British Library Treasures in full: Gutenberg Bible
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9. How many

A contemporary witness, Enea Silvio Piccolomini, reports that the Bible was said to have been produced in either 158 or 180 copies. More information on Piccolomini's report.

We know that Gutenberg increased the print-run after work had begun. Perhaps he realised that he had already found a buyer for each copy. It may be that the two figures quoted by Piccolomini reflect an awareness of this change.

The figure of 180 has been confirmed by modern studies of the paper supply. It is now thought that Gutenberg produced about 135 copies on paper and about 45 on vellum. There are 48 copies of the Gutenberg Bible still in existence, not all of them complete, some being only substantial fragments of one of the two volumes. Of these, 12 are printed on vellum. Only four vellum copies and 12 paper copies are complete. Both copies in the British Library are complete.

On the size of the edition see Paul Needham, 'The paper supply of the Gutenberg Bible', The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 79 (1985), 303-74.

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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