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Marianna Stell, Reference Librarian, Rare Book and Special Collections Division
Amanda Zimmerman, Reference Librarian, Rare Book and Special Collections Division
Created: July 14, 2022
Last Updated: August 18, 2022
Since it was first given to the Library of Congress by philanthropist and bibliophile Lessing J. Rosenwald in 1952, the Giant Bible of Mainz has captured the imagination of the American public.
Now, through comprehensive, high-quality digitization, a new level of public access has been achieved. In keeping with Rosenwald's commitment to encouraging broad cultural engagement with the history of the illustrated book, digitization allows anyone with an interest in medieval manuscripts to encounter every page of this important and evocative manuscript.
One of the great illuminated manuscripts, the Giant Bible of Mainz represents an amazing moment of transition within the history of the book. A magnificent Middle-Rhenish manuscript copied between April 1452 and July 1453, the Giant Bible was written at the same time as Johann Gutenberg was printing his famous 42-line Bible using moveable metal type.
A part of the larger Rosenwald Collection, which focuses on the history of the illustrated book, the Giant Bible of Mainz highlights the Rare Book and Special Collection Division's collecting strength in fifteenth-century manuscripts and early printed books.
The unique materials of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, now totaling over 1 million items, include books, broadsides, pamphlets, theater playbills, prints, posters, photographs, and medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. At the center is Thomas Jefferson's book collection, which was sold to Congress in 1815. The Rare Book & Special Collections Reading Room is modeled after Philadelphia's Independence Hall. This room is home to the divisional catalogs, reference collection, and reference staff. Collections are stored in temperature and humidity controlled vaults.