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For the International Book Year, promoted by Unesco in 1972, the Vatican Apostolic Library prepared a beautiful exhibition in the Sistine Hall of the main, most important manuscripts related to the New and Old Testament, the rich catalogue being called the Book of Books.
Those who had the luck and privilege of seeing that exceptional exhibition were able to recover numerous illustrated pages of the Word of Christ, in the height of illumination art, the most harmonious of traditions: a showcase and a synthesis of the story of evangelisation, with various different moments of great fascination, given the large number of pages that best represent the Word of the Lord and His great charisma.
We find together Greek, Hebrew, Oriental and Latin versions from the 4th to the 15th centuries, each with the most famous testimonies, through to the first parchment edition of the Latin Bible, probably printed between 1454/1456 by J. Gutenber in Magonza, on two columns with the characters superbly engraved and impressed, imitating the German gothic style of writing and ornated by the entries and the illuminations after it was printed.
What other book could have been the first to be printed, that book which, like the frequent manuscripts found in ancient writings, still continues today to be the most popular book in the world, no matter how luxury or simple the version, despite changing fashions and eras.
After about thirty years from that exceptional event, another product of human knowledge, where different needs are well harmonised by the latest scientific knowledge, gives us the chance to follow the amazing fortune that the Book of Books has had over the centuries from Medieval times to the Renaissance.
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In line with richest German publishing traditions, Belser-Verlag, already famous for their intense and expert publishing work, intends reproducing the facsimile of the most important illuminated codex in the Vatican Library and, in cooperation with the Italian Episcopal Conference, has printed 2,000 numbered copies of the Golden Bible of the Century.
An extraordinary witness to the Word of god at the beginning of the Third Millennium, and a copy was offered to the Holy Father, John Paul II during the General Assembly.
A magnificent publishing work which, in a volume measuring 260 x 370 x 70 mm, contains 967 pages where the Holy Scriptures are embellished with 280 illustrations, several full page, and 1400 coloured initials, all reproducing the original colours, with the use of fine gold.
It is impressive and fascinating to leaf through the volume, where even the smallest illuminations show an enormous colour range with so many different shades and a richness of details all respecting the original sizes and shapes.
But apart from these technical publishing details, which alone deserve all the attention of the bibliophile and the simple interested reader, it is the refined choice of the subjects that have been proposed to synthesise that special moment of the Holy Scriptures that really strikes all of us who have the chance of leafing through this monument to publishing.
The reader can compare a work with the most important illuminations of tradition, in strict correlation with the text, comments and glossary, a visual heritage that was only available to the vision of a few selected scholars until now.