36-Line Bible Leaf

[BIBLIA LATINA (the “36-Line Bible”)].
Fragment of 1 vellum leaf.
[Bamberg: Printer of the 36-Line Bible (Albrecht Pfister?), not after 1461]. (07029)

Actually, the first physical evidence of the invention of printing with moveable type in Europe is not the Gutenberg Bible, but several undated minor works apparently printed in Mainz in the period c. 1450–54. Mostly single-leaf indulgences, calendars, and booklets of the 4th-century Latin grammar by Aelius Donatus, they were printed either in the 42-Line Bible type or the slightly earlier (and larger) type that scholars have called the “Donatus-Kalendar” (“D-K”) type. Both type fonts reproduce the Gothic script known as “textura formata quadrata” that was used in Bibles and liturgical manuscripts. The works printed in these fonts show a process of development from the most primitive beginnings of printing, and therefore may be attributed to the most widely-attested inventor of European typography, Johannes Gutenberg.

The 36-Line Bible was printed in the D-K type after this initial period of experimentation, c. 1460. Dated books printed with the same D-K type by Albrecht Pfister in Bamberg after February 1461 prove that this type had passed into Pfister’s hands by then. The watermarked papers, original bindings, and early ownership records of the fifteen surviving 36-Line Bibles point to their production in Bamberg, not Mainz.

This vellum fragment from the 36-Line Bible was given in honor of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro by her family in 2006. Formerly used as a binding wrapped around a later book, the leaf is folio 241 from vol. 2. The preserved text includes I Maccabees, chapters 12:40 to 13:29 (the colored headline, initial S, and chapter numeral “XIII” were added by hand). Only one copy of the 36-Line Bible exists in the United States, along with a handful of single leaves.

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Gutenberg, Fust, and Schoeffer
36-Line Bible Leaf