This is the tenth Bible in High German and Johann Grüninger’s first illustrated book. Grüninger employed the text of Koberger’s German Bible of 1483 (the so-called ‘Ninth German Bible’; ISTC ib00632000). He also used that edition as a model for his illustration. Owing to the reduced size, Grüninger’s Bible was more suitable for use as a family Bible than its predecessors. His edition thus contributed considerably to the transmission of the Bible. Accordingly, the following four German Bibles were also printed in smaller dimensions. Johann Schönsperger (Augsburg, 1487 and 1490), as well as Johann and Silvan Otmar (Augsburg, 1507 and 1518) illustrated all these editions with reduced and simplified copies after the woodcuts of Koberger’s Bible. They were the last Bibles in High German before Luther’s new translation in 1522.
The colourful illustrations is what makes this book truly unique. The majority of the 109 woodcuts in Grüninger’s edition are reduced and loose copies of those in the Koberger Bible. Those woodcuts had first been printed in Cologne in the two Low German Bibles of 1478/79 (ISTC ib00636000 and ib00637000). The unknown cutter from Strasbourg adopted the pictorial contents of the renowned Cologne woodcuts, but he redesigned them in his own independent way. These woodcuts of early Strasbourg style count among the most impressive biblical illustrations of the 15th century.
Grüninger did not employ any rubricators and illuminators in his workshop. It was left to his clients to have additional decoration painted at their own cost. For this reason the existing copies vary greatly, many remain without any extra decoration. The fine colouring of the present copy lends the distinctive woodcuts an additional decorative dimension.
Johann Reinhard Grüninger (c. 1455-c. 1533) named himself after his native place in Southern Germany, Grüningen (now Markgröningen). After studies in Basel (1480) he gained citizenship in Strasbourg two years later and, in 1483, published his first book. Grüninger was a very prolific printer producing about 300 larger works by order of other publishers as well as on his own behalf: popular books, legends, novels, dictionaries, scientific and geographic works, and theological books. He printed Latin classics and works of contemporary humanists such as Jakob Wimpheling, Sebastian Brant and Ulrich von Hutten, and, moreover, the sermons of Johann Geiler of Kaysersberg. He was not a supporter of the Reformation, as he published prints both for and against Luther. Grüninger’s types were famous for their design and clarity. He used twenty-five typefaces; his Gothic type in Lyonnais style is regarded especially remarkable.
For more on Early German Printed Bibles, see this post about the Post-Gutenberg Era.