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What does the exact copy of Gutenberg's Bible look like and how much does it cost?


It is a reproduction of the one from the 15th century. What was the printer's secret and how he tried to preserve it.

Lali Martinez Arroyo

07/29/2021 11:27 AM

  • Clarí

  • Culture

Updated 07/29/2021 11:36 AM

A book stands out among the windows of Corrientes Avenue.

It is not just any book

, it is a work inspired by the most important incunabula in literature: by its history, by its

technical perfection

and by its cultural repercussion through years and years.



is any book printed during the 15th century.

This, in particular, is

a replica of the first book printed in series:


Gutenberg Bible

, also known as the

Latin Bible


Bible Mazarin

, translated by St. Jerome.

A standing white box, which stands out among smaller and more limited books, makes the copy of the Taschen publishing house look larger.

Inside the box are two hardcover volumes,

with 1,400 pages in total



Gutenberg's Bible.

Photo Shutterstock

It is a

meticulous reproduction of the original text

, belonging to the Göttingen Library, one of the few complete copies available.

The original is printed in Latin

, on vellum (a type of calfskin-based parchment with a smooth, thin surface).

The Taschen edition is 1,282 pages long and also contains a booklet with the investigation into

Gutenberg's influence

and Ulrich Helmasperger's notarial deed, which is

testimony to the invention of the printing press

and his first product.

Why in stained glass?

The connoisseurs of books, in front of the window, could have several questions about the decision of the bookstore to put that copy in the window,

will it be because of the recognition of the title?

Or because of the demand for such a special work?

You might think that behind that decision

lies a moving story


Like those stories that old booksellers tell about the long-awaited issue, which prompts them to eagerly open each box, as if the best of gifts were kept inside.

It would be easy to imagine the bookseller, excited, taking out the books,

stroking the cover

, reading the back


carefully and, finally, opening the book with caution, to leaf through it slowly, without opening it too much

so as not to mark the page

... But, in this case, the story told by the bookseller in charge of the premises is quite different.

Temptation to the step.

A reproduction of Gutenberg's Bible, on Corrientes Avenue.

Photo Guillermo Rodriguez Adami

“The decision to put it on the window is

purely commercial



a couple of copies


per branch

, and even less in a pandemic, because it is an imported book.

Every two weeks or so

, someone comes to consult for him


They ask a lot to be a book that does not have a great outlet.

But it is sold.

Slow, but steady.

For example,

now this is the only branch where there is a copy left

, "he said.

Anyone would think that a replica of this quality and care would cost no less than 30 thousand pesos.

But it

has a cost of $ 19,850 pesos


Even cheaper than a jacket with no history and little future.

Gutenberg, businessman

What was the question


asked himself

to make his own business decision, the one that led him to make a difference?

What was your original goal?

Has your gaze been on the reader's need?

From his creative and visionary position, he understood that his invention

would bring reading to the hands of the people

, when until then it was only reserved for the clergy.

It took the monks ten years to finish copying a copy, as they wrote and painted it by hand.

It was hard work, painstaking, creating unique specimens ... but on a small scale.





a manuscript cost about six




After the invention of the printing press, that cost was reduced to

six days'


(with a book imported today, in Argentina, it is more than that).

With its glitters.

Reproduction of the Gutenberg Bible.

Photo Guillermo Rodriguez Adami


serial reproduction

technique was

a revolutionary act, making it possible to create more copies at a lower cost, and thus expanding the market.

Such was the success of his publishing project that

the copies were sold before they were finished

, what we now know as advance sale.

That his first project was the Bible could also be a




The Church, in the 15th century, was an influential institution.

Gutenberg was

undoubtedly clear that there was an audience that would appreciate the editorial gesture (although the term was not known at the time).

The monasteries did not have much money

, and the handwritten Bibles were of great value.

Gutenberg knew that need, so he printed 180 copies.

Gutenberg was

born in 1398

to a wealthy family

, which allowed him to study at the monastic school in Mainz and develop the




In 1446, he found a partner and - with that support - founded his

"Book Company


and in 1950, he created the printing press.

The knowledge of the blacksmith

What he did to start

planning the production

was to tear up an entire book, separating each word, each period, and each comma.

This is how he

created movable type:

pieces that had different letters and symbols engraved on them.

He created

more than one hundred thousand types that would be reusable characters

, made with a metallic alloy that was, without a doubt, his greatest contribution.

Based on

his knowledge as a blacksmith

, he found the perfect alloy, ductile and resistant at the same time, which is still used to this day.

And it is that the Chinese already had the printing with "sinograms" made of wood, bamboo, bone or ceramic

for the printing of characters



merit was not there


But he knew that

the material used to wear out over time

, and that gave him the kickoff to find the ideal material with which to create his types.

In Germany.

A replica of Gutenberg's printing press.

AFP photo

In fact, while

Gutenberg was

working on creating the printing press in Mainz, in

Korea they

were rethinking the method of writing to make printing easier,

reducing tens of thousands of characters to just twenty-eight




first arrived at the ideal solution: he engraved each inverted letter on a piece of metal, and then on a soft copper cube that marked a silhouette of the letter.

This silhouette is what is known as a matrix, and it was the basis for creating molds made with cast lead (movable type).

The next step came from the hands of

another of his inventions

: the manual mold, where they placed the molten lead and, when opened, the piece came out ready to be used.

This gave him the possibility to create the letters that were necessary so that the typesetter could compose the lines of the text.

When the phrase mirror was ready,

another great Gutenberg invention

was used

: printing ink

, made with soot, varnish and albumin, a formula that

is still used today


In this step,

the press

comes into play

, a machine that


built inspired by the one that was

used by winegrowers of the time


Finally, the final step was in the hands of the


, who painted the letters and illustrations with colors.

Thus, although the books were mass-produced, they made them



With each brushstroke of the illuminator,

the art gained strength

  and each copy had its own stamp, it became a unique piece.

The first printing tests were in


and then he returned to Mainz.

What used to take a decade per copy, now - with



- took about

two to three years


Between 1453 and 1455, a print run of

between 180 and 200 copies was made in Gothic letters

, thanks to the work of four presses that worked at the same time, six columnists and twelve pressers.

The 42-line Bible

, named for the number of


in two columns that made up the 1,286 pages of the work, was bound in white pigskin and printed in two volumes.

The printer's secret

One of the things that is known from the time when the printing of the sacred book was carried out, was the

strict confidentiality

of the project, a promise that the workers made after


told them, in an imperious way, not to tell about the presses anyone.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Gutenberg-Museum (@gutenbergmuseum)


48 copies are still preserved

, of which only 21 would be complete.

Of 12 parchment copies, only four are complete and only one of them contains the New Testament.

The National Library does not have these old copies,

they are not available in Argentina


There is one in the New York Public Library, where it arrived in 1847. As a church, only the Vatican has two copies available;

one on parchment and one on paper, but both are incomplete.

To see one of the original copies, you

would have to travel to Germany

, which has twelve.

Or the United States, which has eleven.

Or the United Kingdom, which has eight.

Around here, there seems to be none.

If you also love the stories behind the books, you might want to know that Gutenberg's Printing House

is reconstructed in the Mainz museum


If you're ever out there, don't forget to visit.


Look also

The Argentines that the world will read

The ruthless ways to raise a young lady

Source: clarin

All news articles on 2021-07-29

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