[BIBLIA LATINA] (the “36-Line Bible”). [Bamberg (?): Printer of the 36-Line Bible (Albrecht Pfister or
predecessor), c. 1458-60 (not after 1461)]. Fragment of 1 leaf, printed
Actually, the first physical evidence of the invention of printing with
moveable type in Europe is not the Gutenberg Bible, but several undated
minor works apparently printed in Mainz in the period c. 1450-54. Mostly
single-leaf indulgences, calendars, and booklets of the 4th-century
Latin grammar by Aelius Donatus they were printed either in the 42-Line
Bible type or the slightly earlier (and larger) type that scholars have
called the “Donatus-Kalendar” (“D-K”) type. Both type fonts reproduce
the Gothic script (known as “textura formata quadrata”) that was used in
Bibles and liturgical manuscripts. The works printed in these fonts show
a process of development from the most primitive beginnings of printing,
and therefore they may be attributed to the most widely-attested
inventor of European typography, Johannes Gutenberg.
The 36-Line Bible was printed in the D-K type about 1458-60, and thus it
represents a slightly later use of the earliest European printing type.
However, it is unknown whether the printer of the 36-Line Bible was
Gutenberg himself. Dated books printed with the same D-K type by
Albrecht Pfister in Bamberg after February 1461 prove that this type had
passed into Pfister’s hands by then. Indeed, the watermarked papers,
original bindings, and early ownership records of the fifteen surviving
36-Line Bibles point to their production in Bamberg, not Mainz.
This vellum fragment from the 36-Line Bible was given in honor of
Elizabeth Perkins Prothro by her family in 2006. Formerly used as a binding
wrapped around a later book, the leaf is folio 241 from vol. 2. The preserved
text includes I Maccabees, chapters 12:40 to 13:29 (the colored
headline, initial S, and chapter numeral “XIII” were added by hand).
Only one copy of the 36-Line Bible exists in the United States, along
with only a handful of such leaves preserved as binder’s waste.
Full page view, recto
Full page view, verso