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Gutenberg’s Bible: Europe’s first edition

Gutenberg’s Bible: Europe’s first edition

The mid fifteenth century was a time of innovation in the late medieval book trade, and as we explored in the video, Johannes Gutenberg was one of the great innovators of the time.

Elizabethanne talks about two major innovations during this time, movable type and blockbooks, which influenced the spread of printing.

Movable type

Gutenberg’s invention of movable type lay at the heart of the new invention of printing. The creation of individual letters and characters in metal, which could be re-used in a multitude of combinations, revolutionized the means of production of knowledge.


Blockbooks were a combination of image and text, carved from a wooden block. As the online versions below demonstrate, they were primarily used for devotional texts though they might also be used for children’s grammar books.

In the comments section below write your answer to these questions.

  • Thinking of new innovations throughout the ages, what innovation could you compare Gutenberg’s Bible with?
  • What factors influenced your chosen innovation to be successful?

Throughout the course, you will see an ‘Explore the texts online’ link in the Downloads section at the bottom of each step. By clicking on this document, you’ll have the chance to investigate for yourself some of the incredible books we talk about in this course.

Remember, there is no need to access all of these links, you can pick and choose what you are interested in.

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The History of the Book in the Early Modern Period: 1450 to 1800

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