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Translations and Facsimiles

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Gutenberg Bible Facsimile 

is one of the most famous and beautifully illuminated  pages in the world.

The dramatic 15-inch-tall initial "I" has
six miniatures depicting the six days of creation.

In the background the image of God
can be seen overlooking the work of
His hands.


The Gutenberg Bible has often been called the greatest book in the world. There is good and sufficient evidence for the claim. Marking the threshold of a new art form, this magnificent work was the first major book in the west to be printed with movable type.

The holy script was laid down using movable type
that had been cast to imitate the hand calligraphy
of the day. This Gothic style would have been
familiar to the reader and was printed in black ink.



To accomplish the color accents, Gutenberg left blank spaces for the later addition of the artistic letters.

The smaller of these beautiful ornamental accents are called rubrications, derived from the Latin rubrico, meaning to color red (although they were also commonly done in blue).




Once the rubrication was complete, the sheets could be further enhanced with ornate gold work and hand-painted margin decorations called illuminations. Margin decorations might include religious miniatures, dragons, peacocks, falcons and/or an array of medieval flowers.




Because each Gutenberg Bible was completed by individual artists, no two bibles are alike. This is clearly seen by looking at the first page of Luke's Gospel from three different Gutenberg Bibles below.



Notice the whimsical faces hidden within the text by the rubricator.



Printing the Cooper Square Facsimile        

The famous Cooper Square Facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible was issued in two volumes totaling 1282 pages. Volume I contained 648 pages and Volume II had 634 pages. It was printed on off-white, ninety pound, one hundred percent cotton rag paper made especially for this edition by the Curtis Paper Company. It had a laid finish and was smooth enough to take quality intaglio printing

The 93 illuminated pages were printed via a five-color, sheet-fed gravure, which yielded a true and careful reproduction of the many subtle colors on the original leaves. To guarantee richness and fidelity, each color sheet was fed through the intaglio press seven separate times. The remaining 1189 non-illuminated pages were printed by photolithography in three-color line to reproduce faithfully the rubrications which enhance the black letters.



Gold was widely used within the illuminations of the original Gutenberg Bible, but trying to replicate the same appearance with print presented a special problem. After several experiments, the use of a golden-bronze powder proved most satisfactory.



In order to receive final approval, the printers needed to be sure the gold effect would last over time without discoloration. Tests in a tarnish machine gave rise to an innovative process to protect the metallic powder from harmful chemical reactions by encasing it in an undercoat and an overcoat of a special protective lacquer.