The "Poor Man's Bible"
Basel: Johann Froben, 27 October 1495. (Prothro B-197)
Johann Froben printed the first pocket-sized octavo Latin Bible at Basel in 1491, the so-called “Poor man’s Bible.” He completed the second edition in this small format (paper folded three times) in 1495. Convenient to carry and easily affordable, this edition combined several user-friendly features that Froben advertised on his title page: marginal chapter divisions and references, a subject index, and tabular summary of the books and their contents. This was also the earliest printed Latin Bible to include a woodcut illustration. Based on a woodcut by young Albrecht Dürer, the frontispiece faces the opening of St. Jerome’s introductory letter to St. Paulinus, Bishop of Antioch. Here, the translator of the Vulgate turns from his work to pull a thorn from the paw of his fabled companion, the lion. On his desk are the texts of his Prologue to the Pentateuch and Latin and Greek (Septuagint) versions of Genesis 1:1.