I chose to do my research on the Gutenberg Bible; a book that revolutionized how the books we know and love today would be printed. An inventor by the name of Johann Gutenberg, born around 1398 in Mainz, Germany is credited with inventing and revolutionizing a new way of printing that would set future technology in motion. At this time in history, books were painstakingly being printed by hand.
Most large books were being hand written and smaller books and images were were carved into
wooden blocks and inked; both of which took upwards of months to years to create even the most
simple books. While not much is known about Johann Gutenberg’s early life or occupations, it is known that he moved in around the early 1430’s to Strasburg, Germany working as an inventor and learning new processes for polishing gemstones and making mirrors. He remained there for about a decade before returning to Mainz after running out of money. It was during this time in Mainz that Gutenberg approached a rich goldsmith and lawyer who would become very interested and fund his work. It is believed that this is the time when Gutenberg started experimenting with creating movable wood type. Individual letters that were hand carved into small wooden blocks that could be set up to print, taken down, and set up again to print in any arrangement desired. This, however proved to not be as reliable and Gutenberg soon moved to working with metal; a
skill that he undoubtedly fine tuned during his time in Strasburg. While areas such as Asia were already working with moveable type, this was an entirely new process in the Western Hemisphere.
In 1455, Gutenberg created the first book in Europe with moveable type, the Gutenberg Bible. During
this time, the majority of books printed were religious in nature, with the Latin Bible being the most
popular. The book was premiered and sold at the Frankfurt Book Fair with high recognition for their
incredible technical qualities. Around three-hundred different pieces of type are used in the first copies of the Gutenberg Bible and still utilized hand-painted ornaments to give the appearance of a traditional illuminated page. Only fourth-eight copies are known to still exist, twenty of which are complete.
This book undoubtedly encouraged much speculation and eventually led to his former business partner, Johann Faust, to sue Gutenberg for return of the money that was loaned to him to create his moveable type. Gutenberg lost the suit and it is believed that he was required to turn over most to all of his printing equipment to Faust. Not much about his life is known after this time other than that Gutenberg received a pension from the Archbishop of Mainz and lived the remainder of his life In his hometown of Mainz, Germany until his death in 1468. Though Gutenberg may not have reaped the financial benefits from his invention at the time, the moveable type and printing press led to the instrumental groundwork for future knowledge, education and technology.
“History of the Gutenberg Bible .” Gutenberg Bible History, Great Site Marketing , 2008,
Giges, Nancy. “Johannes Gutenberg.” ASME.org, May 2012, www.asme.org/engineering-
“Gutenberg Bible.” The British Library, The British Library, 16 Jan. 2015, www.bl.uk/collection-
4/10/2019 10:32:44 pm
When we saw this during our trip to special collections I thought it was very fascinating and beautiful to look at. At the time I did not know much about letterpress and especially Gutenberg until now! Your post was very informative and I know know who Gutenberg was as well as why he is very famous in letterpress!
4/10/2019 10:36:50 pm
Your essay is so well-written! I loved how organized and clean and clear the information was! I thought about researching Gutenberg for my paper, too, but I had trouble finding much detailed information. I'm impressed! It was a very informative and smooth-reading essay. :)
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