The oldest printed objects in the world complement the Gutenberg Bible on display by Beinecke (2023)

The Yale copy of the Gutenberg Bible, on display in a bronze box on the mezzanine level of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library since 1963, is a milestone in the history of the printed word. Joining this regular exhibit today is another landmark of the same story, a 1,250-year-old print of Buddhist prayers, the oldest known printed text that can be reliably dated.

The updated exhibition presents a broader and more comprehensive history of how book printing has evolved through mankind over the centuries, say the Bergecke curators.

Gutenberg's two-volume Bible is the first major book made with movable metal type in the West. Johannes Gutenberg's masterpiece represents a revolution in book printing in the 15th centuryº20th-century Europe that simplified the production of books and accelerated the spread of knowledge around the world.

Even older are the Hyakumantō drani, woodcuts of a Buddhist sutra mass-produced in Japan by the reigning Empress Shotoku between 764 and 770 AD. (It was common) after the suppression of the Nakamaro Rebellion, nearly 700 years before Gutenberg began producing two-volume copies of the Latin Vulgate at his Romansh printing works in Mainz, a city in present-day Germany.

Yale University Library's East Asia Collection contains several examples of Buddhist sutras, prayer scrolls preserved in miniature wooden pagodas and distributed at 10 prominent Buddhist temples near Japan's then-capital Nara. . To give visitors to the Beinecke Library a broader insight into the history of printing, one of the scrolls and pagoda case replaces one of the two volumes of Yale's Gutenberg Bible in the display case. The replaced volume will be saved and the two volumes will toggle on and off the screen to promote Bible preservation.

(Video) Collection in Focus: The Gutenberg Bible

For years, Bergecke visitors have marveled at the Gutenberg Bible, and with good reason," said Michelle Light, University Associate Librarian for Special Collections and director of the Beinecke Library. "By putting a Gutenberg volume in dialogue with the oldest surviving printed material, we are offering the public the opportunity to see two important historical objects that together will tell a more complete story of the use and development of the printing press for mankind".

survive the first impression

The scrolls are copies of drani, a type of Buddhist incantation. Each of the 10 temples reportedly received 100,000 scrolls, each enclosed in a miniature pagoda. Many of the pagodas have maker's marks engraved on the floor. The scrolls were probably printed with wooden sticks, although recent studies suggest that at least some were printed with metal plates. Regardless of the method used, printing 1 million prayers and carving the same number of pagodas must have required a small army of craftsmen, said Ray Clemens, Bergecke's curator of early books and manuscripts.

The oldest printed objects in the world complement the Gutenberg Bible on display by Beinecke (1)

Only scrolls from one of the temples, the Hōryūji Temple outside of Nara in the Kansai region of Honshū, have survived to modern times. Many were given away, and many of them found their way onto the antiques market and distributed in collections around the world, Clemens said.

They're not rare because they're in many library and museum collections, but most people don't know they're the first surviving prints," he said. "They are also fascinating objects in their own right."

In 1934, Asakawa Kan'ichi, Yale professor of history and founding curator of the university's Chinese and Japanese collections, acquired four prayer scrolls and their pagodas in association with the Yale Association of Japan.


With its addition to the regular exhibition, the Hyakumantō drani, an acquisition we have long considered invaluable to our scholarly community, will finally reach the broad audiences that Asakawa hoped these objects would one day reach," said Haruko Nakamura , Librarian for Japanese Studies at Yale.

The scrolls and pagodas have been used in numerous exhibitions as well as scholarly publications, including research by Mimi Yiengpruksawan, Professor of Art History at Yale College of Arts and Sciences. In addition, students from various majors, including those of Edward Kamens in the East Asian Languages ​​and Literature department and Daniel Botsman and Valerie Hansen in the History department, had the opportunity to see her in class.

This change is not just to recognize the long history of printing in East Asia,” said Botsman, professor of history at Yale College of Arts and Sciences. “It also shows a willingness to think broadly about the achievements and contributions of people in different places and times throughout human history.

