Gutenberg Bible

I once touched a page of the Gutenberg Bible. Just one page, and it wasn’t illuminated at all, just immaculately printed words. If you held it up to a bright light, you would see how those perfect letters were placed exactly on the back of the perfect letters that came before them.

I once touched a page of the Gutenberg Bible. It was in a room, and the room was not special. It had florescent lighting and I was crowded in with 12 other people, looking at manuscripts. We didn’t have to wear gloves, but only pencils were allowed in the room, not pens.

I once touched a page of the Gutenberg Bible. The bible itself a symbol of the beginning of the long divorce between wealth and the dissemination of knowledge. Soon, common people would be laying their hands on these words. Not until the internet would we leap forward again so far.

I once touched a page of the Gutenberg Bible. If I wasn’t a witch before then, I would have become one in that moment when I saw the magic of the words laid out before me.

Headcanon that after Aziraphale wistfully mentioned in passing how much he’d love to own a Gutenberg Bible, Crowley figures that stealing a Bible from a library has to count as a bad deed and once he has it well, haha, not like I have any use for it right?  

That was the plan at least.  Crowley’s upper body strength is mediocre at best.

((Text in image:  “In unsuccessful attempt to steal a Gutenberg Bible from Harvard University’s library, the would-be thief underestimated the weight of the books (70 pounds) and tumbled six stories to the ground.))


The World’s Most Expensive Books

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and perhaps that explains why the world’s most famous paintings sell for hundreds of millions of dollars more than the most expensive books. But even so, nothing can capture the insight into the author’s mind like carefully woven words penned in the master’s own hand, and when that master is Leonardo da Vinci – thirty million dollars is a bargain.

1. The Codex Leicester – Leonardo da Vinci. $30.8M (1994).
2. The Gospels of Henry the Lion – $12.4M (1983)
3. The Birds of America – $8.8M (2000)
4. The Canterbury Tales - $7M (1998)
5. The Gutenberg Bible – $5.4M (1987)
6. Traité des Arbres Fruitiers - $4.5M (2006)
7. The Northumberland Bestiary – $5.4M (1987)
8. First Folio: Comedies, Histories and Tragedies – $5.5M (2006)
9. Cosmography – $4.2M (2006)
10. Mozart’s 9 Symphonies Manuscript -  $4.1M (1990)

Cullen Murphy tells Terry Gross about how the invention of the printing press impacted the third Inquisition:

For a long time, the church had had an effective monopoly on the intellectual life in Europe. Publishing was something that involved copying manuscripts. … Suddenly, there’s a new technology on the block. And the church sees this as a threat. So the church sees a combined attack — from the printing press and the Protestant Reformation — [and that] is really the thing that instigates the third Inquisition. … This is the Inquisition that puts Galileo on trial. … It’s the Inquisition that starts the index of forbidden books.

Image of the Gutenberg Bible via

the gutenberg bible. princeton university library

William Scheide, a philanthropist who died in November, donated more than 2,500 rare books to his alma mater.

The gift - valued at $300m (£194m) - is the university’s largest to date.

“There are discoveries to be made in every document and volume,” university librarian Karin Trainer said.

The collection also includes the original printing of the US Declaration of Independence and handwritten music by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Wagner.

source: BBC news

This weekend is the final weekend that our Library’s treasures—including Shakespeare’s First Folio—will be on view in the Erburu Wing of the Scott Galleries. One prized item will move over to the Huntington Art Gallery and some others will come back on view this fall. Head over to Verso to get the deets.

caption: Title page of Shakespeare’s First Folio edition, 1623. Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.


It has been calculated that each copy of the Gutenberg Bible… required the skins of 300 sheep. 

I can see them squeezed into the holding pen

behind the stone building

where the printing press is housed. 

all of them squirming around

to find a little room

and looking so much alike

it would be nearly impossible

to count them,

and there is no telling

which one will carry the news

that the Lord is a shepherd,

one of the few things they already know. 

-Billy Collins


Today is the 559th anniversary of the traditional date for the printing of the Bible by Johannes Gutenberg on his movable-type printing press.  He had printed a number of materials before the Bible (including his 31-line Indulgence, about which, to be frank, not much is known), and of course it is not at all clear exactly when the Bibles were printed or how long each one took to print, and the fact that there were anywhere from 160 to 185 copies originally printed using his new 42-line printing process makes an exact date of printing a hair close to apocryphal, but everyone loves a good anniversary (including, it should be noted, the USPS–though why they chose 1452 as the date to commemorate is puzzling when the earliest dates for Gutenberg’s Bible are more along the lines of 1454 or 1455).  Forty-eight copies (or substantial remnants of copies) are known still to exist, one of which was in the possession of an eccentric old lady in this stamp enthusiast’s mater’s hometown in the 1950s.  The last time a complete Gutenberg Bible changed hands was in 1978 for $2.2 million, so if you do happen to find one about the house, or even a single leaf from one….well, think how fortunate you are to hold a piece of the original Information Explosion in your mitts.

Stamp details:
Top left:
Issued on: May 5, 1954
From: Bonn, West Germany
SC #723

Top right:
Issued on: February 17, 2000
From: Berlin, Germany
MC #2098

Middle stamps:
Issued on: March 20, 1997
From: Tirana, Albania
MC #2615-2616

Bottom left:
Issued on: May 15, 1948
From: Budapest, Hungary
SC #C53

Bottom right:
Issued on: September 30, 1952
From: Washington, DC
SC #1014

More on the Bod.

As it turns out, the Bod is pretty awesome.

Here’s Why:

1. It’s got a copy of the Gutenberg Bible. This is a pretty big deal.

2. It’s got a copy of Shakespeare’s first Folio. This is possibly an even bigger deal. Maybe.

3. It’s a copyright library. This means that it gets one copy of every book published in the UK. That’s a lot of books. Over 10 million so far.

4. The movie geniuses behind Harry Potter shot lots of Hogwarts scenes in the Bod. Including: the Hogwarts library, the Restricted Section of the Hogwarts library, the Hospital Wing, and that weird room where all the Gryffindors a dance lesson in Goblet of Fire.

5. Part of it looks like this: