The publishing of the Gutenberg Bible – the first book prepared with a printing press with movable type – was not only an important technological breakthrough in history but also the beginning of an intellectual revolution that made books available to a wide range of people who had no access to knowledge before due to the fact that until the mid -15th century manuscripts were solely copied with years long tedious work by hand, thus books were precious and rare possessions of monarchs, monasteries, universities or very wealthy individuals.
In Europe, Johann Gutenberg (1400-1468, Mainz, Germany) is considered as the inventor of the method that made the mass-producing of books possible. He conceived the technique of combining letters to create text on paper using type cast in molds, a new, oil-based ink and a wooden printing press borrowing elements from the local Rhineland winepresses. In China, engraved wooden blocks had been used with a similar printing method to mass-produce books since the 9th century, but the results were rather poor in quality. Contrary to that, the prints made with Gutenberg’s technique were so precise, neat and elegant that the process spread swiftly across Europe and prevailed until the 19th century.
It’s very difficult to establish the exact date when the first edition of the Gutenberg Bible was completed. We know from the letters of Pope Pius II that in March 1455 he saw an example of the book displayed in Frankfurt to promote the edition. Sources also differ on the number of copies produced, but most probably there were about 180 finished copies, 3/4 of them on paper, the rest on vellum. Today, 49 of these are known to exist in whole or in part.
The chart is set to 12.00 on 23 February 1455, the day traditionally considered as the publishing date of the Gutenberg Bible.