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

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.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

See How The Guten­berg Press Worked: Demon­stra­tion Shows the Old­est Func­tion­ing Guten­berg Press in Action

Google Puts The Dead Sea Scrolls Online (in Super High Res­o­lu­tion)

Take First-Class Phi­los­o­phy Lec­tures Any­where with Free Oxford Pod­casts

Dis­cov­er Thomas Jefferson’s Cut-and-Paste Ver­sion of the Bible, and Read the Curi­ous Edi­tion Online

How the King James Bible For­ev­er Changed Eng­lish: 400th Anniver­sary Cel­e­brat­ed with Fun Videos

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