Type to Print: The Book & The Type Specimen Book

Gutenberg > Aelius Donatus

Mainz: Johann Gutenberg, ca. 1450

Before so momentous an accomplishment as the 42-line Bible could be achieved, there were necessarily experimental publications that developed the technique of printing with moveable type. This fragment of lines 4 through 28 of folio 12, printed on vellum, is a relic of those trials.

The text is part of a Latin grammar written by Donatus, who lived in the middle of the fourth century and was the teacher of St. Jerome. His grammar was one of the most popular teaching aids during the medieval period, and Gutenberg seems to have found it advantageous to publish many editions of it, to develop his skill as a printer and as a source of much needed revenue.

There are twenty-four known editions of the text in Gutenberg's earliest type, all preceding the famous Bible. Described previously as a "Phister imprint," dated ca. 1460, recent investigations indicate that it belongs among the earlier varieties, probably dating not later than 1452.

Gift of George A. Plimpton

Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. East / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5153 / rbml@libraries.cul.columia.edu