Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Fall 2003 Newsletter

Gutenberg Goes Digital

Photograph

Gutenberg Bible.

The inauguration of a new Web site containing over 7,000 separate images of the Ransom Center's Gutenberg Bible attracted international attention this summer. In June 2002, the Center's staff used an I2S Digibook overhead scanner to capture all 1,268 pages of the two-volume Bible in less than four days. Then began the real work. Media Coordinator Steve Wilson programmed an elegant Web interface and created images of double-spread pages for each opening in the book, as well as larger, flattened images of each page. Special features such as large illuminations and marginal notations are easily viewable. The Ransom Center's Bible is probably the most heavily used and annotated of the 48 extant copies, and close examination of the digital images reveals a very human document: one person, perhaps a bored monk, scratched the date "1589" into the gold of one of the illuminations, and another leaf has a hair from a 15th-century papermaker embedded in it.

One viewer from Ohio who saw an AP wire story about the site commented, "I never thought I would actually see this book….I may never manage to make it through each and every page but the opportunity is now there for me." A Japanese graduate student using a computer to compare different copies of the Gutenberg was excited about adding the Texas copy to her study. Further technological wizardry is planned to make the contents of the Bible even more accessible to the general public and scholars, including a computer simulation which will allow visitors to "turn" pages in the Book of Genesis and an interactive background presentation. Both will soon be available in the Center's lobby.  

-Richard Oram


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