Johannes Gutenberg facts

Johannes Gutenberg
Gutenberg.jpg
Born Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg
c. 1400
Mainz, Electorate of Mainz in the Holy Roman Empire
Died February 3, 1468 (aged about 68)
Mainz, Electorate of Mainz in the Holy Roman Empire
Occupation Engraver, inventor, and printer
Known for The invention of the movable-type printing press

Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (circa|1400 – February 3, 1468) was a German blacksmith, goldsmith, printer, and publisher who introduced printing to Europe with the printing press. His introduction of mechanical movable type printing to Europe started the Printing Revolution and is regarded as a milestone of the second millennium, ushering in the modern period of human history.

It played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific revolution and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.

Gutenberg in 1439 was the first European to use movable type. Among his many contributions to printing are: the invention of a process for mass-producing movable type; the use of oil-based ink for printing books; adjustable molds; mechanical movable type; and the use of a wooden printing press.

His best invention was the combination of these elements into a practical system that allowed the mass production of printed books and was economically viable for printers and readers alike. Gutenberg's method for making type is traditionally considered to have included a type metal alloy and a hand mould for casting type.

Johannes Gutenberg, Tours
Bust of Johannes Gutenberg, in Tours, France

In Renaissance Europe, the arrival of mechanical movable type printing introduced the era of mass communication which permanently altered the structure of society. The sharp increase in literacy broke the monopoly of the literate elite on education and learning and helped the emerging middle class.

In the 19th century, the replacement of the hand-operated Gutenberg-style press by steam-powered rotary presses allowed printing on an industrial scale, while Western-style printing was adopted all over the world, becoming practically the sole medium for modern bulk printing.

The use of movable type was a marked improvement on the handwritten manuscript, which was the existing method of book production in Europe, and upon woodblock printing, and revolutionized European book-making. Gutenberg's printing technology spread rapidly throughout Europe and later the world.

His major work, the Gutenberg Bible (also known as the 42-line Bible), has been acclaimed for its high aesthetic and technical quality.

Later life

Gutenberg Bible 1952 Issue-3c
United States Postal Service stamp commemorates Johannes Gutenberg from 1452 to 1952

In 1462, during the devastating Mainz Diocesan Feud, Mainz was sacked by archbishop Adolph von Nassau, and Gutenberg was exiled. An old man by now, he moved to Eltville.

In January 1465, Gutenberg's achievements were recognized and he was given the title Hofmann (gentleman of the court) by von Nassau. This honor included a stipend, an annual court outfit, as well as 2,180 litres of grain and 2,000 litres of wine tax-free. It is believed he may have moved back to Mainz around this time, but this is not certain.

Gutenberg died in 1468 and was buried in the Franciscan church at Mainz, his contributions largely unknown. This church and the cemetery were later destroyed, and Gutenberg's grave is now lost.

Weitensfeld Zammelsberg Dichtersteinhain Gedenktafel fuer Johannes Gutenberg 1313
Memorial plaque for Johannes Gutenberg Zammelsberg

In 1504, he was mentioned as the inventor of typography in a book by Professor Ivo Wittig. It was not until 1567 that the first portrait of Gutenberg, almost certainly an imaginary reconstruction, appeared in Heinrich Pantaleon's biography of famous Germans.

Regarded as one of the most influential people in human history, Gutenberg remains a towering figure in the popular image. In 1999, the A&E Network ranked Gutenberg the No. 1 most influential person of the second millennium on their "Biographies of the Millennium" countdown. In 1997, Time–Life magazine picked Gutenberg's invention as the most important of the second millennium.

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