(John Baer's Folio Bible)
The printed Bible has always been the Mount Everest of letterpress printing.
Only the best printers have conquered the challenges of printing a complete Bible...to join the rarified ranks of master printers who have stamped their names on this definitive book.
In 1819, a young 23-year-old Johann Bär (John Baer, or John Bear) became Lancaster County's only member of this exclusive club.
John's 1819 Biblia is the first, and only, complete Bible hand-printed in Lancaster County.
John's Biblia was the largest German-language Bible printed in America to that date. Weighing in at a hefty 12 pounds, his folio Bible was a force to be reckoned with.
John knew that his Pennsylvania Dutch friends and neighbors would be duly impressed that his Bible was the biggest, boldest, American-made Bible on the market in their German language.
The other German-American Bibles were all smaller, quarto Bibles ...printed by the Saur family in Germantown, near Philadelphia, (1743, 1763, and 1776), by Gottlob Jungmann in Reading (1805), and by Friedrich Goeb in Somerset (1813).
John's ambitious Bible was in a class by itself, where it holds its own, even today.
Above: A Tin Star is a Good Star: This dramatic, tin-star binding was crafted by an anonymous bookbinder for an 1819 folio Bible printed by John Baer. The cover's corner bosses and the star are tin; the studs and tacks are brass. This binding is from the early 1800s, and presumedly was crafted by a bookbinder in Lancaster County.
(Portrait: 1883 History of Lancaster County by Ellis and Evans)
John Advertises his Bible in 1820: Hot off the Press:
John knew that his Bible was a winner, and he was proud of it. He immediately ran ads in his Volksfreund newspaper to advertise the bibliographic significance of his Bible project. In this November 1820 advertisement he correctly describes his Bible as "die erste in America" (the first in America) ...the first German-language Bible published in "folio format" in America. (Click image to enlarge.)