Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Primary Source Education Modules > Gutenberg Bible > The Invention > Marginalia
The Invention  -  Books Before and After  -  Johann Gutenberg  -  Facts about the Book  -  Activities  -  Glossary  -  Teacher Resources



How have the Bible's readers left their mark?

Marginalia are notes written by hand in the margins of a book or manuscript. Many people involved in the production, distribution, and consumption of the Gutenberg Bible have altered the text in various ways. Let's look at some examples that make the Ransom Center's copy of the Gutenberg Bible unique.

Gutenberg Bible, Volume 1, Page 84r

A Mysterious Date

For unknown reasons, the year 1589 was scratched into the gilded h at the beginning of Deuteronomy.

Gutenberg Bible, Volume 2, Page 72r

Pointing the Way

At some point in the Bible's history, one of its readers inserted a passage of text in a chapter of Jeremiah. The annotator uses a hand—complete with a cuffed sleeve and pointing finger—to draw the reader's attention to the addition.

13th-Century Bible from England

A Handy Tradition

The pointing hand was already in use by scribes and readers of manuscript texts to point out (literally) key passages or to draw attention to a marginal gloss or note. This example, from a thirteenth-century Latin Bible from England, predates the Gutenberg by about two centuries.

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