British Library Treasures in full: Gutenberg Bible
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6. Composition and presses

A compositor's job consisted in composing individual pieces of type together to form words, lines, columns and finally whole pages. He would copy from a manuscript which he had in front of him, so had to be able to read.

The Gutenberg Bible was not typeset in a simple sequence from the first to the last pages. By studying the distribution of paper- types we can identify six different units of composition.

They may reflect the division of work between six different compositors, at the height of the production process, most often each working on a separate section of the Bible, but sometimes also working more closely together on adjacent texts.

On the division of the work into six units see Paul Schwenke, 'Die Gutenbergbibel', in: Johannes Gutenbergs zweiundvierzigzeilige Bibel: Ergänzungsband zur Faksimile-Ausgabe (Leipzig, 1923).

On some points relating to the relative timing of the production units Schwenke's conclusions have been modified by R. N. Schwab and others, 'New evidence on the printing of the Gutenberg Bible: The inks in the Doheny copy', The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 79 (1985), 375-410.

The units of composition identified by Schwenke are analysed in greater detail, revealing further complications, in Paul Needham, 'Division of copy in the Gutenberg Bible: Three glosses on the ink evidence', The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 79 (1985), 411-26.

Tell Me More

1. The types
2. The press
3. The ink
4. The paper
5. The vellum
6. Composition and presses
7. The gatherings
8. Three phases in the printing process
9. How many

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