Fascinating facts about Johannes
Gutenberg inventor of the Printing Press in 1440.
AT A GLANCE:
1440, German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing press
process that, with refinements and increased mechanization, remained the
principal means of printing until the late 20th century. The inventor's
method of printing from movable type, including the use of metal molds
and alloys, a special press, and oil-based inks, allowed for the first
time the mass production of printed books.
DID YOU KNOW?
||Johannes Gutenberg (aka
||First to invent. First practical. Entrepreneur.
||c1400 in Mainz, Germany
||February 3, 1468 in
||noun / print·ing press
||A machine that transfers
lettering or images by contact with various forms of inked surface
onto paper or similar material fed into it in various ways The
device is used for printing many copies of a text on paper.
888 The Diamond Sutra, a Buddhist scripture, was the first dated
example of block printing.
1041 Bi Sheng in China invented movable clay type
1400 Johannes Gutenberg born in Mainz, Germany
1423 Europeans use xylography (art of engraving on wood, block printing)
to produce books.
1430 Gutenberg moved from his native town of Mainz to Strasburg
1436 Gutenberg begins work on his printing press.
1437 Gutenberg was sued for "breach of promise of marriage" by a young
lady of Strasburg
1440 Gutenberg completed his wooden press which used movable metal type.
1440 Laurens Janszoon Koster (Coster) is credited, by some, with
inventing movable metal type
1444 Gutenberg returns to Mainz and sets up a printing shop
1446 Gutenberg prints the "Poem of the Last Judgment"
1448 Gutenberg prints the "Calendar for 1448"
1450 Gutenberg' formed a partnership with the wealthy Johann Fust
1450 Gutenberg begins work on a Bible, the first is 40 lines per page.
1452 Gutenberg begins printing the 42-line Bible in two volumes.
1454 Gutenberg prints indulgences (notes sold to Christians by the Pope,
pardoning their sins)
1455 First block-printed Bible, the Biblia Pauperum, published in
1455 Gutenberg completed work on what is estimated to be 200 copies of
1455 Gutenberg was effectively bankrupt. Investor Johann Faust gains
control of print business
1457 First known color printing, a Psalter (a collection of Psalms for
devotional use) by Faust.
1460 Gutenberg reestablished himself in the
printing business with the aid of Conrad Humery
1461 Albrecht Pfister printed the first
illustrated book Edelstein which featured a number of woodcuts.
1465 Gutenberg is appointed to the court of Archbishop Adolf of Nassau
1458 Johannes Gutenberg died February 3, in Mainz, German
1499 Printing had become established in more than 2500 cities around
1499 An estimated 15 million books have been press printed, representing thirty thousand book titles
Johannes Gutenberg, Johann Gutenberg, Bi Sheng, Laurens Janszoon Koster,
Johann Faust, Peter Schoffer, Albrecht Pfister,
Archbishop Adolf of
Nassau, William Caxton, Gutenberg Bible, 42-line Bible, Mazarin Bible,
Diamond Sutra, Poem of the Last Judgment, Calendar for 1448, Psalter,
printing press, movable type, xylography, metal type, indulgences,
typography, letterpress printing, invention, history, inventor of, history of, who invented, invention of,
Inventor of the printing press, Henne Gänsfleisch zur Laden, commonly
called Johannes Gutenberg, was born about 1400 and died in 1468 at
Mainz, Germany. Gutenberg was the son of Friele (Friedrich) Gänsfleisch and
Else Wyrich. Johannes last name was derived from the house inhabited by his
father and his paternal ancestors "zu Laden, zu Gutenberg".
The House of Gänsfleisch was one of the patrician families of the town,
tracing its lineage back to the thirteenth century. From the middle of the
fourteenth century there were two branches, the line to which the inventor
belongs and the line of Sorgenloch.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries it scions claimed an hereditary
position as so-called Hausgenossen, or retainers of the household, of the
master of the archiepiscopal mint. In this capacity they doubtless acquired
considerable knowledge and technical skill in metal working. They supplied
the mint with the metal to be coined, changed the various species of coins,
and had a seat at the assizes in forgery cases.
