Google has dedicated a doodle to Johannes Gutenberg, the person responsible for introducing printing to Europe with his revolutionary invention: the mechanical movable type printing press. He made knowledge found in books accessible and affordable to the people, and it is hence considered as the most important event in history.
Born in 1400, Johannes Gutenberg was a German goldsmith, printer, inventor and publisher who is credited for imagining the print machine around 1436.
But even before then, people in China used woodblock printing method that dates back to the ninth-century. Even Koreans used to have a movable metal type device for printing – a century before Gutenberg invented the proper machine.
However, many historians consider Gutenberg’s method of printing— which used a screw kind of wine press for crushing down on the inked metal type uniformly— as a most significant event that paved the way for a new print revolution.
With the newly invented method of mass printing of books at a relatively low cost, valuable knowledge and progressive thoughts were brought in the hands of every capable European, marking a significant role in the development of the Renaissance a.k.a. the age of Enlightenment.
But, do you know, Gutenberg didn’t have the chance to enjoy the fame of his invention in his lifetime. Actually, it was centuries after his death when he was finally appreciated and recognized as the most influential man in history. But back then, he was considered to be a normal inventor with an unusual invention.
Today marks the day when the Gutenberg Museum held a retrospective exhibition in his honor in 2000. Let’s take a look at 10 unknown facts about Gutenberg’s press, inventions, and life:
Gutenberg didn’t get any profitable benefits from his invention
Unfortunately, Gutenberg didn’t live long enough to see the influence his invention has had on printing revolution. With the help of his invention, Gutenberg completed the copies of the Bible in Latin, which took around three years to print 200 copies, a significant achievement in the time of hand-written copies.
But despite that, he didn’t get any financial profit, as only three people in town knew how to read that time. Gutenberg survived with his limited finances, and died pennilessly.
B42 was the first important book imprinted in the West using Gutenberg’s creation
The most significant book printed using movable-type press machine was the Gutenberg Bible, also known as the 42-line Bible, or the Mazarin Bible (the B42). 48 substantially complete copies of the first version are still known to survive this day, two of which are preserved in the British Library that can also be read and viewed online.
Gutenberg’s invention was so extraordinary that local people called it witchcraft
Gutenberg used to lend from a man named Johann Fust, whose name is translated into Faustus in Latin. The invention of a printing machine was so astounding and unusual that local people blamed Fust for black magic. Part of the reason of this assumption is that Gutenberg used red ink to print the bible, leading people to speculate whether it was written with human blood.
Printing Press had a handmade ‘”type”
All the movable types used in printing press, including accentuation, letter structures and spaces were all handmade. Only a few printers used their own typefaces, similar to text styles.
A number of these text styles have yet to be utilized in today’s age. For example, Garamond is found on several computers, a text style named after a printer from France, Claude Garamond.
Oil-based ink is used in the printing press
Gutenberg was also credited for inventing an oil-based ink for printing, as it was more sustainable than the previously used water-based ink. The medium he used for printing was both vellum and paper.
He used shading printing for a bunch of page headings in his Bible, which was also presented only in a few specific copies. In later works, for example, in Mainz Psalter of 1453, the initials were printed in red and blue ink.
Gutenberg’s invention encouraged the spread of awareness, information, knowledge and progressive ideas
Gutenberg’s invention played a key role in the foundation of various scientific communities, as it made knowledge found in books accessible and affordable to the common people. This encouraged people to come up with revolutionary ideas, inventions and theories for the betterment of humanity.
Gutenberg died single
There are no definite records that Gutenberg ever got married or had any children. After his father’s death in 1419, his family moved to Mainz and Johannes stayed in his hometown for some time. There are not much details about Gutenberg’s whereabouts after his father’s death.
By 1434, Gutenberg was believed to be residing in the city of Strasbourg, a place well-known for mental crafts. Once a woman named Ellewibel zur Isemin Thure filed a case against Gutenberg for breaking the promise of marrying her daughter, Ennelin. We don’t know how that case ended, but it’s certain Gutenberg neither got married nor had any children.
The Archbishop of Mainz gave Gutenberg the tile of Hofmann
There was an intense conflict in the city for the throne of the Archbishop of Main in 1461-62. Archbishop Adolph von Nassau sacked Mainz, and Gutenberg was forced to leave the city. He stayed in the Eltville town before returning to his hometown. By January 1464, Gutenberg’s achievements began to get recognized and he was given the title Hofmann (gentleman of the court) by Archbishop Adolph von Nassau. The title also offered him a stipend, an annual court outfit, along with 2,180 liters of grain and 2,000 liters of tax-free wine.
Johannes Gutenberg died on 3rd February, 1463 and was laid to rest in the Franciscan church at his hometown Mainz. Thank you, Johannes Gutenberg, for your contribution!
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