Oxford University Presents the 550-Year-Old Gutenberg Bible in Spectacular, High-Res Detail

in History, Religion | December 12th, 2013

Gutenberg bible

The great British empiricist Francis Bacon once remarked that Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press “changed the whole face and state of the world.” Although Gutenberg did not independently devise the press, he invented a mass-production process of moveable type and concocted an oil-based ink which, when combined with the wooden press, revolutionized the flow of information. Books could now be published in vast quantities, at only a fraction of the time required previously.

For his first seminal printing, Gutenberg picked the Bible — an obvious choice for a Christian, and in retrospect, perhaps the only book whose historical significance rivals that of Gutenberg’s invention. Produced in 1454 or 1455, the few surviving copies of Gutenberg’s Bible remain exemplars of the printer’s forethought and craftsmanship;  the page dimensions, it is believed, were  devised by Gutenberg to echo the golden ratio of Greek aesthetics. The first page appears above.

This Tuesday, The Polonsy Foundation Digitization Project, which aims to digitize the collections of Oxford’s Bodleian Libraries and the Vatican’s Biblioteca Apostolica, made a virtual version of the Gutenberg Bible available online. Readers fluent in vulgate can now put down their dog-eared bibles and enter the information age with this frighteningly high-resolution cover-to-cover scan of Gutenberg’s original printing. In addition to examining its finely drawn initials and curlicues, you can also browse other early bibles, including a beautifully colored 13th century Hebrew tome, and the delicate illustrations within a 10th century Greek volume. We’ve included two images below:

Bible image 1
Bible image 2
View the first portion of the digitized collections here.

via Hyperallergic

Ilia Blinderman is a Montreal-based culture and science writer. Follow him at @iliablinderman.

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by | Make a Comment (15)

Comments (15)

  1. 83939John says . . .
    December 12, 2013 / 9:26 pm

    Thanks, this is great stuff.

  2. Tochi says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 1:43 am

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  3. fante says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 10:17 am

    Already discovered the Gutenberg bible: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wZZGl3bThuI

  4. baol beon says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 11:46 am
  5. baol beon says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 11:46 am
  6. Odoyo says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 4:13 pm


  7. Odoyo says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 4:14 pm

    thing looks like it could use a case…

  8. Odoyo says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 4:14 pm

    thing looks like it could use a case…

  9. Odoyo says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 4:13 pm


  10. racoonpossum says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 7:45 pm

    people magazine from 2500 years ago. has anyone ever sat down to read just how bad the bible is?

  11. lol says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 8:29 pm

    such brave hate

  12. racoonpossum says . . .
    December 21, 2013 / 8:40 pm

    such naive and backwards gullibility. have you noticed that the earth is round? that there are 100 billion billion stars in the sky? that moses and his imaginary buddy god were child molestors? your bible is no better than toilet paper.

  13. racconpossumfuckhisgramgram says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 11:33 pm

    i have your Ip address i mean who need internet it’s just a digital display on a screen lol.

  14. WhaleOilBeefHook says . . .
    December 13, 2013 / 9:59 pm

    Has anyone sat down and read the bible in context to, the law and societal developments of nations or cultures. To see how counter cultural the new testament is in its time, and old testament is a reminder of human fallacy.

  15. racoonpossum says . . .
    December 21, 2013 / 8:43 pm

    i’m through joshua. there is going to have to be a whole lot of cherries to make up for the child molesting and mass genocide of the firs half. so it is really that good? it must be F’ING GOOD>

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