Who invented the Printing Press? Johann Gutenberg.

April 23, 2020

Up until 1448, all books were written by hand. Block printing was another option, but because each printed (well, if you can call it printed!) book was carved by hand, it was very labour intensive. Therefore each book was far too expensive for the average person to purchase. Only the rich could accumulate knowledge from booklets.

Born in Mainz, Germany, around 1399, Johann Gensfleisch, adopted his family’s settling place - Gutenberg as his sir name. He was originally trained as a goldsmith, gem cutter and metallurgist. For a period of his life, he lived in Strasbourg, believed to be in the late 1430s-early 1440's. He had been losing money in his goldsmith and gem cutter business, so began looking for other opportunities to help make money. He had debts to pay.

Creating a device using moving blocks of letters and graphics to impression ink to paper made it possible to print books faster and far more cheaper than ever before.

He used metals that he was familiar with from his previous business: lead, antimony and tin to cast all 290 blocks of letters and symbols. The ink was made from a linseed and soot based substance. A consistency he found ideal for printing on to hand finished paper. He used a redesigned wine press to slide paper in and out of his newly created printing press.

He tested his moveable-type machine by printing a Latin book on speech-making in 1450. When this endeavor was successful, he embarked on his most famous project, the printing of The Gutenberg Bibles.

Bibles printed in Latin were one of the first printed products in Europe and the first officially printed bible in history. His first print run was of 200, complete with beautiful illustrations and vibrant colours. One of his major talents was creating the blocks to represent calligraphy and illustrations to represent the original text and design. In modern times, only 22 of his originally printed bibles are known to exist.

Gutenberg had a business partner called Johann Fust who eventually gained ownership his printing business. The result of a deal made between the two men to clear debts Gutenberg had owed to Fust. Gutenberg died around 1468 in Mainz.

There have been others in history who claim to have invented the idea of movable type earlier than Gutenberg, including a Dutchman and a Chinese inventor. A similar system was said to be used in the 1200's. Gutenberg’s was the first recognised success. His printing press created a revolution in how we receive knowledge.

The printing press inspired religious revolution, with families for the first time being able to possess a Bible for their own interpretation. It also heavily influenced progress of science, general education, and fundamental part of moving human kind out of the Medieval era and into modern times.