Where are Gutenberg’s Bibles?

By: Brett Nga

The Gutenberg Bible is by far the most famous piece of printed material in the world. In 1455, German printer Johann Gutenberg began printing these Bibles on a hand made printing press using movable type. Also known as 42 line Bibles, these historic manuscripts mark an important time in history where publications could be mass produced instead of painfully hand copied.

There were originally 180 copies of the Gutenberg Bible. They were bound in leather in two volumes. The wealthy patrons around the European continent bought the most expensive of these Bibles printed on vellum. The rest of Gutenberg's Bibles were printed on a hemp based paper product that was considered to be not durable enough to stand the test of time.

Of the 180 Bibles that were published, there are a very few copies of the 42 line Bibles that are known to exist. There is also a version of the New Testament that has been published on vellum and its known that 48 copies of Gutenberg's Bible were published on the hemp-based paper.

The three perfect vellum copies still in existence are located in France, England, and the United States. In France, you can see the complete vellum version in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris besides a variety of rare and costly books. England's copy of the complete vellum Gutenberg Bible is located in the British Library in London. Here you will find an astounding collection of books that includes the original works of William Shakespeare. The third perfect vellum copy of the Gutenberg Bible is in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. A fourth and final perfect vellum copy of the Bible is in Goettigen, Germany's Universitaetsbibliothek.

Some of the other perfect copies of the Gutenberg Bible on paper are located in Austria, Germany, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Spain, and the United States. In all, there are about eighteen perfect copies printed on hemp based paper which was at one time considered not durable enough.

There is even a copy of one of Gutenberg’s Bibles in Asia. The Keio University Library in Tokyo is home to an incomplete, but still important copy of the 42 line Bible. This Bible is an imperfect copy printed on hemp based paper. Purchased in 1987 for a phenomenal $4.9 million by the Maruzen Company of Tokyo, the Bible was given to the University in 1996.

Apart from these, many imperfect copies of Gutenberg Bibles exist in the universities, libraries, and private collections all over Europe. You can have a look at them when you travel in Europe.

You can also see the complete or incomplete versions of a Gutenberg Bible, on the World Wide Web from the comfort of your home. They have been digitized and are available for viewing. If you want to find a Bible in an area near you or where you plan to travel, go to the Gutenberg Bible census (http://clausenbooks.com/gutenbergcensus.htm).

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Brett Nga is the chief writer for, and editor of For Bibles it's one of the webs most up to date Bible sites, their free newsletter is well worth signing up for too. For more quality articles on Bible why not visit: www.forbibles.com/articles
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