BIBLE MAINZ 1452-1455 | Johaness Gutenberg

An unusual publishing project

On the 600th anniversary of the birth of Johannes Gutenberg and to celebrate the 550th anniversary of publishing of the first book containing words printed with movable type, Pelplin Diocese Bernardinum Publishing Company with many lovers of the art started their efforts to publish a facsimile of the 42 – verse Gutenberg’s Bible. It was a demanding project, teaching humbleness, and bringing many tender emotions and joy. It demanded expertises and scientific consultations in which took part scientists from Poland and Japan (Keio University in Tokyo).

During the process, many mysteries and enigmas were solved. After a long period of preparations there was created an exact copy of the Bible printed hundreds of years before by the master from Mainz. The facsimile was created with the use of the most modern technology (photography, scanning, printing moulds, printing). Especially for the occasion the paper with watermarks was prepared, the initials were repainted by hand, the Bible was binded as in the medieval workshop – in oaken plates, vegetable tanned leather, and the setting was refined with stampings and brackets designed in the 15th century.

So far all of the facsimiles of Guttenberg’s Bible have been sold to customers, collectors, and investors all over the world. At present the last part of the edition is being prepared, which will end the edition of the set of 198 volumes of the extraordinary piece of art.

We are pleased to present the effect of the amazing work that was a part of the publishing project, and as a distributor of the last 50 volumes of the Bible, we offer you the pleasure of joining the exclusive circle of the owners of facsimile of the most valuable book in the world.

Johannes Gutenberg

The person that is considered to be the inventor of the first practical printing method is Johannes Gutenberg. The product of his mind is seen as the biggest German contribution to the development of civilisation and each of the remaining volumes of the typographical art masterpiece - the so called 42-verse Gutenberg’s Bible - is worth a fortune. Johannes Gutenberg was born in Mainz in 1400. In his youth he specialised in creating subjects from metal, among others he learnt to engrave letters in it. He worked on new invention secretly. That way the movable type, printing press, and the machine to type casting were born. Lack of money to continue his work made Gutenberg take a loan from a banker Jan Fust about the year 1450. After that Fust and Gutenberg set up a subsidiary – Fust gave the money, and Gutenberg his skills and professional experience. One of the first projects of the subsidiary was printing the Bible. At that time the book was so expensive that only some people could afford owning it. The master from Mainz wanted to print many identical copies which would be much cheaper than the ones written by hand, but at least as beautiful as them.

During the years 1452-1455 there were made 180 copies of the 2-volume Bible printed with the gothic font in Latin, which was the language used by monks rewriting books at that time. After some time, however, there were disagreements between the partners which led to a law case. The court made Gutenberg return the money to Fust, and that probably was a reason for which Gutenberg lost his workshop. Fust became the owner of the publishing company, and together with a Gutenberg’s student, Peter Schoffer, started his printing activity. Gutenberg stayed in Mainz, still printing. He died in 1468 as a courtier of archbishop Adolf von Nassau.

FACSIMILE

The facsimile setting is an exact replica of the one made by Henry Coster from Lubeck in the 15th century.

It consists of two oaken planks covered with red goat leather and equipped with copper buttons, corner brackets, and buckles on leather belts used to closing the book. The rich ornament of the outside layers with motives of animals and plants figures embedded in leather in wonderful geometric set, which middle tetragon with the most beautiful ornament is signed with two embossing: “hin(ri)c(us) cost(er)”, and “bant dit”. It is a real statement of the authorship of the medieval setting. The setting does not include safety cards and the inner mirror of the layers is covered with veal parchment. The edge of the book is sawn with natural linen threads. The goat leather used in the setting was vegetable tanned. For the special order the technology of tanning leather with the use of natural ingredients from the 15th century was replicated.

An expert on Gutenberg and his masterpiece, pastor Don Cleveland Normand claimed that the fate of the copy from Pelplin could be a plot for more than one action story. It took place at the beginning of the year 1939, just before the second world war began. Contemporary heritage conservationist of Chełm Diocese, priest PHD. Antoni Liedtke, spotting the danger made a move to preserve the heritage from Pelplin from damage and loss. The safety of the Gutenberg Bible was a priority.

In his book entitled Saga Pelplińskiej Biblii Gutenberga Liedke recollects: “Authorised by bishop Stanisław Wojciech Okoniewski to preserve the Bible I prepared a proper packaging in the form of a solid leather suitcase, which had been ordered from a saddler Teodor Gutkowski. Next to the two volumes of the Bible I put into the suitcase the most valuable among manuscripts - Psalm Book from the beginning of the 16th century, and my work entitled The Gutenberg Bible in Pelplin, published in 1936 in Toruń.”

In this extraordinary packaging the Bible started its war tramp on 1st August, 1939. The suitcase in which the facsimile is packed is an exact replica of the suitcase made in 1939.

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