First Swedish Bible – The Gustav Vasa Bible
One of the great cultural treasures of Sweden and a truly historically important publication – the Gustav Vasa Bible printed in 1541. The only complete Bible printed in Sweden in the entire 16th century and the first to contain the entire text in Swedish, this translation of Luther’s German Bible was pivotal in the establishment of the modern Swedish language.
The translation was compiled under the direction of the Swedish Reform clergymen Laurentius Andreae (Lars Andersson, 1470-1552), Olaus Petri (1493-1552) and his brother Laurentius Petri (1499-1573) with the blessing of King Gustav I or Gustav Vasa (1496-1560). The Bible’s publication helped to cement Gustav Vasa’s break with Rome and the central role of Lutheranism in Sweden which in turn strengthened his hold on power in a turbulent era. Without question the most ambitious typographical undertaking ever attempted in Sweden, the trio of clergymen enlisted the aid of the German printer Jürgen Richolff (1494-1573). As noted in his exhaustive work Swedish Books 1280-1967 the scholar Sten G. Lindberg notes that the Lübeck-based Richolff was invited to Uppsala where he:
“brought new type material, the Teuerdanck Fraktur for headlines and a Wittenberg Schwabacher for the text, and more than ten series of initials of different sizes, thus introducing the typographical resources of the German High renaissnace into Sweden. He also brought a wide range of wood-blocks, mainly from Wittenberg, for the sumpttuous illustrations: an architectural title-frame, a cricifix, the arms of the Realm and 60 illustrations in the text. Of these 7 are originals by Lucas Cranach the Elder and 4 by his pupils, 3 by Georg Lemberger and the rest copies from Cranach, Albrecht Altdorfer, the monogrammist AW and DS, and from Lemberger’s series of Apocalypse-illustrations for the first Wittenberg octavo Testament of 1524.”
As one would expect with the preceding description, the Bible presents an extraordinary collection of early 16th century woodcut illustrations, some of which are recognized as pinnacles of the art form. The Bible also contains the first printed map in Sweden – the famous “Daniel’s Dream Map” or “Wittenberg World” map.