Not too long ago, when classical languages were commonly taught in the United States, pupils used to groan about the complexity of their textbooks. Some school texts of classical authors have so much annotation that a page might contain only a few lines of poetry but a few dozen lines of explication. This is the way it was with many a medieval Bible as well. In fact, the wiping away of the traditions of commentary from the printed Bible, a process designed to leave only the "bare text," is often mentioned as a phenomenon of the Reformation (see Pelikan 1996, 28–29).
The layout of a page with so much commentary must have been a supreme challenge to a fifteenth-century compositor, even if there existed many manuscripts with the same style of layout. For this design, the Amerbach typesetters used a system of alphabetic labeling of printed lines in order to make the reference of the notes clearer. We should think of this as a forerunner of footnote marks, although in this case the notes surround the text.
Hugh of St. Cher (ca. 1200–63), who was the first Dominican to be raised to the rank of Cardinal, wrote important works on the Bible, including a biblical concordance and a collection of variant readings for the Vulgate in addition to the Postils for the Old and New Testament, which appear with the biblical text in this book.
The Ryrie copy appears to be in its original binding, a chained binding from the early sixteenth century. The precursor of library security systems, the chain had an obvious function: it impeded unauthorized removal of the Bible from its proper place and reinforced the notion of the Holy Scripture as something precious.
Literature: Pelikan 1996; Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart 3:474.