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The Offer


This Biblical Archives offer is of ONE original hand coloured illustrated leaf from the Eleventh High German Bible published by Johann Schönsperger in May 1487. This offer comes with a Certificate of Historicity. Measurements: approx. 11 3/4"x 8 1/4". Location: 3.8a

Biblical Art


Biblical Art


The artistic adornment of the Bible is an important aspect of the Biblical tradition. We often speak of the Living Word, the written Word and the spoken Word but have you ever considered the value of the visual Word of God? By this it is meant images conveying the essential message of the Bible for those who could not read. The walls and ceilings of ancient churches were beautified with scenes of Biblical stories informing those for whom the Word of God was a mystery of the essence of eternal truths. The advent of the printing press in 1455 introduced the written word to millions who had never before had the opportunity to learn to read for themselves. Books became affordable and the quest for knowledge the highest pursuit. But for those who could not read the picture/illustration still remained the main avenue to unlocking the mysteries of God's word.


The German Bible


Prior to Martin Luther's new translation of the Bible published in 1534 there were eighteen German Bibles that appeared in Germany between 1466 and 1522. The pioneer printer, Johannes Gutenberg used the Latin translation (Vulgate), which was the accepted Bible of the Church, for his Gutenberg Bible. In just a short time, a decade only, there was a demand from both the clergy and the middle-classes for a vernacular Bible in German.


Hans Bämler


The tradition of illustrating Bibles dates back a thousand years before Johann Schönsperger commissioned the popular artisan Hans Bämler, who incidentally was his father-in-law, to a make a new set of illustrations for what we now know was the eleventh High German Bible to be printed prior to Luther's new translation. It appears Bämler took inspiration for some of his illustrations from an earlier Koberger Bible, perhaps a 1483 edition.

Hans Bämler was a multi-talented craftsman who became an important figure in the life of Augsburg, Germany in the 15th century. He is, "mentioned in Augsburgian city records from 1453 as a scribe and from 1477 as a printer. He appears to have begun his career as an illuminator and calligrapher [...]. He probably learned the art of print-making in the shop of Gunther Zainer [the first printer in Augsburg]. The first printed book by Bämler appeared in April 1472, and the first illustrated printed book from his workshop in September 1473. [...] Approximately half of the books printed in his printing office were illustrated with woodcuts or other decorative elements. He belonged to the guild of painters, glassmakers, woodcut-makers and goldbeaters, and eventually reached a high position within the guild. His printing activity ceased in 1495". Wikipedia


Johann Schönsperger


Johann Schönsperger set up a print shop in 1481 with the goldsmith Thomas Rüger and worked closely with his stepfather Johann Bämler. The company, along with other printers from Augsburg, was able to dominate the book market for German literature in Augsburg between 1480 and 1500. In 1507 Schönsperger went bankrupt and did not recover financially. In 1508 he probably became the secret printer of Emperor Maximilian I through Konrad Peutinger.






[1] And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, [2] Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man's name upon his rod. [3] And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers. [4] And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you. [5] And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you. [6] And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. [7] And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness. [8] And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds. [9] And Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD unto all the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod. [10] And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not. [11] And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he. [12] And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish. [13] Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?




[1] And the LORD said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. [2] And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee, and minister unto thee: but thou and thy sons with thee shall minister before the tabernacle of witness.


The Offer
This Biblical Archives offer is of ONE original hand coloured illustrated leaf from the Eleventh High German Bible published by Johann Schönsperger in May 1487