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An early German Bible

This 1483 German Bible, often called the Biblia Germanica, was among the earliest to be published in vernacular German.

Printed page of a book titled “Das Evangelium” with text in two columns and large initial letters. In the middle of the page, cutting across both columns of text, is a colorful image. On the left side of the image is a man at podium labeled LUCAS, with a winged goat at his side. On the right side of the image are three scenes from the Christian Nativity.

[The Bible. German.] Disz durchleuchtigist werck der gantzen heyligen geschrifft, genant dy bibel. [Nuremberg,] Anton Koberger, [February 17, 1483]. Folger call number INC B566. The gift of Mrs. H. Dunscombe Colt.

Of the nearly 1,000 books in the Folger’s collection that were printed before 1501, about 75 bear imprints from Germany, the birthplace of printing in the West. This 1483 German Bible, often called the Korburger Bible, after the person who printed it, was among the early bibles to be published in vernacular German, appearing less than 30 years after Gutenberg’s own Latin Bible.

The language change indicated a growing effort on the part of some to make the Scriptures available to laymen as well as to the clergy—a movement that would accelerate with the Reformation. 

The Korburger Bible was also the first text with illustrations to be printed by the Nuremberg firm of Anton Korburger, which 10 years later produced the Nuremberg Chronicle, an illustrated history of the world. Korburger reused the woodcuts from a ca. 1478 Low German Bible published in Cologne.

In this copy of the Bible, all 109 woodcuts have been hand-colored. As in earlier, manuscript Bibles, the initial capital letters of the Korburger Bible are inked in blue and red, and in some sections are illuminated in gold.

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