Gutenberg Bible


The Gutenberg Bible is the first great book printed in Western Europe from movable metal type. It is a monument that marks a turning point in the art of bookmaking and in the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern world. The Bible was completed in Mainz, Germany, probably in late 1455. Johann Gutenberg, who lived from about 1397 to 1468, is generally credited with inventing the process of making uniform and interchangeable metal type and developing the materials and methods to make printing possible. This Bible, with its noble Gothic type richly impressed on the page, is recognized as a masterpiece of fine printing and craftsmanship. The text is the Latin translation known as the Vulgate, made by Saint Jerome in the fourth century. The Bible is printed throughout in double columns, with 42 lines to a page for the most part. The capital letters and headings are ornamented by hand in color. The three volumes are in white pigskin bindings, which date from the 16th century. The Library of Congress copy is printed entirely on vellum, a fine parchment made from animal skin, and is one of only three perfect vellum copies known to exist. The others are at the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the British Library. For nearly five centuries the Bible was in the possession of the Benedictine Order and was kept in the Abbey of Saint Blasius in the Black Forest in Germany and, after 1809, in the Abbey of Saint Paul in Carinthia, Austria. The bookplate of the Abbey of Saint Blasius appears in each volume. Along with other 15th-century books, the Bible was purchased for the Library of Congress from Dr. Otto H. F. Vollbehr by an act of Congress in 1930.

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Publication Information



Title in Original Language

Biblia latina



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Type of Item

Physical Description

643 unnumbered leaves


  • LC copy on vellum. Leaf [192a] presents numerous variants from the facsimile edition of the Berlin copy (Leipzig, Insel-Verlag, 1913-14). Leaves [11]-[32a], [139]-[158] and [486a] are of the second printing. Chapter headings on leaves [1a], [4a], [5a], [12a] and [129b] printed in red; other chapter headings and chapter numbering supplied by hand in red; initial-strokes supplied in red on leaves [1]-[130] and on a few other scattered leaves; headlines in alternating red and blue; initials in red or blue, some of the larger ones in red and blue, a few with ornaments extending to the margin. Signatures in manuscript, generally cut off, catchword on leaf [125b].

Last updated: January 31, 2014