In the 1930s, Professor Asakawa may not have used the language of diversity and inclusion," Botsman added. "But as a pioneering scholar of comparative history, I think that's exactly what he expected when he first brought the Hyakumantō drani to Yale. It's wonderful that it's now so easily accessible for all visitors to the Beinecke.”

A Broader History of Printing

Gutenberg printed about 180 copies of the Bible, first available around 1455. He made both paper and parchment copies in hopes of profiting from the luxury goods market. The Yale copy printed on paper is one of only 21 known complete copies. A further 28 partial copies survive. (The four surviving parchment copies are in the Library of Congress, the British Museum in London, and the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.) It is a 42-line Bible, meaning most pages have two columns of 42 lines each.

(Video) The Gutenberg Bible: A Virtual Tour

Bibles were often donated to monasteries by wealthy lay people. The Yale specimen belonged to the library of the Benedictine monastery in Melk, Austria, for many years. During the economic crisis after World War II, the monks sold their copy to finance the abbey's restoration. Philanthropist Mary Stillman Harkness later purchased the Bible and gave it to Yale in memory of her mother-in-law, Anna M. Harkness, who donated the money to build the Harkness Memorial Quadrangle.

Even in Europe, Gutenberg's Bible was not the first book to be printed with movable type. In fact, it's not the first book Gutenberg has printed on his press. This distinction belongsSimply, a small Latin grammar book for schoolchildren, named after its author Aelius Donatus, a mid-fourth-century teacher of rhetoric and grammar. Only parts of the earlier, less impressive book survive. A fragment made with the same typeface used to print Gutenberg's Bible is in the Princeton University Library.

The oldest printed objects in the world complement the Gutenberg Bible on display by Beinecke (2)

The use of movable type predates Gutenberg by centuries. Chinese printers began using movable porcelain type as early as the 1040s.ºIn the 20th century, East Asian printers began using movable metal type to produce money and eventually books, Clemens noted. The oldest surviving book printed with movable metal type is the Korean Buddhist Text.Jikji, which was made in 1377. The only surviving copy is in the Bibliothèque Nationale.

The new exhibition at Beinecke isn't the first time visitors have been able to view Gutenberg's Bible alongside an example of the Hyakumantō drani. Both were part of an exhibition on the printing press from the 50th collection of the Beinecke Library in 2013.ºbirthday party The two texts were among the most famous when Beinecke's iconic building opened.

On this occasion on October 11, 1963., a press release from the Yale University News DepartmentPublished highlights of the collection: "Here in the Beinecke Library are Gutenberg's Bible, c. 1455, the first book printed with movable type, and the Book of Psalms from the Bay of 1640, the first printed book in the American colonies. The Japanese prayer scrolls of the 8th century are much older than bothºCentury, it is considered the oldest example of writing in the world.

(Video) 1456 Printing of the Gutenberg Bible was completed | Today In History

The new exhibit continues to honor Gutenberg's work, Clemens said, while inspiring a broader and more dynamic understanding of the history of the printing press.

No one disputes the huge role Gutenberg played in shaping the modern world, but he didn't create full cloth printing," he said. "His genius invented a new, more efficient method of printing, but the concept has been around for a long time. We hope that the combination of the Gutenberg Bible with an important artifact from another culture and the representation of another major religious tradition will inspire people to learn more about both objects and the fascinating history they represent."

The Bergecke Library Exhibition Hall is free and open to the public seven days a week. The collections are accessible to anyone who logs in to research in the reading room during the week, and the Yale Library's digital collections are accessible to anyone online.

More than 150,000 people pass through the exhibit hall's revolving doors each year,” said Michael Morand, Director of Community Engagement. "The Gutenberg Bible is always a big attraction - it's probably one of the most visited items in any of the Yale collections. We always like to provide context on our popular Saturday tours, so we also look at other collection pieces, such as the magnificent 8thºcentury scrolls. Not surprisingly, many people ask if they can see them. Luckily now they can.

We are delighted that this updated exhibition will attract more visitors in the years to come and encourage them to continue exploring the collections."

