Classifying the typefaces of the Gutenberg 42-line bible

  • Aureli Alabert
  • Luz Ma. Rangel
Original Paper


We have measured the dissimilarities among several printed characters of a single page in the Gutenberg 42-line bible, and we prove statistically the existence of several different matrices from which the metal types were constructed. This is in contrast with the prevailing theory, which states that only one matrix per character was used in the printing process of Gutenberg’s greatest work. The main mathematical tool for this purpose is cluster analysis, combined with a statistical test for outliers. We carry out the research with two letters, \({\texttt{i}}\) and \({\texttt{a}}\). In the first case, an exact clustering method is employed; in the second, with more specimens to be classified, we resort to an approximate agglomerative clustering method. The results show that the letters form clusters according to their shape, with significant shape differences among clusters, and allow to conclude, with a very small probability of error, that indeed the metal types used to print them were cast from several different matrices.


Classification Cluster analysis Outlier testing Johannes Gutenberg 42-line bible Movable types 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MathematicsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraCatalonia
  2. 2.Department of Design and ImageUniversitat de BarcelonaBarcelonaCatalonia

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