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The Gutenberg Bible

See the 500-year-old book that shaped history.

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In Mainz, Germany, in the mid-1450s, Johann Gutenberg and his partner Johann Fust published more than 150 large-format copies of the Bible in Latin. This is the book known today as the Gutenberg Bible. Gutenberg may have begun developing a new printing technology as early as the 1430s, and completion of the Bible demonstrated the viability of a press that used individual pieces of metal type to mass-produce books. Although books would continue to be written by hand in the years— and centuries—that followed, the printing process pioneered by his team became increasingly prevalent, helping change how information traveled in Europe and, later, the world.

The Ransom Center's copy represents one of only 20 complete copies in the world that survive intact. Printed on paper, the two volumes remain in early bindings and feature text and decoration added by hand. In the first volume, books of the Bible begin with two types of distinctive, colorful letters. The second volume features more traditional red and blue initials. Acquired in 1978, this Gutenberg Bible is always on view and can be accessed in its entirety below.

Gutenberg Bible

Biblia latina, commonly known as the Gutenberg Bible. (Mainz, Germany: Johann Gutenberg and Johann Fust, between 1454 and 1456)