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Gutenberg Bible – First Printed Bible

Gutenberg Bible

Gutenberg Bible – The Earliest Printed Book

The Gutenberg Bible was among the earliest books and the first Bible printed using mass-produced movable metal type in Europe. This book, published in the 1450s, is valued for its aesthetic and artistic qualities, as well as its historical significance. 

Forty-nine copies have survived and are among the world’s most valuable books. Less than 185 copies were printed with about three-quarters on paper and the others on vellum.

The Gutenberg Bible contains the Latin version of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek New Testament. Most were sold to monasteries, universities, and wealthy individuals. 

The Bible seems to have sold out immediately, with a price of at least three years’ wages for a clerk. Although this made them significantly cheaper than manuscript Bibles, most people of ordinary income wouldn’t have been able to afford them.

The Gutenberg Bible had a profound effect on the history of the printed book and influenced future editions of the Bible. 

Of the 49 Gutenberg Bibles known to exist today, only 21 are complete. Others have pages or whole volumes missing. Twelve copies on vellum survive, although only four of these are complete.

Today, few copies remain in religious institutions, with most now owned by universities, libraries, and other major academic institutions.

The first Gutenberg Bible reached North America in 1847 and is now in the New York Public Library.

Gutenberg Bible

Gutenberg Bible of the New York Public Library bought in 1847; it was the first copy to be acquired by a United States citizen.

The only copy held outside Europe or North America is the first volume of a Gutenberg Bible at Keio University in Tokyo. 

The last sale of a complete Gutenberg Bible took place in 1978, which sold for $2.2 million. This copy is now in Austin, Texas.

A two-volume paper edition of the Gutenberg Bible at the Moscow State University was estimated to be worth more than $20 million.

The Gutenberg printing press

Around 1450, Johannes Gutenberg introduced the first movable type printing system in Europe. He advanced innovations in casting the type.

He introduced adaptations to the screw-press, the use of an oil-based ink, and the creation of a softer and more absorbent paper.

Gutenberg was the first to create his type pieces from an alloy that is still used today.

Compared to woodblock printing, movable type page setting and print using a press was faster and more durable.

Also, the metal type pieces were sturdier and the lettering more uniform, leading to typography and fonts.

The high quality and relatively low price of the Gutenberg Bible established the superiority of movable type for Western languages.

The printing press rapidly spread across Europe, and the “Gutenberg Revolution” played a crucial role in the development of the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific revolution.

Gutenberg Bible

Gutenberg Bible (c. 1455) – New York Public Library

Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg (1400 – 1468) was a German goldsmith, inventor, printer, and publisher who introduced printing to Europe with the printing press.

His introduction of mechanical movable type printing to Europe started the Printing Revolution.

The arrival of mechanical movable type printing introduced the era of mass communication, which permanently altered the structure of society.

His major work, the Gutenberg Bible was the first printed version of the Bible and has been acclaimed for its high aesthetic and quality.

Gutenberg Bible

  • Title:                 Gutenberg Bible
  • Also:                 42-line Bible, the Mazarin Bible or the B42
  • Date:                 1450
  • Culture:            German
  • Writing:            Latin
  • Material:          Paper and vellum
  • Type:                Ancient Texts
  • Museum:          British Library, Vatican Library, New York Public Library

The Book That Changed the World

1455: Gutenberg Bible published

Virtual Tour of the British Library

Gutenberg Bible: A Virtual Tour

Virtual Tour of Ancient Texts

The Story of the Gutenberg Bible

Gutenberg Printing Press 

Virtual Tour of Historically Influential Books


The Gutenberg Bible

How a Gutenberg printing press works


“Give me twenty-six soldiers of lead, and I will conquer the world.”
– Johannes Gutenberg


Photo Credit: 1) Johannes Gutenberg / Public domain; NYC Wanderer (Kevin Eng) / CC BY-SA (; Adam Jones from Kelowna, BC, Canada / CC BY-SA (

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