Of Johannes Gutenberg's father, Friele Gänsfleisch, we know only that he was
married in 1386 to Else Wyrich, daughter of a burgher of Mainz, Werner
Wyrich zum steinern Krame (at the sign of the pottery shop), and that he
died in 1419, his wife dying in 1433. Of their three children — Friele (d.
1447), Else, and Johannes — the last-named (the inventor of typography) was
born some time in the last decade of the fourteenth century, presumably
between 1394 and 1400.
All that is known of his youth is that he moved from Mainz in 1430. It
is presumed that he migrated for political reasons to Strasburg, where the
family probably had connections. The first record of Gutenberg's journey to
Strasburg dates from March 14, 1434. He took a place befitting his
rank in the patrician class of the city, but he also at the same time joined
the goldsmiths' guild — quite an exceptional proceeding, yet characteristic
of his untiring technical activity.
The trades which Gutenberg taught his pupils and associates, Andreas
Dritzehn, Hans Riffe, and Andreas Heilmann, included gem-polishing, the
manufacture of looking-glasses and the art of printing, as we learn from the
records of a lawsuit between Gutenberg and the Dritzehn brothers Georg and
Klaus. In these records, Gutenberg appears distinctly as technical
originator and manager of the business.
Concerning the "new art form, printing", one witness states that, in his
capacity of goldsmith, he had supplied in 1436, indispensable
printing knowledge; mention is also made of a press constructed by Konrad
Saspach, a turner, with peculiar appliances (screws). The suit was
therefore obviously concerned with experiments in typography, but no printed
matter that can be traced to these experiments has so far come to light.
In the year 1437
Gutenberg was sued for "breach of promise of marriage" by a young patrician
girl of Strasburg, Ennel zur eisernen Tür. There is nothing to show whether
this action led to a marriage or not.
When Johannes Gutenberg began building his press in 1436, he was
unlikely to have realised that he was giving birth to an art form which
would take center stage in the social and industrial revolutions which
followed. He was German, his press was wooden, and the most important aspect
of his invention was that it was the first form of printing to use movable
His initial efforts enabled him in 1440 to mass-produce indulgences
-- printed slips of paper sold by the Catholic Church to remit temporal
punishments in purgatory for sins committed in this life, for those wealthy
enough to afford indulgences. Although Laurence Koster (Coster) of Haarlem,
Netherlands also laid claim to the invention, scholars have generally
accepted Gutenberg as the father of modern printing.
Gutenberg left Strasburg, presumably about 1444. He seems to have
perfected at enormous expense his invention shortly afterwards, as is shown
by the oldest specimens of printing that have come down to us, the "Poem of
the Last Judgment", and the "Calendar for 1448"). The fact that Arnolt
Gelthuss, a relative of Gutenberg, lent him money in the year 1448 at Mainz
points to the same conclusion.
could be mass produced, several developments were necessary.A ready supply of suitable material that could be printed on was required.
Manuscript books were written on vellum and this material was used for some
early printed books, but vellum was expensive and not available in
sufficient quantity for the mass production of books. The introduction of
the technique of making paper and the subsequent development of a European
papermaking industry was a necessary condition for the widespread adoption
of print technology.
Although a number of people had previously attempted to make metal type or
had experimented with individual woodcut letters, it was not until a
technique was devised for producing metal type in large quantities that
printing with moveable type became economically feasible. Gutenberg, who had
initially trained as a goldsmith, was to devise a means of producing metal
type in sufficient quantities at a reasonable cost. This involved the design
of a type-face and the production of molds used for making the individual
pieces of type, as well as the development of an alloy that was soft enough
to cast yet hard enough to use for printing.
It was also necessary to develop suitable inks for printing with the new
type. The water-based inks used for hand lettering and for block printing
will not stick to metal type, therefore a viscous oil based ink was
Finally, a press was needed for transferring the image from type to paper.
Precedents existed in the presses used for making wine, cheese and paper and
one of Johannes Gutenberg's innovations was to adapt these presses for the
printing process. An operator worked a lever to increase and decrease the
pressure of the block against the paper. The invention of the printing
press, in turn, set off a social revolution that is still in progress.
