Johann Gutenberg

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Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (circa 1398 – February 3, 1468), a German metal-worker and inventor, achieved fame for his contributions to the technology of printing during the 1440s, including a type metal alloy and oil-based inks, a mould for casting type accurately, and a new kind of printing press based on presses used in wine-making. Tradition credits him with inventing movable type in Europe, an improvement on the block printing already in use there. By combining these elements into a production system, he allowed for the rapid printing of written materials and an information explosion in Renaissance Europe.

Gutenberg was born in the German city of Mainz, as the son of a merchant named Friele Gensfleisch zur Laden, who adopted the surname "zum Gutenberg" after the name of the neighborhood into which the family had moved.

Printing

Block printing, whereby individual sheets of paper were pressed into wooden blocks with the text and illustrations carved in, was in use in Europe and East Asia long before Gutenberg. The Koreans and Chinese knew about movable metal types at the time, but due to the complex nature of the Chinese writing system, printed material was not as abundant as that of Renaissance Europe.

It is not clear whether Gutenberg knew of these existing techniques or invented them independently. Some also claim Dutchman Laurens Coster as the first European to invent movable type.

Gutenberg certainly introduced efficient methods into book production, leading to a boom in the production of texts in Europe, in large part due to the popularity of the Gutenberg Bibles, the first mass-produced work, starting on February 23, 1455.

Gutenberg was a poor businessman, and made little money from his printing system.

Gutenberg began experimenting with metal typography after he had moved from his native town of Mainz to Strassburg (then in Germany, now Strasbourg, France) around 1430. Knowing that wood-block type involved a great deal of time and expense to reproduce because it had to be hand carved, Gutenberg concluded that metal type could be reproduced much more quickly once a single mould had been fashioned. His first efforts enabled him to mass-produce indulgences, printed slips of paper sold by the Catholic Church to remit the temporal punishments in Purgatory for sins committed in this life.

Johann Fust

Bible

In 1455 Gutenberg demonstrated the power of the printing press by selling copies of a two-volume Bible (Biblia Sacra) for 300 florins each. This was the equivalent of approximately three years' wages for an average clerk, but it was significantly cheaper than a handwritten Bible, which could take a single monk 20 years to transcribe.

The one copy of the Biblia Sacra dated 1455 went to Paris and was dated by the binder.

Debt

The money Gutenberg earned at the fair was not enough to pay Fust back for his investments. Fust sued, and the court's ruling not only effectively bankrupted Gutenberg, it awarded control of the type used in his Bible, plus much of the printing equipment, to Fust. So, while Gutenberg ran a print shop until just before his death in Mainz in 1468, Fust became the first printer to publish a book with his name on it.

Gutenberg was subsidized by the Archbishop of Mainz until his death. Gutenberg was also known to spend what little money he had on alcohol, so the Archbishop arranged for him to be paid in food and lodging, instead of coin.

Gutenberg Bibles

Gutenberg Bible, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

The Gutenberg Bibles surviving today are sometimes called the oldest surviving books printed with movable type, although the oldest surviving book was published in Korea in 1377. 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 illiminated page (the Bagford fragment).

Other printed works

The Bible was not Gutenberg's first printed work, for he produced approximately two dozen editions of Ars Minor, a portion of Aelius Donatus's schoolbook on Latin grammar, the first edition of which is believed to have been printed between 1451 and 1452.

Legacy

Although Gutenberg was financially unsuccessful in his lifetime, his invention spread quickly, and news and books began to travel across Europe far faster than before. It fed the growing Renaissance, and since it greatly facilitated scientific publishing, was a major factor in originating the scientific revolution. Literacy also increased as a result. Gutenberg's inventions are sometimes considered the turning point from the Mediaeval Era to the Early Modern Period.

The term incunabulum refers to a western printed book produced between the first work of Gutenberg and the end of the year 1500.

There are many statues of Gutenberg in Germany, one of the more famous being a work by Thorvaldsen, in Mainz, which is also home to the Gutenberg Museum.

The Gutenberg Galaxy and Project Gutenberg commemorate Gutenberg's name.

Related articles

  • Printing
  • Typography
  • Incunabulum
  • Francysk Skaryna
  • William Caxton
  • World Almanac's Ten Most Influential People of the Second Millennium

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The Gutenberg Galaxy and Project Gutenberg commemorate Gutenberg's name.
. There are many statues of Gutenberg in Germany, one of the more famous being a work by Thorvaldsen, in Mainz, which is also home to the Gutenberg Museum.
. The term incunabulum refers to a western printed book produced between the first work of Gutenberg and the end of the year 1500. However, some people believe he died of illness. Gutenberg's inventions are sometimes considered the turning point from the Mediaeval Era to the Early Modern Period. Wen-ti is usually thought to have been strangled at the hands of the prince, who had been stripped of his title after being caught raping one of Wen-ti's concubines.

