British Library Treasures in full: Gutenberg Bible
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1. The Bible

Gutenberg's first and only large-scale printing enterprise was the Bible in Latin. This is not an obvious choice of text, for the Bible was not very central to the daily life of the Church in the 15th century.

Parts of the Bible would have been used in church every day, but not in the order in which they appear in the Bible. The texts of the Bible were reorganised in a Missal to suit the complicated order in which extracts were to be read. Missals were different from region to region, however. Perhaps Gutenberg realised that, in order for a large-scale printing project to be commercially successful, he had to aim at an international market. The Bible might sell fewer copies in each region, but it had the potential to sell all over Western Europe.

Gutenberg and his team also knew that they needed to market their new invention. In 1454 they showed their product to an international audience in Frankfurt, perhaps even before the project was completed. They must have been aware that a successful launch would be much easier if they began with a high-profile book of importance beyond their local area.

Text of the Bible details.

Tell Me More

1. The Bible
2. Donatus's Latin grammar
3. Indulgences

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