The Gutenberg Bible is the first book to be printed with movable type, by Johann Gutenberg in Mainz. The substantial two folio volumes are remarkable for the fine quality of the printing, executed with great care and attention to detail. This exact facsimile edition is taken from the John Rylands Library copy which is one of forty-eight substantially complete surviving copies, now housed in libraries across the world. Purchased by George John, 2nd Earl Spencer in 1790 it found its way to Manchester in 1892 when Enriqueta Rylands purchased the Spencer Collection of books. This copy includes original hand decorated initials at the beginning of each book and was probably at the Cistercian monastery of Eberbach, not far from Mainz, in the fifteenth century.
Little is known and much has been speculated about the life of Johann Gutenberg, however this two volume Bible endures as an extraordinary achievement.
What was written to me about that marvellous man seen at Frankfurt is entirely true. I have not seen complete Bibles but only a number of quires of various books [of the Bible]. The script is extremely neat and legible, not at all difficult to follow. Your grace would be able to read it without effort, and indeed without glasses. … I shall try and see if I can have a copy for sale brought here which I can purchase on your behalf. But I fear that won't be possible … because buyers were said to be lined up even before the books were finished.
So wrote Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, soon to be Pope Pius II, to Cardinal Juan de Carvajal in March 1455 describing the new invention from Mainz. The invention is often called the ‘printing revolution’, and there is no doubt that it changed the civilization of the Western world.