(Video) 23rd February 1455: Gutenberg Bible published (traditional date)

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct the known number of complete vellum copies of Gutenberg Bibles that still exist. It's four, not three. The fourth is in the State and University Library of Göttingen, Germany.


What is the oldest printed Bible? ›

The Gutenberg Bible was printed in Mainz in 1455 by Johann Gutenberg and his associates, Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer. Only 48 copies are known to have survived, of which 12 are printed on vellum and 36 on paper. Twenty are complete, two of them at the British Library, one printed on paper (shelfmark C.

What version of the Bible did Gutenberg print? ›

The text of the Gutenberg Bible is the Latin translation known as the “Vulgate,” which was made by St. Jerome in the fourth century. The Bible is printed throughout in double columns, for the most part, with forty-two lines to a page.

Is the Gutenberg Bible on display at the Library of Congress? ›

Summary. The Library of Congress' Gutenberg Bible is on permanent display in the Thomas Jefferson Building.

Why did Gutenberg print the Bible first? ›

While the Gutenberg Bible was primarily for elite clerical usage, it opened the door to mass and untutored readings and interpretations. The ability to produce hundreds, if not tens of thousands, of copies made the Bible a commercial opportunity and a cultural revolution.

Is the Bible the oldest book in print? ›

The Gutenberg Bible, also known as the 42-line Bible, is listed by the Guinness Book of World records as the world's oldest mechanically printed book – the first copies of which were printed in 1454-1455 AD.

How many Bibles did Gutenberg print? ›

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.

Why was the printing of the Bible important? ›

The success of printing meant that books soon became cheaper, and ever wider parts of the population could afford them. More than ever before, it enabled people to follow debates and take part in discussions of matters that concerned them.

What was the content of Gutenberg Bible? ›

Most Gutenberg Bibles contained 1,286 pages bound in two volumes, yet almost no two are exactly alike. Of the 180 copies, some 135 were printed on paper, while the rest were made using vellum, a parchment made from calfskin.

What language did Jesus speak? ›

Most religious scholars and historians agree with Pope Francis that the historical Jesus principally spoke a Galilean dialect of Aramaic. Through trade, invasions and conquest, the Aramaic language had spread far afield by the 7th century B.C., and would become the lingua franca in much of the Middle East.

What is the significance of the Gutenberg Bible? ›

The Gutenberg Bible (also known as the 42-line Bible, the Mazarin Bible or the B42) was the earliest major book printed using mass-produced movable metal type in Europe. It marked the start of the "Gutenberg Revolution" and the age of printed books in the West.

What prize Bible is located at the Library of Congress? ›

The Giant Bible of Mainz, one of the last handwritten giant bibles in Europe, has now been digitized by the Library of Congress, ensuring online access to an important national treasure from the 15th century.

How old is the Gutenberg Bible in the Library of Congress? ›

It will be kept at a consistent, cool temperature of 50 degrees and a consistent humidity to help preserve the 563-year-old book, according to Elmer Eusman, chief of the Library's Conservation Division. The case also includes a new early warning system for fire prevention that will constantly monitor the air.

Why was Gutenberg not successful? ›

Answer and Explanation: Johannes Gutenberg did not become wealthy from his invention because he borrowed so much money to get the invention off the ground. One of his creditors, Johann Fust, sued Gutenberg and won. Fust then took charge of Gutenberg's printing shop and his press.

How long did it take Gutenberg to print the first Bible? ›

8) A Gutenberg Bible contains 1,286 pages. 300 pieces of unique types were used in the printing and each page contains approximately 2,500 pieces of type. It took between three to five years to complete the entire print run of 180 Bibles and each Bible weighs an average of 14 lbs.

What is the oldest thing in the world? ›

Methuselah, a bristlecone pine in the White Mountains of California, stands at the ripe old age of about 5,000, making it the oldest known non-cloned living organism on Earth.

What is the oldest book still being printed? ›

Do you, however, know which the oldest dated printed book still in existence even today is? That honour goes to The Diamond Sutra , a Buddhist religious text. While the book dates back to the year 868 AD, it was found only in 1907, having remained hidden for nearly a 1,000 years.

