Gutenberg Bible at the NYPL

On an unseasonably warm lunchbreak, I strolled to the New York Public Library to see the Lenox Gutenberg Bible that they have on display through August 2006. It sits in a glass case opened to the first page of Luke. I was struck first by the beautiful proportions of the page, according to Pablo Rosell-González [PDF] in:

Ternary canon: 2:3 page proportions where the height of the typographic box
is equal to the width of the page, the left margin is half the right margin
and the top margin is half the bottom margin.

These proportions came to be known as Gutenberg Canon. The ink is a deep, rich black, surprising to see after 550 years. The letterforms are crisp, easy to read, and certainly printed-looking---contrasting nicely with the examples in The Splendor of the Word: Medieval and Renaissance Illuminated Manuscripts exhibit happening concurrently at the NYPL.

The British Library has digitized versions of both copies of their Gutenbergs---one printed on paper, one on vellum. This is the British Library's vellum version of the page that is open at the NYPL. The large initial illuminated letters look quite different in the NYPL copy, with the "Q" filled in with a pleasing upwards-moving pattern and red-inked designs spilling out into the margin.

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