THE earliest extant piece of European printing from movable type with which an absolute date can be associated is a Papal Letter of Indulgence which bears the printed date 1454 and the handwritten purchase date 22 October 1454. Forty-nine other printed copies of this Indulgence are known, some unsold and thus lacking purchase dates; the rest have dates ranging from 25 October 1454 to 30 April 1455. The Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke distinguishes thirteen variants, grouped under two editions: the 30-line Indulgence (GW 6555), hereafter called I 30, and the 31-line Indulgence (GW 6556), hereafter called I 31. Neither form of the Indulgence gives any indication as to printer or place of printing. In the Gesamtkatalog I 30 is assigned to the 'Printer of the 42-line Bible' and I 31 to the 'Printer of the 36-line Bible'; little added information concerning the printer(s) of the Indulgences is provided by the Gesamtkatalog entries for the 42-line Bible (GW 4201), assigned to the 'Printer of the 42-line Bible (Johann Gutenberg)', or the 36-line Bible (GW 4202) assigned to the 'Printer of the 36-line Bible'.
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