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The Seville copy of the Gutenberg Bible goes through restoration

Speaking of Gothic letter, justified on both margins printing, text layout in two columns with 42 lines each, perhaps it´s strange to think that we are referring to a printed book back in 1454: an "incunabula".

Speaking of Gothic letter, justified on both margins printing, text layout in two columns with 42 lines each, perhaps it´s strange to think that we are referring to a printed book back in 1454: an "incunabula". One of the original preserved today from the first German Gutenberg imprenta. This is the copy of Seville known as "Gutenberg Bible"; to be precise, it´s the second volume of the sacred text, corresponding to the New Testament.


Owned by the University of Seville, the book has recently undergone a process of restoration by the technical team of the Andalusian Historical Heritage Institute. According to university sources, its condition was "reasonably good, although the detection of small signs of deterioration caused the Library request the Institute conducting relevant studies and analysis and therefore, intervention where considered necessary, to stop any processes deterioration".


Restorers confirmed the existence of "minor problems" conservation. In this sense the intervention  focused on covers of binding, dirt and any of its pages pigmentation initials miniadas. Experts have also considered the occasion to be proper in order to make a "box" for the book according to its value.


This Gutenberg Bible became part of the collection of the university library in 1770. Precisely in this year, the "Literary University of Seville" was founded  in the building of the Professed House of the Society of Jesus, today Faculty of Fine Arts, located at the heart of Seville´s historical centre,  in Laraña street. Thanks to the agreement between the University of Seville and the Institute, the Sevilian copy of the Holy Bible was restored. And it´s to be remarked that the book carries exactly on its front page the hallmark of Jesuit Order. In addition to the restoration, IAPH technicians recommend avoiding manipulation and overexposure of the Bible in the future, unless it´s absolutely necessary.


From the initial printing edition of  presumably 200 copies  made at Johannes Gutenberg workshop, a part was done in paper and the rest on vellum or parchment. Nowadays, There are only about forty copies of these incunabulums worldwide. In Spain, besides the volume of the University of Seville, there´s also a whole issue that belongs to the Public Library of Burgos; the two are kept in paper form. Some of these issues have booklets with differences in the composition of the pages and the number of lines. To keep in mind that at this certain time, the books came out of the workshop unbound, and with the initials in blank. It was the owner who according to his economic income level and tastes, choose the binding and final decoration of the book.


The Gutenberg Bible, or 42-line Bible, was printed in Mainz (Germany) from 1453 to 1455. It´s considered the be the most important incunable not only for its technical perfection, but alto for its historical significance. It has an iconic status of universal culture as a symbol of the beginning of printing.


Such interventions faced by S.XXI scholars and scientists, arosed a question: after so many years, all these books  have not only be preserved but even now take on new life, what will happen to the information that is currently stored in electronic form, eg. emails? Could it be recovered  in the long term so that future generations could have access to it? What will happen considering that actual technological devices become obsolete overnight?  Is actual information condemn to get through a continuos transfer process in order not to be lost? 


The bibliographic heritage of the University of Sevilla


Maese Rodrigo Pérez de Santaella, the founder of the College of Santa Maria de Jesus, the seed of the current university, bequested to this institution his personal library.  On the basis of this collections it has been built the present historical collection of the Library of the University of Seville, together with contributions from students and the files coming from Cardinal Luis Belluga´s private library. University´s funds were also expanded with the seizure of the Jesuit library from the Professed House, College of San Hermenegildo and Colegio de la Concepción,  in the eighteenth century. Later, with the confiscation of Mendizabal, libraries of the monasteries were closed and his books became part of the university collection in the S XIX. If we add the donations and bequests from individuals, received in the twentieth century, we finally have one of the most important bibliographic legacies of Spain, containing over a thousand manuscripts, including twelve of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, three hundred thirty-two incunabula (by authors such as Seneca, Ptolemy or Aquinas), about eight thousand books of the sixteenth century and about thirty thousand volumes of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries. And the book that highlights and gives value to this collection is precisely the Gutenberg Bible.


*A post scriptum: Instituto Andaluz de la Juventud offices are now located closed to Seville´s University at Maese Rodrigo Street number 1 (Seville, Andalucia, Spain).

Written by Eurodesk Qualified Multiplier, Instituto Andaluz de la Juventud

Pubblikat: Tli, 12/05/2015 - 10:16

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