Skip to Main Content
Harry Ransom Center homepage

News Release — June 19, 2002

The Gutenberg Bible Enters the Twenty-first Century

The Ransom Center's copy of the Gutenberg Bible (c. 1450), one of only forty-eight complete copies in the world, is about to become much more accessible to the public. Pairing cutting edge technology from the fifteenth century -- the Gutenberg Bible was the first book produced using moveable type -- and today's latest technology, every page of the Gutenberg Bible is soon to be photographed using the latest in digital technology. This is the first time this technology will be used to digitize a Gutenberg Bible in the United States.

This project will take place at the Ransom Center, on the campus of The University of Texas at Austin, during the week of June 24, 2002. IImage Retrieval, Inc. of Carrollton, Texas, is allowing the Ransom Center staff to use one of its Digibook scanners, produced by the French firm of i2S-Bookscanner, to capture images of each of the Gutenberg Bible's 1,200 pages. The scanner takes less than five seconds to process each page, and the Book Restorer software produced by i2S allows for correction of page curvature and faithful reproduction of the original colors in the book's beautiful illuminated letters. The end result will be 60,000,000,000 bytes (60 gigabytes) of stored digital images that will eventually be mounted on the Center's Web site or viewed by scholars working at the Ransom Center or even in another country.

Richard Oram, the Center's head librarian, notes, "For the first time, we will have high-definition images of all of the pages in the Bible for scholars to study. These will be of considerable interest to faculty and students in the history of the book and art history. The digitization is an ideal opportunity for us to make the cornerstone of our rare books collection more easily available for study, while it benefits IImage Retrieval, which will have an opportunity to try out this recently introduced product in actual operation. We are grateful that we were able to work out this arrangement with the firm."

Since the large two-volume book is normally on permanent display and must be accompanied by a guard whenever it is removed from its secure case, it has been difficult for scholars to access and for the public to see. Now, users will be able to look at highly detailed digital blowups of the illuminated letters. In addition, the images captured by the i2S Digibook will be used in a new interactive display featuring the Gutenberg Bible in the renovated Ransom Center lobby. More information about the Gutenberg Bible may be found on the Center's website.

Press Room Press Releases


Alyssa Morris
Communications & Marketing Manager