Did you ever wonder what was the first mass produced book?
mass produced printed book was the Bible, a version based on the Latin
edition from about 380 AD.. The Bible was printed at Mainz, Germany by Johannes
Gutenberg from 1452 -1455.. Although German bibliographers claim that it
was may also have been finished and perfected by Johann Fust, a wealthy
financier who gained Gutenberg's share of the business in a lawsuit; and
Peter Schöffer, Gutenberg's assistant.
The first copy that attracted attention was discovered about 1760 among
the books of the French statesman Cardinal Jules Mazarin. The book is the
first volume known to have been printed with movable metal type. At
least one book of the Bible has been published in 1,808 languages since
the Bible was first printed.
The history of the printed Bible with movable type is the subject of
considerable scholarly debate. Fragments of earlier bibles have also been
found - they are differentiated by the number of lines of text on a page.
Scholars have identified several variants and attempted to work out the
sequence of development on the basis of the quality of the individual pieces
The oldest surviving Bible printed with movable type is often called the
Gutenberg Bible (named after its printer Johannes Gutenberg), or the 42-line
Bible (so called because with few exceptions, each page has 42 lines of
print), or the Mazarin Bible (because the first copy to recapture attention
in 1760 was found in the library of Cardinal Jules Mazarin, in Paris).
1440, German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press
process that, with refinements and increased mechanization, remained the
principal means of printing until the late 20th century. The inventor's
method of printing from movable type, including the use of metal molds
and alloys, a special press, and oil-based inks, allowed for the first
time the mass production of printed books.
The Bible, printed at Mainz, probably required several years of work; it
began in 1452 and was completed not later than 1455 and printed in an
edition of about 180 copies. The text of the Bible is Latin. Colored
initials and other illuminations were hand drawn after the pages were
printed. The Gutenberg Bible lacks
many print features that modern readers are accustomed to, such as
pagination, word spacing, indentations, and paragraph breaks.
The Bible was large comprising over 1280
pages, and the text was laid out in two columns. The German Gothic
type-style was modeled on manuscripts of the period. The columns of text are
tightly justified right and left. This is possible because Latin words can
be abbreviated by replacing letters with symbols. The printed text was
black, with red and blue headers and initials being added later by an
illuminator. The edition includes both vellum and paper copies. In design
and workmanship, the Gutenberg Bible holds its place as one of the finest of
all printed books.
The very first pages Gutenberg printed had only 40 lines per column.
Later in the course of printing, Gutenberg realized the paper could
accommodate 42 lines and so the pages were reset and printed again in the
new format. The original pages of 40 lines were included in the very first
issue of the Gutenberg Bible.
As of 2003, the Gutenberg Bible census includes 11 complete copies on
vellum, 1 copy of the New Testament only on vellum, 48 substantially
complete integral copies on paper, with another divided copy on paper, and
an illuminated page (the Bagford fragment).
To Learn More
Invention of the Printing Press
Great Idea Finder
The Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
100 Inventions That Shaped World History
by Bill Yenne, Morton, Dr. Grosser (Editor) / Paperback - 112 pages
(1983) / Bluewood Books
This book contains inventions from all around the world from microchips
to fire. This is a really good book if you are going to do research on
A History of Mechanical Inventions
by Abbott Payson Usher / Paperback: 450 pages / Dover Pub.; Rev. ed
This completely revised and updated classic
explores the importance of technological innovation in the cultural and
economic history of the West. Specific topics include invention of the
The Book on the Bookshelf
by Henry Petroski / Paperback: 304 pages / Vintage (September 12,
Consider the book. Though Goodnight Moon and Finnegans Wake differ
considerably in content and intended audience, they do share some basic
characteristics. They have pages, they're roughly the same shape, and
whether in a bookstore, library, or private home, they are generally stored
vertically on shelves.
The Gutenberg Bible : Landmark in Learning
by James E. Thorpe / Hardcover - 48 pages 2nd edition (1997) / H E
Huntington Library & Art
The Huntington Library holds one of the three vellum copies of the
Gutenberg Bible in the United States. Details the early history of printing
and how the Gutenberg Bible was printed. .
