Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Ransom Center Copy

The Ransom Center's copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

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

Directions for monastic reading, folio II: 105v.

Grape cluster watermark.

Gutenberg used fine, handmade paper imported from Italy. Each sheet has a watermark left by the paper maker, which can be seen when the paper is held up to the light. There are four different watermarks in this Bible: a bull's head, a trotting ox, and two variations of grape clusters. Gutenberg also devised an oil-based ink that would cling to type and was exceptionally dark.

Additions to the Text
Many features of the Gutenberg Bible were added by hand. These include rubrication—the addition of color to letters at the beginning of the sentences—and illuminations, large hand-painted initial letters with gold leaf at the beginning of each book of the Bible. These illuminations are found entirely in the first volume. Both volumes contain numerous marginalia, or handwritten additions to the text, such as directions as to which passages were to be used in church services on certain days.


INTERACTIVE: Highlighting the Watermarks

The original binding for both volumes was probably similar to the current one, which is brown polished calfskin over oak boards with beveled edges. You can see the date "1600" stamped into the cover. Substantial repairs, including the replacement of the entire spine, were made while the book was part of the Pforzheimer Library.

In June 2002, the Ransom Center and IImage Retrieval Inc. collaborated on a project to digitize the Center's Gutenberg Bible. The project resulted in nearly 1,300 digital images that constitute an exact digital reproduction of The University of Texas copy of the Bible. It is accessible to the public through the Center's website. A later digitization resulted in a high-quality CD-ROM edition.

CD-ROM edition
This edition of the Ransom Center's copy from the University of Texas Press incorporates high-resolution and enlargeable "flattened" images of each page. The resolution permits easy viewing of such small details as the papermaker's hair embedded in the fibers of a page. The two-disk set may be used on both Windows and Macintosh computers with CD-ROM drives.