Today, the best-selling book of all time is estimated to be the Bible, but before the 15th century , this sacred text was only available to monasteries and churches; however, this would change with the revolutionary arrival of the first printing press… Meet Gutenberg’s Bible!
Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, better known as Gutenberg was working, together with Andreas Dritzehn who died early due to the plague, in a “Secret art”: this mystery was “simply” looking for a way to mass produce a single text, that is, the first printing press as we know it today .
Representation of Johannes Gutenberg working on his idea (1400 – 1460) – Image: Wikimedia .-
There was material with processes similar to printing before, such as the Disc of Festus, or a text of prayers in Japan, among several others, which used letter molds; more, this new system was somethingdefinitely revolutionary and it marked a resounding before and after in the history of the world.
Gutenberg’s printing press
Since Gutenberg was a goldsmith, he could accurately carve the punches for the coins, so he molded each letter with metal making sure that each one stood out from the page with relief , which was easier to carve as “slotted” letters.
The punch then stamped a die with the pressed letter and the molten alloy was poured, and once cooled it was ready for use. When it was fixed in a frame, Gutenberg proceeded to brush the ink and press the paper a little damp onto the metal , and voila , the first prints were ready.
Replica of the printing press that resides in the Featherbed Alley Printshop Museum in Bermuda – Image: Wikimedia .-
But if the important thing is that he invented the printing press, why is the Bible relevant? Well, that was the first text that our artist wanted to mass produce …
Although Gutenberg began his novel art by printing a kind of school book, then he wanted to dedicate himself to a much more ambitious project that would give him even more prestige, something that would even be praised by the future Pope Pius II, a Bible.
Although each copy was used daily in the church, printing one of these texts was not the “obvious” option according to the BBC , because it was not really a central part of the ecclesiastical institution at the time, making this idea of Gutenberg became a momentous project.
Copy in the Library of Congress – Image: Wikimedia .-
This edition of the Bible was finished in the year 1455, but beyond how novel it was to have a Bible at your fingertips, the most important thing is what it triggered …
The Bible was the first book that began to be sold massively thanks to this technique; But, in reality, the important thing is that it gave rise to the printing of different texts and people developed the habit of reading, and even more significantly, it generated people’s interest in being informed. After 50 years of its invention, printed books began to be sold throughout the commercial routes of Western Europe … Thus began the so-called”Printing revolution”.
In addition, it is important to note that although it was common for critics of the Church to leave their comments pasted on the doors of cathedrals, when Martin Luther proceeded to make his criticism, this was spread extremely quickly due to the invention of the printing press,eventually causing it to be born Protestantism a new variant of christianity.
Returning to Gutenberg’s Bible, in addition to its innovative printing, what stood out the most about it was its beautiful aesthetics : it is considered a work of art for its handmade printing and for its gothic typography in Latin, visible in each one. his1282 pages of 42 lineseach; in addition, the capital letters and their headings were made by hand.
Gutenberg’s Bible Today
Originally there were 180 copies, but today we can only find 48 copies, and the vast majority are incomplete . For example, in the Library of Congress of the United States we can find one on vellum (parchment paper), one of the few that is complete.
First page of the first volume available at the University of Texas – Image: Wikimedia .-
Although when we hear about the Gutenberg Bible we only think of its literary or artistic relevance, it is actually its historical value that made it transcendental, because that text unleashed interest in being informed … so without the Gutenberg Bible, the world it would be a very different place