Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Primary Source Education Modules > Gutenberg Bible > The Invention > Oops!
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Mistakes and Corrections in the Gutenberg

Not all of the idiosyncrasies of the Ransom Center's copy of the Gutenberg Bible were intentional. Several of its pages display evidence of mistakes and press corrections.

Gutenberg Bible, Volume 1, Page 40r

A Unique Error

On page 40r of Volume 1 of the Ransom Center's Gutenberg Bible, there is a printing error that doesn't appear in any other existing copy. The third and fourth lines of both columns were accidentally transposed, or switched around, by the compositor. This kind of error, which occurs in the same lines of both columns, is highly unusual.

Red lines and the letters a, b, and c on the sides of both columns show the correct reading order for the misplaced lines.

Gutenberg Bible, Volume 1, Page 114v

A New Initial

Sometime after the Bible was originally rubricated and illuminated, the initial p at the beginning of Judges was corrected and repaired. It was painted onto a separate piece of paper, which was in turn pasted down over the previously existing letter.

It remains unclear why the p was changed. It doesn't appear that it was pasted on to correct a mistake. Recent studies have revealed that the letter beneath it is also a p, but in a different style.

If you look closely at this image, you can see exactly where this paste-over occurred: its edges have obscured some of the type!

Gutenberg Bible, Volume 1, Page 40r

Out of Order

At some point before the Ransom Center's copy of the Bible was first bound, the sixth quire of Volume 1 was placed out of order, between the fourth and the fifth quires, and the Bible was bound this way.

Although the quires were eventually re-bound in the correct order (probably no later than the year 1600), manuscript notes still survive attesting to the error. At the bottom of page 40v, a handwritten note tells the reader to go forward ten leaves.

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