Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
December 12, 1996
15th Century Bibles Returned to Jefferson Building
The Gutenberg Bible and the Giant Bible of Mainz, two of the most popular and valuable items in the Library of Congress, have been returned to permanent display in refurbished cases in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building, which is open to visitors 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday.
Both bibles were created in Mainz, Germany, during the same period in the 15th century. Published in 1453, the Gutenberg Bible was the first book printed with movable metal type. Named for Johann Gutenberg, who is credited with inventing movable metal type, the Library's copy is one of only three perfect vellum copies known to exist. It was purchased from Dr. Otto Vollbehr in 1930 by an act of Congress.
At about the same time as the Gutenberg Bible was produced, the Giant Bible of Mainz was transcribed by hand in the same city. This bible is displayed across from the Gutenberg Bible to illustrate the relationship between the tradition of hand-lettering and printing and to show how the layout of the printed book was influenced by the manuscript tradition. The late Lessing J. Rosenwald purchased the Giant Bible of Mainz in 1952 and gave it to the Library.
Both bibles have been placed in refinished mahogany cases with an upgraded preservation system to maintain optimum conditions for their preservation and security.
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