Vulgate Bible



Swiss (Basel), 1495

Language: Latin

height 15 cm

University of Oregon Library, Special Collections and Archives Rare Books
Edward Burgess Early Printed Book Collection, Burgess, 025


Diebold, William. The Illustrated Book in the Age of Printing: Books and Manuscripts from Oregon Collections. Portland, OR: Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, 1993, p. 22 - Quoted with permission

The Bible had always posed special problems for manuscript makers because of its great length. Although there are some small manuscript Bibles, written on exceptionally thin parchment in a tiny script, the invention of printing made the production of small Bibles easier. The new process of bookmaking made it possible to cast minuscule but still legible type. This Bible uses the new technology (its printer, Johann Froben, introduced the small printed Bible to Europe in 1491), but it follows the traditional format of the manuscript “pocket” Bible, which also had two narrow columns, of tiny text. Also in the medieval tradition is the "author" portrait of St. Jerome, who is shown translating the Bible from Greek into Latin.

Small Bibles like this one would have been relatively cheap and were used primarily by students (the Bible was a much studied text in medieval universities). The small size and modest decoration of this book should be contrasted with number 34 in the previous section [reference applies to exhibition from which this text was originally a catalog entry], Erasmus's edition of the New Testament published by Froben. The large format and rich decoration of that book would have made it too expensive for most students; it was intended for libraries or well-established scholars and theologians.