Sunday, June 15, 2014

What's What: Gutenberg Bible

Lewis Barnavelt finds a copy of this volume in his cousin’s library and believes, if sold, it would bring in a lot of money [The Vengeance of the Witch-finder; 127].

The Gutenberg Bible was the first major book printed with movable type in the West and the first major book produced on a printing press anywhere in the world. It is an edition of the 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible printed by Johannes Gutenberg. 48 Bibles are known to exist, with only 21 fully complete; the last sale of a complete Bible took place in 1978 and fetched $2.2 Million. Lewis seems to be vastly under-estimating how much cousin Pelham would stand to bring in from such a sale.

February 23, 1455 is the day that the first Bible began rolling off the presses. According to legend, Johannes "Bill" Gutenberg, a German jeweler living in Mainz (also home Stefan Schimpf, no less), got the date wrong for a pilgrimage in the Fifteenth Century and ended up being credited for the creator of movable type in Europe. Thus began the mass production of books began and printing presses soon sprouted across the country. With the onslaught of presses came more of the printed word that could be shared with more people who in turn became more educated. Yet they still tried to sell their used copies to someone else to make a quick buck.

Oh, yes:the story of Gutenberg getting the date wrong comes from James Burke’s Connections (p 101-2), which we recommend as well.

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