Legal documents indicate that Gutenberg probably began printing the
Bible around 1450. It was in this year that Gutenberg entered into a
partnership with Johann Fust who lent him money to finance the production of
a Bible. Gutenberg certainly introduced efficient methods into book
production, leading to a boom in the production of texts in Europe -- in
large part, owing to the popularity of the Gutenberg Bibles, the first
mass-produced work, starting in 1452. Even so, Gutenberg was a poor
businessman, and made little money from his printing system.
The history of the printed Bible with movable type is the subject of
considerable scholarly debate. Fragments of earlier bibles have also been
found - they are differentiated by the number of lines of text on a page.
Scholars have identified several variants and attempted to work out the
sequence of development on the basis of the quality of the individual pieces
The oldest surviving Bible printed with movable type is often called the
Gutenberg Bible (named after its printer Johannes Gutenberg), or the 42-line
Bible (so called because with few exceptions, each page has 42 lines of
print), or the Mazarin Bible (because the first copy to recapture attention
in 1760 was found in the library of Cardinal Mazarin, in Paris).
The Bible, printed at Mainz, probably required several years of work; it
began in 1452 and was completed not later than 1455 and printed in an
edition of about 200 copies. The text of the Bible is Latin. Colored
initials and other illuminations were hand drawn after the pages were
printed. The pages of the book are folio, each page is in two columns, and,
with few exceptions, each column has 42 lines. The Gutenberg Bible lacks
many print features that modern readers are accustomed to, such as
pagination, word spacing, indentations, and paragraph breaks.
The Bible was large comprising over 1280
pages, and the text was laid out in two columns. The German Gothic
type-style was modeled on manuscripts of the period. The columns of text are
tightly justified right and left. This is possible because Latin words can
be abbreviated by replacing letters with symbols. The printed text was
black, with red and blue headers and initials being added later by an
illuminator. The edition includes both vellum and paper copies. In design
and workmanship, the Gutenberg Bible holds its place as one of the finest of
all printed books.
As of 2003, the Gutenberg Bible census includes 11 complete copies on
vellum, 1 copy of the New Testament only on vellum, 48 substantially
complete integral copies on paper, with another divided copy on paper, and
an illuminated page (the Bagford fragment).
The very first pages Gutenberg printed had only 40 lines per column.
Later in the course of printing, Gutenberg realized the paper could
accommodate 42 lines and so the pages were reset and printed again in the
new format. The original pages of 40 lines were included in the very first
issue of the Gutenberg Bible.
History records that Gutnberg's declining years were spent in the court of
Archbishop Adolf of Nassau, to whose suite he was appointed on January 18,
1465. The distinction thus conferred on him carried with it allowances
of clothing and other necessities which saved him from actual want. In all
likelihood he died at Mainz in 1468..
TO LEARN MORE
Invention of the Printing Press
Great Idea Finder
History of the Gutenberg
from The Great Idea Finder
from The Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
100 Inventions That Shaped World History
by Bill Yenne, Morton, Dr. Grosser (Editor) / Paperback - 112 pages
(1983) / Bluewood Books
This book contains inventions from all around the world from microchips
to fire. This is a really good book if you are going to do research on
The Engines of Our Ingenuity : An Engineer Looks at Technology and Culture
by John H. Lienhard / Paperback: 272 pages / Oxford University Press,
USA (December 4, 2003)
Based on episodes from Lienhard's widely
broadcast public radio series, this intriguing set of essays begins with a
simple premise: more than we often care to admit, our lives are shaped by
our machines. Fleshing out this proposition, Lienhard ransacks 2,000 years
of scientific and technological history, cobbling together a quirky
biography of the strange being he calls homo technologicus.
The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age
Sven P. Birkerts / Paperback / Fawcett Books -1985
Birkerts, a renowned critic, examines the practice of reading with an
eye to what the future will bring.
Fine Print : A Story About Johann Gutenberg
Joann Johnson Burch / Paperback - 64 pages / Carolrhoda Books - 1992
This interesting book about Gutenberg's struggles to complete and
perfect his printing
process gives a vivid picture of life in the Middle Ages.
Johann Gutenberg: Master of Modern Printing
by Michael Pollard, Anna Sproule / Library Binding: 64 pages /
Blackbirch Press; (February, 2001)
This book is straightforward and easy to
read. The cover is attractive and the pictures along with the easy to read
text provide information that sustains the reader's attention. Information
can be correlated with the social studies curriculum. This book would be a
great resource for elementary and middle school students. A welcome addition
to most library collections.