The Bible for
Children : From the Age of Gutenberg to the Present
Ruth B. Bottigheimer / Hardcover - 338 pages / Yale Univ. Press - 1996
Bottigheimer has meticulously researched these changes and produced a work that
should appeal not only to Biblical scholars but to any of us interested in the making of
that monumental book.
The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800
by Lucien Febvre, Henri-Jean Martin, David Gerard /
Paperback: 378 pages / Verso; (Reprint.1997)
Yet the emergence of the book was a process of immense historical importance
and heralded the dawning of the epoch of modernity.
Gutenberg (Limited availability.)
Leonard Everett Fisher / Library Binding - 28 pages / Simon & Schuster -
Fisher's biography of Johann Gutenberg, the creator of movable
type and the printer of the Gutenberg Bible, is marked by careful research,
clear writing, and striking illustrations
ON THE WEB:
His name is associated with innovation, activity and courage. His idea is
the foundation stone of modern civilization. Johannes Gensfleisch zum
Gutenberg created the basis of modern communication with his invention of
printing with mobile letters.
On this site you will find the British Library’s two copies of Johann
Gutenberg’s Bible, the first real book to be printed using the technique of
printing which Gutenberg invented in the 1450s.
The Printing Press
In spite of Gutenberg's efforts to keep his technique a secret, the
printing press spread rapidly. Before 1500 some 2500 European cities had
Johannes Gutenberg and The Printed Book
The printing press had developed from the wine press in the Rhine
Valley. It was there in 1440 that Johannes Gutenberg (c.1397-1468) began
using the printing press in conjunction with a series of blocks each bearing
a single letter on its face.
Detail on the Gutenberg bible. Henne Gänsfleisch zur Laden, commonly
called Gutenberg. The invention of Gutenberg should be classed with the
greatest events in the history of the world.
The Information Age and the Printing Press: Looking Backward to See Ahead
There are some provocative parallels between the communications changes
enabled by networked computers and those enabled by the printing press in
its early days. Article by James A. Dewar
Gutenberg Apprentice Speaks
Peter Schoeffer, once an apprentice to Gutenberg and now partner in his own business.
explains what fueled the invention of the printing press. School project.
Biblia Sacra is an electronic bibliography, allowing its users to
request information (text and reproductions) on bibles printed in the
Netherlands and Belgium.
The first substantial work printed from moveable metal type, the
so-called Gutenberg or 42-line Bible, produced in Mainz around 1455 by
Johann Gutenberg, Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer. The illustration is
added by hand to the printed text. Fifty copies of this edition survive,
not all of them complete.Copy located at the Cambridge University
Johannes Gutenberg - "Man of the Millennium"
In honor of his invention, Gutenberg was recently chosen by an
international panel of scientists as the "most outstanding personality of
WHERE TO FIND:
Gutenberg Bible at the British Library
On this site you will find the British Library’s two copies of Johannes
Gutenberg’s Bible, the first real book to be printed using the technique of
printing which Gutenberg invented in the 15th Century.
DID YOU KNOW?
- In less than 50 years after the
invention of the printing press, fifteen million books had been flung
into a world where previously scholars would travel miles to visit a
library stocked with twenty hand-written volumes. And those books
reflected some thirty thousand titles.
Books produced in this period, between the first work of Johann
Gutenberg in 1450 and the year 1500, are collectively referred to as
- Gutenberg changed plans at least three
times while printing the Bible
- The Bible that Gutenberg printed was a
Latin translation from about 380 AD
- There are many statues of Gutenberg in Germany -- one of the more famous
being a work by Thorvaldsen, in Mainz, home to the Gutenberg Museum.
- Note: We discovered as many spellings
with Johann as we did with Johannes. We went with a Google search that
produced four times more Johannes Gutenberg's than Johann
Sources in BOLD Type
page revised June 18, 2006.