At the beginning of European book printing with moveable types, which Johannes Gutenberg (ca. 1397 – 1468) developed in ca. 1450 in Mainz, was a masterwork: the print of the Latin Bible (in the so-called Vulgate-version). A letter by Enea Silvio Piccolomini (1405 – 1464, from 1458 Pope Pius II ) attests that the print of the Bible had made much progress by the end of 1454. In the spring of 1455, the edition of ca. 200 exemplars on paper and parchment had already been completely sold or subscribed.
The Gutenberg-Bible is considered the most important work of early book printing (incunabula). The two-volume print is of high textual quality and at the same time an aesthetic masterwork. Basis of the text was a manuscript of the Parisian standard exemplar of the Vulgate. The typographical design imitates the fractured dense letter types (textura) of coeval Bible manuscripts. After some initial hesitation, Gutenberg decided in favour of 42 lines per text column. The Gutenberg-Bible is, therefore, also called the "forty-two-line Bible", in short B42.
The Gutenberg-Bible printed on paper, which is held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek/Bavarian State Library is one of 49 exemplars preserved in the world. It arrived in1803 in Munich from the Benedictine monastery of Andechs. Entries by the Benedictine Ulrich Kaegerl von Landau (d. 1505) indicate that the Bible was originally acquired from the monastery of Tegernsee.
The exemplar is decorated with coloured initials, chapter headings and borders, which were not printed but added by hand afterwards. A particularity of the Munich exemplar is the "tabula rubricarum", a list of red headings (rubric, from "rubrum" = red coloured), which were supposed to be added by hand into the Bible after the printing had been completed – the printing of red rubrics was still too elaborate at the time. Apart from Munich, this list is only preserved in an exemplar at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna. A manuscript entry at the end of the first volume attests that the rubrication of the Munich exemplar happened in 1461.
A second exemplar preserved in Bavaria is kept in the Hofbibliothek Aschaffenburg.
The copy in the Court Library Aschaffenburg comes from the Charterhouse book collection in Mainz and was transferred by Elector Friedrich Karl Joseph von Erthal (ruled 1774-1802) to his private book collection in 1781. 14 sheets were removed from the books of Ezra III and IV in the first volume (Old Testament), as the books were not considered canonical.