What is the oldest book ever written in the world? ›

The Epic of Gilgamesh started out as a series of Sumerian poems and tales dating back to 2100 B.C., but the most complete version was written around the 12th century B.C. by the Babylonians.

Where was 150 copies of Bible were printed? ›

In Mainz, Germany, in the mid-1450s, Johann Gutenberg and his partner Johann Fust published more than 150 large-format copies of the Bible in Latin. This is the book known today as the Gutenberg Bible.

What did Gutenberg print 200 copies of? ›

Johannes Gutenberg's first printing press. Gutenberg didn't live to see the immense impact of his invention. His greatest accomplishment was the first print run of the Bible in Latin, which took three years to print around 200 copies, a miraculously speedy achievement in the day of hand-copied manuscripts.

How many copies of the Bible have been printed? ›

More than 4.7 Billion Bibles Were Been Printed Between 1455 and 2007 : History of Information.

What was the Gutenberg printing press and why was it important? ›

Johann Gutenberg's invention of movable-type printing quickened the spread of knowledge, discoveries, and literacy in Renaissance Europe. The printing revolution also contributed mightily to the Protestant Reformation that split apart the Catholic Church.

How did the printing of the Bible influence? ›

This encouraged people to read more. Explanation: Reading promoted the new ideas and philosophies about God and the Church. A printed book was easily bought by the people. As a result, opinions and information spread more rapidly and quickly than before.

How did the printing press impact the Bible? ›

Both the Protestant and Catholic propagandists made use of the printing press as a means of influencing the public. Protestants used the printing press to proliferate revolutionary theological material at a popular level, while the Catholic Church produced large quantities of anti-Reformation texts.

What 3 things did Gutenberg invent? ›

Johannes Gutenberg: Life Events
Approximate DateEvent
late 1430sinvents the moveable type printing press
1455prints the 'Gutenberg Bible'
1455taken to court and loses case and printing rights
1468dies and is buried in Mainz
2 more rows
Sep 17, 2021

Why is the Gutenberg Bible called the 42-line Bible? ›

The 42-line Bible. In 1455 (possibly starting 1454), Gutenberg brought out copies of a beautifully executed folio Bible (Biblia Sacra), with 42 lines on each page. The pages of the books were not bound, and the date 1455 is documented on the spine by the binder for a copy bound in Paris.

What language did Adam and Eve speak? ›

The Adamic language, according to Jewish tradition (as recorded in the midrashim) and some Christians, is the language spoken by Adam (and possibly Eve) in the Garden of Eden.

What language does God speak? ›

Some Christians see the languages written on the INRI cross (Syriac, Greek and Latin) as God's languages.

What is Jesus's name in Aramaic? ›

However, both the Western and Eastern Syriac Christian traditions use the Aramaic name ܝܫܘܥ (in Hebrew script: ישוע) Yeshuʿ and Yishoʿ, respectively, including the ʿayin.

Who created the first Bible? ›

That single author was believed to be Moses, the Hebrew prophet who led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and guided them across the Red Sea toward the Promised Land.

Where are the original texts of the Bible kept? ›

The original manuscripts of the New Testament books are not known to have survived. The autographs are believed to have been lost or destroyed a long time ago.

Where is the Bible Belt in USA? ›

The term “Bible Belt” is usually used to describe these 10 states: Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia and Oklahoma.

Where is count the cost in the Bible? ›

In Luke 14:28-30 Jesus said, “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Jesus wanted to prevent people from starting to follow him and then stopping later.

What is the oldest thing in the Library of Congress? ›

The oldest written material in the Library is a cuneiform tablet dating from 2040 B.C. The Library's African and Middle Eastern Division has a collection of Sumerian cuneiform tablets; the oldest date from the reign of Gudea of Lagash (2144-2124 B.C.).

How much did Rick sell the page of the Gutenberg Bible for? ›

When a rare leaf from the Gutenberg Bible came in front of him, Harrison was in disbelief. According to the show, there are only 49 copies of the Gutenberg Bible known to exist today, and only 21 are complete. Harrison ended up purchasing the leaf for $47,000 and turning around and selling it for $68,000.

