C. A. Pack

Musings & Brainstorms & Rants

Who Knew?

Photobucketesearch can be so fulfilling!

In the Library of Illumination - Book Three, Johanna and Jackson are exhibiting a 15th century Gutenberg Bible for an upcoming Library Board meeting. I had an opportunity to see one of these books years ago, in the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany. At that time, I had no idea I would ever refer to the first mass-produced book - in a future book of my own. But that has now happened, and I wish I had payed better attention. As I was writing a description of the bible, I wondered if it would have been produced with a cover? I Googled images of the bible and saw some that appeared to have covers, but that didn’t tell me if the covers were original. So I sent an email to the Gutenberg Museum. In the interim, I glossed over the cover issue, and then forgot about it.

Until now.

I received an email from Dr. Claus Maywald of the Gutenberg Museum in which he described the origins of the bible, saying Gutenberg (or any printer at that point in time) would print the contents as quires - a word that was unfamiliar to me. I looked it up and learned that quires are 4 pieces of paper folded in half to make eight pages. A printer would sell the quires to a customer. The customer could then hire a rubricator - a scribe who specialized in illuminating the manuscript and adding decorative details.


The final step would be to send the manuscript to a bookbinder to be bound with a cover. According to Dr. Maywald, a typical 15th century cover for the Gutenberg Bible might have been made of brown calf leather with hand tooled decoration and a clasp binding.

You can learn more about the Gutenberg museum here.