Backdrop and Review
It has been a while since our last update. As way of review, our mission is to produce Reproduction Bibles. There’s a saying that is true, “the perfect is the enemy of the good.” In our case, however, that is really not true. It is done when it is done right.
When we set out to reconstruct the medieval Bible in English, we ran into many obstacles. At first they seemed insurmountable. After all, the medieval Bible is in Latin. To complicate matters, medieval Latin is filled with abbreviations that to the uninitiated is almost impossible to decipher. Over time, actually much time, we overcame each of the obstacles one by one.
Today, we have in our possession the entire text in English of the medieval Bible with all of the prologues, prefaces, and arguments as well as all of the books of the Bible in the exact order in which they originally appear.
All of the original medieval Bibles now in museums and rare book rooms of libraries produce an impact just by glancing at the pages that none of the modern Bibles are capable of producing. Moreover, all medieval Bibles are on large pages large enough to read the text and on thick pages. There is nothing cheap or flimsy about them.
As way of background, we started researching medieval Bibles about ten years ago. An earlier test book from 2013 of just the book of Genesis based on the woodcuts of the Anton Koberger German Bible printed in 1483 in Cologne is amateurish looking compared with what we are now developing and producing. The remarkably positive reactions, however, to that little book was quite encouraging. We formed Hebert Publishers, LLC in 2014 for the express purpose of reproducing medieval and Renaissance period Bibles in English.
Much time has been spent, mostly online, at rare book rooms in libraries and museums, mostly in Europe and in the United States. This has resulted in quite a bit of collecting, identifying regions and periods, archiving, documenting terms and conditions, communicating with personnel in these libraries and museums, and assessing whether or not we have enough material to produce an entire Bible or perhaps parts of the Bible such as the Gospel Books or a book of the Apocalypse.
The historical significance of the Gutenberg Bible is that it is aesthetically beautiful. That Bible, moreover, is a testament to German engineering, because the Gutenberg Bible was the first printed book in Europe. And, for the first time in Western history, the text of the Bible became fixed and mass produced for Europeans, who could read Latin. Finally, what followed was the mass production of other books and a general growth in literacy among the rising mercantile class ensuring that the ideas and ideals of the Renaissance would have legs. The unintended consequence of Gutenberg's printing press was the quick spread of the ideas of the Reformation.
When printed, the Gutenberg Bible was in Latin and was filled with abbreviations of words. This writing convention from the earlier middle ages carried over into this Bible. The Gutenberg Bible, moreover, is a medieval Roman Catholic Bible printed in Germany during the beginning of the Renaissance prior to the Reformation. Approximately 180 folio sized editions were printed beginning in 1454 in Mainz, and about 14 letter sized editions printed beginning in 1460 in Bamberg. We have taken the typeface that was reproduced into a font, and developed hand done letters and used them with the Douai Reims Version, a Roman Catholic translation done directly from Latin into English during the Counter Reformation, in order to reproduce the Gutenberg Bible in English.
Since we have high resolution art in the form of hand done letters scanned at 600 DPI, we divided the work into 19 sections each made up of 96 pages. These are broken into two volumes with Volume I covering Genesis to the Psalms and Volume II covering Proverbs to the Apocalypse. In total, that is about 1,800 pages, or about 900 pages per volume. Our guess is that each volume will be as thick as a ream of paper since we are not using thin paper typical in commercial bibles. We are working with a laid cotton in a natural color by the brand Mohawk for our first edition made right here in the United States of America.
One of the issues that we came across in developing the Gutenberg Bible in English was matching color across the entire Bible. Initially, we mixed mediums. We used both handpainted and digitally produced art and text. Even though our RGB calibrations matched 100 percent, they did not match in our initial test prints. We were, yes, disappointed. We gave the project a rest, and slept on it for a period as we researched and considered other Reproduction Bible projects for future development
We went back to the drawing board. And, we rolled up our sleeves and resorted to the old fashion way of doing things. We again worked by hand. We reproduced the entire black letter typeface by hand. We did the same with the Roman numeral set and the red and blue letters that open each sentence in the Psalms. That was scanned at high resolution, imported into Photoshop, and then the rubrics were redone. It took time, it took patience, and we believe it paid off.
Thursday, November 19, we conducted a test print of the first section of 96 pages on laid cotton paper, and we finally have a final worthy of moving forward for completing our work, sewing 114 to 115 signatures by hand, and then binding the finished two volumes in period bindings in real leather. Our estimate is that we have 30 to 60 days of work in front of us to complete the Gutenberg Bible in English. Early 2021 is our target date.