Literacy also increased as a result. Another project of his time was the improvement and expansion of the Great Wall. It fed the growing Renaissance, and since it greatly facilitated scientific publishing, was a major factor in originating the scientific revolution. It was completed in the reign of his son, Yang-ti. Although Gutenberg was financially unsuccessful in his lifetime, his invention spread quickly, and news and books began to travel across Europe far faster than before. This huge project had the purpose of uniting northern and southern China with improved transport. The Bible was not Gutenberg's first printed work, for he produced approximately two dozen editions of Ars Minor, a portion of Aelius Donatus's schoolbook on Latin grammar, the first edition of which is believed to have been printed between 1451 and 1452. Wen-ti saw the beginning of the construction of the Grand Canal.

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 illiminated page (the Bagford fragment). Taxes on farmers and merchants were relaxed, as well, and overall the period became very agriculturally productive. The Gutenberg Bibles surviving today are sometimes called the oldest surviving books printed with movable type, although the oldest surviving book was published in Korea in 1377. However, existing landholders were allowed to keep their property, and land could not be sold off, only farmed. Gutenberg was also known to spend what little money he had on alcohol, so the Archbishop arranged for him to be paid in food and lodging, instead of coin. In this reign, the land-equilization system was created, distributing land equally based on household size, with more land for larger families. Gutenberg was subsidized by the Archbishop of Mainz until his death. Capable officials from the south were welcomed to join his government.

So, while Gutenberg ran a print shop until just before his death in Mainz in 1468, Fust became the first printer to publish a book with his name on it. Elite-class privileges, which had long been part of the social system in the northern dynasties, fell. Fust sued, and the court's ruling not only effectively bankrupted Gutenberg, it awarded control of the type used in his Bible, plus much of the printing equipment, to Fust. Political officials became qualified based on merit rather than blood, and imperial examinations were instituted. The money Gutenberg earned at the fair was not enough to pay Fust back for his investments. Wen-ti took steps to breach the social gap between rich and poor, and to reduce corruption and encourage union of Chinese states. The one copy of the Biblia Sacra dated 1455 went to Paris and was dated by the binder. He established a more efficient two-body government to replace the existing three-tier system, and created three departments and six ministries for state supervision.

This was the equivalent of approximately three years' wages for an average clerk, but it was significantly cheaper than a handwritten Bible, which could take a single monk 20 years to transcribe. His first accomplishment was to consolidate governmental administration and centralize the political system. In 1455 Gutenberg demonstrated the power of the printing press by selling copies of a two-volume Bible (Biblia Sacra) for 300 florins each. Before invading, he distributed propaganda flyers in the south, declaring that the Chen ruler had lost the Mandate of Heaven because of his decadent rule, which eased the conquest of the south. His first efforts enabled him to mass-produce indulgences, printed slips of paper sold by the Catholic Church to remit the temporal punishments in Purgatory for sins committed in this life. He invaded the Chen Dynasty in the south to reunite northern and southern China. Knowing that wood-block type involved a great deal of time and expense to reproduce because it had to be hand carved, Gutenberg concluded that metal type could be reproduced much more quickly once a single mould had been fashioned. After seizing the throne, Wen-ti declared himself the rightful possessor of the Mandate of Heaven.

Gutenberg began experimenting with metal typography after he had moved from his native town of Mainz to Strassburg (then in Germany, now Strasbourg, France) around 1430. He seized the throne for himself, establishing the new Sui dynasty. Gutenberg was a poor businessman, and made little money from his printing system. Wen-ti became the regent for the six-year old boy and killed off various rivals. Gutenberg certainly introduced efficient methods into book production, leading to a boom in the production of texts in Europe, in large part due to the popularity of the Gutenberg Bibles, the first mass-produced work, starting on February 23, 1455. When the heir to the Northern Zhou throne died an untimely death, the next heir became Wen-ti's grandson through his daughter's marriage to the deceased heir. Some also claim Dutchman Laurens Coster as the first European to invent movable type. As a Turkic-Chinese military official in the Northern Zhou Dynasty, Wen-ti seized power in 581.

It is not clear whether Gutenberg knew of these existing techniques or invented them independently. As a Buddhist, he encouraged the spread of Buddhism through the state; however, his government officially supported Confucianism. The Koreans and Chinese knew about movable metal types at the time, but due to the complex nature of the Chinese writing system, printed material was not as abundant as that of Renaissance Europe. He was a hard-working administrator and a micromanager. Block printing, whereby individual sheets of paper were pressed into wooden blocks with the text and illustrations carved in, was in use in Europe and East Asia long before Gutenberg. Emperor Wen of Sui China (541-604), also Yang Jian, Yang Chien, and Sui Wen-ti (posthumous name), was the founder and first emperor of China's Sui Dynasty. .

Gutenberg was born in the German city of Mainz, as the son of a merchant named Friele Gensfleisch zur Laden, who adopted the surname "zum Gutenberg" after the name of the neighborhood into which the family had moved. By combining these elements into a production system, he allowed for the rapid printing of written materials and an information explosion in Renaissance Europe. Tradition credits him with inventing movable type in Europe, an improvement on the block printing already in use there. Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (circa 1398 – February 3, 1468), a German metal-worker and inventor, achieved fame for his contributions to the technology of printing during the 1440s, including a type metal alloy and oil-based inks, a mould for casting type accurately, and a new kind of printing press based on presses used in wine-making.

World Almanac's Ten Most Influential People of the Second Millennium. William Caxton. Francysk Skaryna. Incunabulum.

Typography. Printing.

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