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Guðbrandur's-Bible

Guðbrandur Þorláksson 1584

Guðbrandsbiblía (Guðbrandur's-Bible) has two tailpieces from two different woodcuts that appear in turn at the end of each chapter. Ornaments such as floral borders and tailpieces were popular in early printed works that were done with much ambition. This marked a visual continuation of illustrated illuminations in the manuscripts that preceded the art of printing that were heavily based on various interlaced patterns and sprouts.

 

There are speculations about Bishop Guðbrandur Þorláksson having carved out the tailpieces and other ornaments in the Bible himself and because he was known as an accomplished craftsman as well as being artistic. This was the first time images were printed in a book in Iceland. For a long time Guðbrandur was thought to have carved all of the imagery but we now know that some of the images have also been found in Bibles printed in Germany. The woodcuts were borrowed or bought from Germany.

 

Guðbrandsbiblía is the first Icelandic translation of the entire Bible. Guðbrandur finished the translation in 1584 and used older, partial translations to aid him whenever possible. It is said that seven people worked on printing the book and that it took two years to print 500 copies. It was an expensive book, costing the equivalent of 2-3 cows, depending on the financial status of the buyer. To finance the printing each church was expected to donate one ríkisdalur (state dollar) in addition to a rather generous royal grant. The printing of Guðbrandsbiblía played an important part in preserving the Icelandic language and culture. It was also one of very few sources of imagery that was distributed widely across Iceland at the time and therefore also played a part in forming the nation's visual literacy.

 

National and University Library of Iceland

Lbs Fol 220.51 Bib