An Inventor, Johannes Gutenberg
This week's figure is a German inventor and printer Johannes Gensfleisch Gutenberg. He was born on 1395 into a modest merchant family in Mainz, Germany. Johannes Gutenberg is known for inventing the mechanical movable type printing press.
His family was exiled in 1428 due to the craftsmen of the town revolting against the noble class. They then settled at, where it is now known as, Strasbourg, France. And that is when he started experimenting with printing.
Johannes Gutenberg's early life wasn't documented, hence the lack of factual information about it. However, it is speculated that he learnt either goldsmith and/or blacksmith trade. Historians also believe he attended the University of Erfurt after moving to France.
For a while. Gutenberg worked on developing special mirrors that captured light that erupted from holy places, and they were usually sold to pilgrims. He was skilled with metal working, so he started developing printing presses. He took loans to build his invention, which was based on screw-type wine presses. By 1430s, Gutenberg had perfected a printing machine.
In 1450, Gutenberg was already operating a printing shop. He had taken loans from a financier called Johan Fust, to develop his printing press. Unfortunately, Gutenberg was unable to payback his loan and ended up being heavily in debt by 1452. He was sued by Fust in 1455. During this time period, Gutenberg produced his masterpiece, the 'Forty-Two-Line' Bible.
Johannes Gutenberg lost the case, and all of his work, including his business, to Johan Fust.
The Psalter, the book of psalms, was another achievement by Gutenberg - And was also given to Fust. This was the first book to include the name of its printers.
'The Psalter' book cover
|'The Psalter' inside|
It is also known as The Mainz Psalter. It was commissioned by the Mainz archbishop in 1457, and it was also the first book to include printed decorative, two sizes of type, a printed colophon and first to be printed in three colours.
A dispute between Fust and Archbishop Adolph II has erupted and lead to Fust being sacked. The printing business was destroyed, due to their dispute over the control od the city. Him and many other Typographers left the city and relocated to other parts of Germany and Europe along with their technology and spreading it even further.
However, Gutenberg remained in Mainz and eventually fell into poverty. He was given the title of Hofmann by the Archbishop, which provided him with a salary and small privileges. Nevertheless, his loss didn't stop him from carrying his ambitions and continued on carrying is printing work for a couple more years. It is unknown what has Gutenberg created through these years, due to him not including his name in any of his printings.
It is also not known what happened later on his life, due to lack of kept records, but it is most likely he stayed in Mainz. It is thought he went blind during the last months of his life, and died at the age of 70 on the third of February 1468. He was buried in the church of the Franciscan convent Eltville, Germany.