Gutenberg's Bible - The 42 Lined Bible

Gutenberg's Bible - The 42 Lined Bible

Mainz (Germany) — ca. 1454

The dawn of a new era: one of the most famous books of mankind, kept today in a literary capital of the Middle Ages

  1. One of only 49 surviving copies of the Gutenberg Bible find itself in the possession of the Burgos Library

  2. Like all of the 180 printed specimens, it was adorned with hand painted initials after the printing

  3. Johannes Gutenberg (1400–68) worked on his printing press with moveable type for ten years

Gutenberg's Bible - The 42 Lined Bible

  1. Description
  2. Single Page
  3. Facsimile Editions (1)
Gutenberg's Bible - The 42 Lined Bible

Johannes Gutenberg is, aside from the Reformer Martin Luther, the most important German whose name is associated with the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern era. Gutenberg is considered to be the inventor of book printing and the first published of literature worldwide. The famous Gutenberg Bible is the paradigm of the printing process developed by him and numbers today among the most important creations of world literature. A unique illuminated specimen of the Gutenberg Bible can be found today in the state library of the Spanish city of Burgos. The precious work was manufactured in Gutenberg’s Mainz workshop ca. 1454.

Gutenberg's Bible - The 42 Lined Bible

Of the 180 printed and 48 surviving two-volume copies of the famous Gutenberg Bible, one specimen can be found in the Biblioteca Pública del Estado in the Spanish city of Burgos. The valuable incunabulum of the historical masterpiece was printed during the years 1452–54 in Gutenberg’s Mainz workshop. The handwritten template for the printed Bible was the so-called Vulgate, a 4th century translation of the books of the Old and New Testaments by St. Jerome. The Latin text was printed in a close line system on a total of 1,254 hand decorated and illustrated sheets of paper. The work is also referred to as the 42-Line Bible since every page of text contains 42 lines. The illuminated bible is, just like every other surviving Gutenberg Bible, a gorgeous, high-quality unicum and an absolute treasure for every bibliophile.

Gutenberg’s Legacy

Johannes Gutenberg is regarded as the inventor of modern book printing with moveable metal type and printing press. He was actually the first person who employed the invention of book printing in such a way that it unleashed a revolution in the availability and price of books. He was the first editor or publisher of literature worldwide. The paradigm of his publication method was his printed Bible. Credit is due Gutenberg in particular for having coalesced all of the components of the printing and reproduction of written text into an efficient production process, which facilitated the mechanical production of books for the first time. In the year 1997, Gutenberg’s printed Bible was voted TIME-LIFE Magazine’s most important invention of the second millennium, and the Mainz native was named the “Man of the Millennium” in 1999 by the A&E Network.

A Truly Unique Gutenberg Bible

The Burgos Bible consists of two volumes, the first of which contains the Old Testament and the second the New Testament. The text pages are arranged in a uniform justification. The harmonious impression of the text pages is the result of the application of various broad letters, ligatures, and abbreviations. Gutenberg chose a particularly large font for his typeface, which is reminiscent of earlier, handwritten liturgical books. Consequently, the biblical text is also legible in low light and from a distance and was intended for use in church. The Bible was furnished with individually colored and gilded decorations and initials according the wishes of the owner subsequent to printing. The illustrators inserted colorful drawings, furnished the book pages with elaborate floral adornment and embellished free spaces around the text with realistic plant tendrils. The Spanish Gutenberg Bible is a precious unicum like the other specimens of this work.


Alternative Titles
Gutenberg Bible
Gutenberg's 42-line Bible B42
42-zeilige Gutenberg-Bibel
Gutenberg B-42
Gutenberg Bibel
Size / Format
2 volumes - 1,254 pages / 41.0 × 31.0 cm
ca. 1454
Hand painted initials and floral bordures
Old and New Testament
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Gutenberg's Bible - The 42 Lined Bible – Inc. 66 – Biblioteca Pública del Estado (Burgos, Spain)
Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 1995
Limited Edition: 1380 copies
Single Page

Gutenberg's Bible - The 42 Lined Bible

Page from the Book of Job

The Gutenberg Bible represents a hybrid work combining the new technology of the printed book with traditional illumination from manuscripts. Its type was meticulously arranged in the printing press to not only create the perfectly uniform columns of Latin text, some printed in red, but to also leave spaces for elaborate initials to be completed by hand.

Leaving these spaces blank still allowed purchasers of this luxury first edition to have their personal copies customized according to their own tastes. The patron of this specimen had their copy adorned with elaborate initials created using bright, vibrant colors that stretch and intertwine in the margins, one apparently featuring a strawberry.

La Biblia de Gutenberg (Biblia de 42 líneas)
Facsimile Editions

#1 La Biblia de Gutenberg (Biblia de 42 líneas)

Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 1995

Publisher: Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 1995
Limited Edition: 1380 copies
Binding: Embossed leather over wooden covers with metal fittings
Commentary: 1 volume (126 pages) by Dietrich Briesemeister, Eva Hannebutt-Benz, Hans-Joachim Koppitz, Lotte Hellinga, Julián Martín Abad, Mª. Del Carmen Monje Maté, Eberhard König, Corinna Sussebach, Sarah J. Whyte, Vicente Gómez, and Isabel Moyano Andrés
Languages: English, Spanish, German
2 volumes: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
Edition available
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