The Gutenberg Bible : Landmark in Learning
by James E. Thorpe / Hardcover - 48 pages 2nd edition (1997) / H E
Huntington Library & Art
The Huntington Library holds one of the three vellum copies of the
Gutenberg Bible in the United States. Details the early history of printing
and how the Gutenberg Bible was printed. .
Gutenberg (Limited availability.)
Leonard Everett Fisher / Library Binding - 28 pages / Simon & Schuster -
Fisher's biography of Johann Gutenberg, the creator of movable
type and the printer of the Gutenberg Bible, is marked by careful research,
clear writing, and striking illustrations
ON THE WEB:
His name is associated with innovation, activity and courage. His idea is
the foundation stone of modern civilization. Johannes Gensfleisch zum
Gutenberg created the basis of modern communication with his invention of
printing with mobile letters.
The Printing Press
In spite of Gutenberg's efforts to keep his technique a secret, the
printing press spread rapidly. Before 1500 some 2500 European cities had
Johannes Gutenberg and The Printed Book
The printing press had developed from the wine press in the Rhine
Valley. It was there in 1440 that Johannes Gutenberg (c.1397-1468) began
using the printing press in conjunction with a series of blocks each bearing
a single letter on its face.
An Industry Born
When Johannes Gutenberg began building his press in 1436, he was
unlikely to have realized that he was giving birth to an art form which
would take center stage in the social and industrial revolutions which
followed. Article by Pierre De La Mare for Dot Print.
Detail on the Gutenberg bible. Henne Gänsfleisch zur Laden, commonly
called Gutenberg. The invention of Gutenberg should be classed with the
greatest events in the history of the world.
Million Books in Fifty Years
Five hundred years ago, the new presses had spread like brushfire
through Europe. The people had suddenly come into possession of some fifteen
million new books. Scholars argue about the number. It could've been as few
as eight million or as many as twenty four million. But the output of new
books had been staggering by any reasonable estimate. And those books
reflected some thirty thousand titles. Article
by John H. Lienhard
The Information Age and the Printing Press: Looking Backward to See Ahead
There are some provocative parallels between the communications changes
enabled by networked computers and those enabled by the printing press in
its early days. Article by James A. Dewar
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Gutenberg College consists of an undergraduate liberal arts program and two
auxiliary institutes, McKenzie Study Center and Art Project. Together these
three programs constitute a single educational institution in which each
plays an integral role.
Johannes Gutenberg - "Man of the Millennium"
In honor of his invention, Gutenberg was recently chosen by an
international panel of scientists as the "most outstanding personality of
WORDS OF WISDOM:
"In our time, thanks to the talent and industry of those from the
Rhine, books have emerged in lavish numbers. A book that once would've
belonged only to the rich -- nay, to a king -- can now be seen under a
modest roof. ... There is nothing nowadays that our children ... fail to
know." - Sebastian Brant, written about the printing press just after
DID YOU KNOW?
- In less than 50 years after the
invention of the printing press, fifteen million books had been flung
into a world where previously scholars would travel miles to visit a
library stocked with twenty hand-written volumes. And those books
reflected some thirty thousand titles.
Books produced in this period, between the first work of Johann
Gutenberg in 1450 and the year 1500, are collectively referred to as
- Gutenberg changed plans at least three
times while printing the Bible
- The Bible that Gutenberg printed was a
Latin translation from about 380 AD
- There are many statues of Gutenberg in Germany -- one of the more famous
being a work by Thorvaldsen, in Mainz, home to the Gutenberg Museum.
- Note: We discovered as many spellings
with Johann as we did with Johannes. We went with a Google search that
produced four times more Johannes Gutenberg's than Johann
trademarks and brands are the property of their respective owners.
Sources in BOLD Type.
page revised January 26, 2006.
Berners-Lee's invention has revolutionized the world like nothing
The invention of the Internet,
should be classed with the greatest events of the 20th Century.
The Aero Sport All-Terrain Bed
with Dual Power Pump is the perfect addition to any camping trip or weekend
book, is the perfect desktop reference for both the science novice and the
technologically advanced reader alike.
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