‘Revolutionary’ 563-year-old Bible goes on display in Edinburgh

A rare Latin Bible went on display in Edinburgh last week, allowing visitors to the National Library of Scotland a glimpse of a major milestone in printing.

Published in 1455, the Gutenberg Bible is Europe’s oldest printed book. It took three years to print, and only 180 copies were made.

The historic book was put on display as part of Book Week Scotland 2018, and to mark 550 years since the death of its namesake, and creator of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg.

Latin Vulgate

The 15th century Bible was printed using the Vulgate, a Latin translation from Hebrew and Greek by fourth century theologian Jerome.

Gutenberg’s printing press allowed identical copies of the same text to be produced for the first time in Europe.

However, while this was the first case of ‘mass production’, very few copies ended up in the hands of the public, as the majority went to universities and monastic houses.


Rare books curator Dr Annette Hagan explained the book’s significance, saying Gutenberg’s press “led directly to the rise of literacy across Europe”.

She added that historical events like the Reformation “would have been unthinkable without the invention of the printing press”.

The rare Bible on show in Edinburgh is one of only around 20 surviving copies.

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