6 Cool Facts about Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press

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This article looks at several fascinating facts about Johannes Gutenberg and the printing press history. As you have probably known, Johannes Gutenberg is the German inventor credited with introducing the printing press in Europe.

The literature also refers to him as the “Renaissance Man,” a philosophical notion used to describe someone with many distinguished talents and the ability to influence society.

What are other interesting facts about Johannes Gutenberg and his world?

Following are six of them.

1. Humble early life

Johannes Gutenberg was born into a middle-class family in Mainz, Germany. His exact year of birth remains unknown but is believed to be between 1394 and 1404.

His father, Friele Gensfleisch zur Laden, was a patrician merchant. Her mother came from a simpler background, being a daughter of a shopkeeper.

Other than basic family background, few are known about Johannes Gutenberg. There are some historical accounts of his early background, but historians could not verify many facts.

Gutenberg learned to become a goldsmith, one of the popular jobs during his time. He became quite well known for his skills but not particularly rich.

Johannes Gutenberg and the printing press machine

2. Political exile

Yes, during his youth, Johannes Gutenberg was at the receiving end of a political exile.

Early in the fifteenth century, a group of artisans staged an uprising against the more powerful aristocrat in Mainz, and as a result, many were forced to leave.

Gutenberg was one of those displaced from Mainz to find a new home. The family’s properties were said to be confiscated, leaving him with little choice but to start a new life. He moved to Strasbourg in the Germany-France border.

During his time in Strasbourg, Johannes Gutenberg became fascinated by industrial “machines” that helped people in the winery business do their work.

3. Blessed with multiple skills

Other than being an inventor, Johannes Gutenberg was also a blacksmith and goldsmith.

In addition, he was a keen learner and is said to have learned Latin, the main language used to teach religion during the time.

Besides having an impressive number of skills, Gutenberg was also known for his creativity and daring approach. Looking at things from different perspectives is a typical characteristic of great inventors such as Leonardo da Vinci.

Gutenberg was also a businessman, having been involved in acquiring money to invest in his businesses. Nonetheless, his business acumen has been put into question.

Read on.

Johannes Gutenberg and the printing press machine

4. Known to be reckless

Many sources also point to Johannes Gutenberg as a reckless person.

He is known to borrow money or acquire investments without repaying what is due. His reckless behavior is related to the fact that he had no established business and financial success.

For example, after pouring all his wealth into printing equipment, he needed more money to continue his work. Had it not been for the help of a friend, he would have never managed to complete his mission, which was to print Bibles.

Many sources point out that he often worked on projects that had little or no value. Others say he wasted resources making molds for casting metal letters, which had to be reused for each print.

He failed many times before finally achieving success later in his life. Sounds familiar?

5. His printing press invention took 20 years to complete

Johannes Gutenberg’s printing machine, Europe’s first commercial printer, is undoubtedly his most important invention.

But completing his printing press took him 20 years of hard work and labor. It is far from an overnight sensation.

Gutenberg experimented with different printing techniques since his early years as a goldsmith and had been making progress with some experiments by 1450.

He was said to have been inspired by a wine press he had designed for his father-in-law, which used the principle of pressure to extract more juice from grapes.

Gutenberg’s idea of building a machine that would allow him to create many identical pieces rapidly led him to build a movable type of printing that could produce texts fast. 

The result would be the first type of printing machine faster than block printing as one individual could work on many projects at once.

Although history indicated that Johannes Gutenberg was not the first person who created the movable type, he mastered the technique of mass-producing movable types and promoted oil-based ink for printing.

6. His printing press changed the publishing industry forever

Johannes Gutenberg and the printing press machine

No doubt, Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press is one of the most important inventions in human history that has transformed how we do things. 

The European fast took notice of Gutenberg’s groundbreaking printing machine, and many would jump into the printing business, becoming part of Europe’s Printing Revolution.

As a result, Europe underwent a rapid advancement in book publishing and the spread of knowledge.

With Gutenberg’s printing machine, printers could produce books and other printed materials quicker and more accurately than the hand-copying method. In a way, Gutenberg invented semi-automation in publishing that later became the onset of printing automation.

The printing machine allowed rapid commercialization of printing and boosted new printing businesses in Europe, which later expanded to other continents.

Gutenberg’s invention also transformed the publishing industry by allowing printers to produce books faster and cheaper than ever before, which meant more printed material was available. 

With more reading materials, more people have more access to knowledge, and as a result, the literary level has increased.

Johannes Gutenberg and the printing press also created new industries, notably modern copyright laws and scientific research and publications.

Concluding remark

Many new publishing technologies will stem from Gutenberg’s remarkable creation. Many creations and technological projects today pay homage to him by using his name.

Project Gutenberg, i.e., the world’s first mass e-book creation project and the WordPress Gutenberg theme, are just a few that pay tribute to his name.

Gutenberg’s printing machine has impacted society the same way the inventions of Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell changed the world.

His invention has also elevated the living standard, improved literacy and created a new generation who love knowledge.

Johannes Gutenberg and the printing machine have truly transformed not only the publishing industry but a host of other industries as well. 

These industries include education, services, religion, copyrights, finance and government operations. Gutenberg’s name and his invention will remain forever in history.