Important Bible facsimiles


An image from the Washington facsimile.

In addition to first editions and important Bibles, there are also reproductions of important works–works produced before and after the printing press around AD 1450. These reproductions are called “facsimiles.”

One of the more important early printed books was Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible published in 1534. I can’t afford an authentic copy of this milestone publication, but I was able to purchase a 2-volume facsimile.

These heavy volumes are beautiful. At the bottom of this post you’ll see an open shot of the Gospel of Mark.



My facsimile of the Luther Bible (2 volumes).

Before print, important books had to be copied one-by-one by hand. The Bible was so important to so many people that it was copied a lot. And we have lots of manuscripts to prove it. A manuscript is, by definition, a handwritten piece of literature.

One of the most important manuscripts of the Greek New Testament is Codex Sinaiticus, produced around AD 350. I have seen this great book in the British Library. I also happen to have a full color, full size facsimile edition of this handsome codex (published in 2011 by Hendrickson).


My Sinaiticus facsimile displaying its famous 4-column pages.

If you order a copy you need to prepare yourself in advance. It’s huge, weighing in at just under 30 pounds! The experience is less like adding a book to your shelf and more like adding a piece of furniture to your room.

Perhaps the most important manuscript of the New Testament in the Western hemisphere is the Washington Codex of the four Gospels. I have also seen this manuscript, housed in the Freer Collection of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.


My Washington facsimile.

In 1912, a facsimile edition was published, printing only 435 copies. I own one of these copies. See image to the right.

And of course, I still have a wish list. At the top of that list is the 1999 reproduction of Codex Vaticanus–a manuscript that dates to about AD 325. This edition is more than just photos of the pages, but replicates the current condition of the manuscript–with damage, stains, tears, and holes–yes, even holes in the pages! An incredible feat. I’ve seen and handled three different copies of this facsimile, but I don’t plan to purchase my own copy any time soon. The current rate is $6,000.


Luther facsimile opened to the Gospel of Mark.


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