exodus 9:12–11:1, has been rubricated in red and blue.

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Biblical Languages
Single Leaf from the Gutenberg Bible