The Book That Changed the World (2:18 min)
Curator: Mark Dimunation
Week of: November 30, 2009
By introducing printing with moveable metal type to Western Europe, Johann Gutenberg revolutionized books, and, in fact, the very nature of communication. Text, once scarce and complicated to produce, was now easily created in multiples that were readily distributed. Out of the explosion of text enabled by moveable type came the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Scientific Revolution. The Bible, too, became a transformed document.
Gutenberg's Bible contained 1,286 pages holding forty-two lines of text. Of the approximately 180 copies printed, less than 50 survive today. In the 50 years that followed the Gutenberg Bible, hundreds of presses emerged across Europe, printing millions of books. Of these, the Bible was principal: by 1500 there were well over 80 editions printed in Western Europe. The Bible has never gone out of production since the Gutenberg printing. In June 1930, Congress authorized the purchase of 3,000 15th-century books owned by Otto H. Vollbehr, including a perfect three-volume vellum copy of the Gutenberg Bible.
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