News Release — January 19, 2005
Ransom Center Commemorates 550th Anniversary Printing of the Gutenberg Bible with CD-ROM
The University of Texas at Austin's Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center commemorates the 550th anniversary of the printing of its rare copy of the Gutenberg Bible with the release of a CD-ROM edition of the book. Acknowledged as a landmark in the history of printing, the Gutenberg Bible is the first surviving book printed with movable type.
The CD-ROM edition incorporates high-definition and enlargeable "flattened" images of each of the Gutenberg Bible's 1,282 pages. The resolution allows easy viewing of such small details as the papermaker's hair embedded in the fibers of a page.
The images in the CD-ROM edition resulted from a recent rescanning and are higher resolution than those found on the Center's Web site.
"For centuries the Gutenberg Bible has held special significance for anyone interested in the history of books and printing," said Richard Oram, associate director and librarian of the Ransom Center. "Now, about 550 years since the Bible's appearance, we are able to offer scholars, bibliophiles and the public the opportunity to study every detail of the book."
The two-disk set may be used on both Windows and Macintosh computers with CD-ROM drives and retails from University of Texas Press for $39.95.
The edition includes an introduction examining the evidence relating to the production, history and ownership of this copy, including new research about the binding and illuminated initial letters as well as the fact that the Ransom Center's copy was once owned by a monastery (as yet unidentified) in southern Germany belonging to the Carthusian order, a Roman Catholic order of monks and nuns who live chiefly in unbroken silence.
"Each surviving copy of the Gutenberg Bible is a unique storehouse of valuable information," said Eric White, curator of Special Collections at the Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University. "Whereas every copy retains the common properties of the entire edition, specific copies may yet contain untapped clues about their former whereabouts and diverse histories of use."
As one of only five complete copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the United States, the Texas copy is notable for its copious indications of actual use dating from the 15th through the 17th centuries, including instructions on how and when passages were to be used in monastic services. Internationally, there are fewer than 50 existing copies of the Gutenberg.
Acquired by The University of Texas at Austin in 1978, the Bible is on permanent display in the Ransom Center lobby.