What is Gutenberg's most famous printed work? ›

Johannes Gutenberg is known for having designed and built the first known mechanized printing press in Europe. In 1455 he used it to print the Gutenberg Bible, which is one of the earliest books in the world to be printed from movable type.

What was Gutenberg's most famous printing? ›

He tested his moveable type machine by printing a Latin book on speech-making in 1450. When this endeavor was successful, he embarked on his most famous project, the printing of "The Gutenberg Bibles."

Who was Gutenberg very short answer? ›

Hint: Johannes Gutenberg was a German goldsmith and inventor, credited with the invention of the movable type printing in Europe. Complete answer: The son of a merchant, Gutenberg grew up on a large agricultural estate. He had seen wine and olive presses from his childhood onwards.

Who lost the Gutenberg Bible? ›

The Bill of Sale for the Gutenberg Bible dated October 2, 1950. Estelle Doheny had given up on ever owning the Bible when the copy she had lost suddenly became available. Thanks to an unusually strong dollar, she was able to claim one of civilization's great artifacts for a bargain price.

What happened to Gutenberg in the end? ›

Gutenberg died in 1468 and was buried likely as a tertiary in the Franciscan church at Mainz. This church and the cemetery were later destroyed, and Gutenberg's grave is now lost. In 1504, he was mentioned as the inventor of typography in a book by Professor Ivo Wittig.

What problems did Gutenberg face? ›

Financial Trouble

In 1448, Gutenberg moved back to Mainz and by 1450 was operating a print shop. He had borrowed 800 guilders from local financier Johann Fust to purchase specific tools and equipment needed for his unique typography method. By December 1452, Gutenberg was heavily in debt and unable to pay Fust's loan.

When was the 1st Bible written? ›

Parts of the Hebrew Bible were written in perhaps the 10th century BCE. The final redaction and canonization of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) most likely took place during the Babylonian Exile (6th–5th century BCE). The entire Hebrew Bible was complete by about 100 CE.

What is the first original Bible? ›

Bible #1. The oldest surviving full text of the New Testament is the beautifully written Codex Sinaiticus, which was “discovered” at the St Catherine monastery at the base of Mt Sinai in Egypt in the 1840s and 1850s. Dating from circa 325-360 CE, it is not known where it was scribed – perhaps Rome or Egypt.

Which version of the Bible is the original? ›

King James Version (KJV), also called Authorized Version or King James Bible, English translation of the Bible, published in 1611 under the auspices of King James I of England.

How old is the original version of the Bible? ›

The Muratorian Canon, which is believed to date to 200 A.D., is the earliest compilation of canonical texts resembling the New Testament. It was not until the 5th century that all the different Christian churches came to a basic agreement on Biblical canon.

Who created the Bible? ›

That single author was believed to be Moses, the Hebrew prophet who led the Israelites out of captivity in Egypt and guided them across the Red Sea toward the Promised Land.


1. World's elite library, Beinecke back open again
(WTNH News8)
2. The Biggest Discoveries of our World!
(The Great Unknown)
3. How To Win Friends And Influence People Audiobook
(The Travel Hunts)
4. The Giant Bible of Mainz
(Library of Congress)
5. The world's largest rare book library has no windows but still allows sunlight in
(World Economic Forum)
6. The Book and the Silk Roads Textiles in Manuscripts workshop - Welcome & intro - Alexandra Gillespie
(Institute for Advanced Study)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Last Updated: 01/23/2023

Views: 5829

Rating: 4 / 5 (71 voted)

Reviews: 94% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Pres. Lawanda Wiegand

Birthday: 1993-01-10

Address: Suite 391 6963 Ullrich Shore, Bellefort, WI 01350-7893

Phone: +6806610432415

Job: Dynamic Manufacturing Assistant

Hobby: amateur radio, Taekwondo, Wood carving, Parkour, Skateboarding, Running, Rafting

Introduction: My name is Pres. Lawanda Wiegand, I am a inquisitive, helpful, glamorous, cheerful, open, clever, innocent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.