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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 Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. [2] And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. [3] Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace. [4] And Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said unto them, Come near, carry your brethren from before the sanctuary out of the camp. [5] So they went near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp; as Moses had said. [6] And Moses said unto Aaron, and unto Eleazar and unto Ithamar, his sons, Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people: but let your brethren, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which the LORD hath kindled. [7] And ye shall not go out from the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: for the anointing oil of the LORD is upon you. And they did according to the word of Moses. [8] And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying, [9] Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: [10] And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean; [11] And that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.


The Offer


This Biblical Archives offer is of ONE original hand coloured illustrated leaf from the Eleventh High German Bible