Swiss printer

The first Bible printed in octavo format, and the first book signed by Johann Froben, founder of a great printer’s dynasty and friend of Erasmus. The size of Froben’s Bible conforms to that of many thirteenth-century portable Bibles written in Paris and elsewhere. Froben’s Exhortatio emphasized this feature: “in view of its small size this could better be called a mini-Bible than a Bible” (aptius Bibliola quam Biblia dici poterit). To keep the number of leaves within a single volume, Froben used an unusually small but very clear gothic fount, in today’s nomenclature of 7-point size. The octavo format was clearly welcomed by readers: Froben printed a second edition in 1495.

Johann Froben, also spelled Johannes Frobenius (born c. 1460, Hammelburg, Franconia [Germany]—died October 1527, Basel, Switz.), the most famous of the Basel scholar-printers, whose professional innovations revolutionized printing in Basel and whose publications included many outstanding works of scholarship.

Froben’s first publication, a Latin Bible, appeared in 1491. Entering into partnership with Johann Petri (1496), Johann Amerbach (1500), and the bookseller Wolfgang Lachner, whose daughter Gertrud he married, Froben came to control four presses by 1515 and, later, seven. Froben’s contributions to printing in Basel included popularizing roman type, introducing italic and Greek fonts, experimenting with smaller and cheaper books, and employing talented artists, including Hans Holbein, as illustrators. His correctors included many famous scholars who benefited from the proximity of the hitherto little-used manuscript collections of Alsace and the Palatinate.

About 250 of Froben’s publications have been listed. They include, notably, the first New Testament printed in Greek, with a Latin translation (1516) by Erasmus, who after 1513 entrusted the printing of all his works to Froben, and also the works of the Roman historian Velleius Paterculus (1520) and the Latin church father Tertullian (1521), both edited by Beatus Rhenanus.

Source: Johann Froben | Swiss printer

The first small-size Bible ever published was an octavo edition of the Latin text issued in Basel by Johann Froben in June 1491. It is generally known as “the poor man’s Bible” and was modeled on the thirteenth-century manuscripts of the Paris Vulgate that continued to circulate long after the invention of printing.

Before 1500 the cost of paper far exceeded any other expenses incurred by printers and publishers when issuing a new book. The larger the book, the more expensive it was. A folio Bible such as the one printed by Gutenberg in the early 1450s was unaffordable to all but a few.