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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 10:34 GMT
Priceless bible goes digital
The Gutenberg Bible, Octavo
Bible can only be viewed by a select few
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By Jane Wakefield
BBC News Online
The Gutenberg Bible is going online to allow scholars to take a closer look at one of the world's most priceless treasures.

The bible is famous for being the first substantive text to be printed and Johannes Gutenberg is generally credited with being the father of modern printing methods.

In the mid-15th Century he invented a way of mechanising the production of printing type, as distinct from individually engraved or cast letters.

The Gutenberg Bible is an icon of printing and cultural history

Czeslaw Jan Grycz, Octavo
Only three perfect copies of the Gutenberg Bible, printed on animal hide, still exist and only a tiny number of scholars have access to them.

Using digital scanning and profiling systems, digitising specialist firm Octavo is hoping to create the most accurate possible images of the bible housed in the US Library of Congress.

Icon of printing

Using high-resolution cameras, every original detail of typography and surface will be captured to allow scholars the most in-depth study yet of the book.

"The Gutenberg Bible is an icon of printing and cultural history," said Octavo's chief executive Czeslaw Jan Grycz.

"It represents a merging of medieval crafts that not only changed the world but inspires the collaborative nature of communication technologies and the internet."

Previously it was only the privileged few that could view the bible

Kristian Jensen, British Library
One of the other three perfect copies is housed in the British Library and has already been digitised.

According to Kristian Jensen, acting head of rare books at the library, the reason for putting such texts on the web goes beyond the value it has to scholars.

"We had one million hits in the first six months and that is absolutely wonderful," he said.

"Previously it was only the privileged few that could view the bible and now it is opened up to all people interested in history and their cultural inheritance," he said.

He is hoping that all the copies of the bible can be brought together on one site eventually.

See also:

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