A Leaf of the Gutenberg Bible

Biblia latina.
Single leaf printed on vellum.
[Mainz: Johann Gutenberg, 1454-55]. (Prothro B-51)

In 1454–55, the Latin Bibles printed by Johannes Gutenberg (c. 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, carefully edited copies of the Paris Vulgate. Even if it did contain typographic inaccuracies, the first Western book printed in multiple copies was 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 that prevailed until 1592, when the Roman Catholic compilers of the official “Clementine” revision preserved several of its variant readings not otherwise attested by earlier manuscripts. This single vellum leaf belonged to a Gutenberg Bible that was disassembled during the Reformation for use as binding material. Discovered in Munich a century ago, it preserves portions of Genesis 47–48. The leaf was presented to Mrs. Prothro by her husband on Christmas Day, 1964, and its permanent housing was created by their daughter, Kay P. Yeager.

Medieval and Renaissance Bibles
Gutenberg Bible Fragment