The very first book that Gutenberg/Johann Gutenberg printed was an edition of the bible now known as the Gutenberg bible. It is very famous in much the same way as the Penny Black is very famous for being the first postage stamp. It was the first and thus a model for everything that came later.

The Gutenberg bible is not extraordinarily rare, it is, however, useful as a popular tool for promoting libraries and archives due to its fame. It was typeset in such a way that it could illuminated by hand. The intellectual content of the Gutenberg bible approaches zero cost, since books with equivalent content/identical content are now mass produced by many commercial and religious printers.

The Gutenberg Bible was printed by Johann Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany, in 1454-55. It was the first book printed in the West using movable type. The Bible is printed in Latin. Gutenberg's accomplishment was not in the creation of a more affordable or accessable Bible, as it was still very expensive at the time, and most people did not read Latin, but in setting the foundation for what would come next. In the 45 years following Gutenberg's Bible, 8-12 million books were printed in the West, as many as had been copied by hand in the previous 1150 years.

About 180 copies of the Gutenberg bible were printed. Significant portions of 48 copies remain today.1 The last copy to be sold was in the late 1940s. In 1930, the Library of Congress purchased one of only three perfect copies of the Bible printed on vellum from Otto H. Vollbehr, along with about 3,000 other incunabula, for $750,000. Vollbehr had purchased the copy in 1926 for $250,000.2 The British Library has two copies, one on paper and one on vellum. High quality digital versions of both of the British Library copies are available on their web site.3 The Göttingen copy of the Gutenberg Bible, printed on vellum, is also available on the internet4. Octavo is digitizing the Library of Congress copy.


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