Johannes Gensfleisch, known as Gutenberg, invented the printing press. He and his associates Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer built the first press in Mainz, Germany, between 1448 and 1454. By 1462, the Gutenberg press was used throughout Europe: Venice, Antwerp, Lyon, Nuremberg, Paris, Prague…

Only later did the revolutionary impact of this invention become apparent. At the time, it did not change the format of books – 15th century printers wanted to produce books as splendid as calligraphy manuscripts. They left many blank spaces for illuminations and rubric writers highlighted the titles and ornamental letters in red ink. For his 42-line Bible Gutenberg chose the Gothic characters Rhineland copyists used for liturgical manuscripts.

Like manuscript books, printed books consisted of folios of folded sheets with the same layout. The number of folds depended on the format – usually in-folio, in-quarto or in-octavo.


Chinese inventions
New characters
Texts and images
The Industrial Revolution
Artists’ books

Bible à 42 lignes, Gutenberg, Mayence 1452-1454)

Forty-two-line Bible, Gutenberg, Mainz, 1452-1454