Inventor of the printing pressby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
The best-selling book of all time has sold 6 billion copies as of 2001, more than the totals of the next 20 top-sellers put together and equal to fifteen times the amount of literature housed in the Library of Congress. It has been translated into 337 languages is present in countries around the world, including predominantly Hindu, Buddhist, and Voodoo countries. America’s public schools used to use this book as an instrument in learning how to read. In its many years of publication, the words have never been changed from the original message. This timeless book is The Bible, the first manuscript to be mass produced by machine, thanks to Johann Gutenburg’s invention of movable type.
Born to a wealthy family around 1400 in Mainz, Germany, Johann Gutenburg, a goldsmith, was to become the inventor of removable type that was also reusable as well. The Chinese had formed earthenware type in the 11th century and the letterpress as early as the 6th century, but neither proved acceptable for the mass production of printed materials. The Dutch may have also experimented with a crude sort of movable type in the 1430’s, but Gutenburg’s methods of casting type are the basis from which modern printing has evolved. His invention replaced the tedious and time consuming task of copying books, word for word, letter for letter, by hand.
Gutenburg began experimenting with the idea of movable type around 1438 and formed a partnership with Andreas Dritzhen, which quickly fell through. He then partnered with Johann Fust, a wealthy German Lawyer and goldsmith who provided him with financial backing, and the duo set up a printing press sometime between 1446 in 1450.
The first book to be printed on Gutenburg’s contraption was The Bible in March of 1455; between 160 and 200 of these books were originally printed, either on paper or vellum, a fine parchment of calves skin. Each copy was approximately 1300 pages long and 16 by 12 inches, divided into two or three volumes. Gutenburg’s Bible, as the original printed version is often known, has also been called the 42-Line Bible (printed in 1455) and the 36-Line Bible (printed in 1460) due the fact that most of the columns had the aforesaid number of lines. Also attributed as being printed on Gutenburg’s press in 1454 is Pope Nicholas V’s Letter of Indulgence.
Only 48 complete copies of Gutenburg’s Bible survived to see the twentieth century. One of three “perfect” copies is now held in the Library of Congress and the other two are held in European libraries. A copy is also held on permanent display in the Great Hall Library and viewed by about one million people per year.
The contribution that Johann Gutenburg made to society was amazing. With the invention of movable type, books were able to be widely produced, literature distributed, and the public’s eyes opened to information around them. The fact that Gutenburg first chose to print God’s Word also testifies of values to which he held. Although Gutenburg’s press is archaic when compared to modern day technology, his work is what paved the way toward bigger and better printing presses which are now at work around the clock to produce literature for the whole world to read.
“Bible Outlasts All Its Enemies”. 26 Jan. 2001. High Point Enterprise.
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