Johannes Gutenberg

He was a 15th-century German goldsmith and inventor and is known for creating the first metal movable-type printing press.

Gutenberg's inventions included a process for mass-producing movable type, the use of oil-based ink for printing books, and adjustable molds.

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Heroes of Progress

Johannes Gutenberg's ideas started a printing revolution, as they accelerated the spread of information.

The printing press was used to fuel the later part of the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the Scientific Revolution, making possible the start of the Industrial Revolution.

  • He was born into a wealthy patrician merchant family between 1394 and 1404 in the city of Mainz. He grew up learning the trade of goldsmithing.
  • In 1411, the Gutenbergs were exiled after an uprising against the patrician class.
  • He ended up living in Strasbourg, where he was a goldsmith and a member of the Strasbourg militia.
  • He created metal hand mirrors that pilgrims bought and used when visiting holy sites.
  • In 1440, Gutenberg supposedly declared he had perfected the art of printing.
  • In 1448, Gutenberg moved back to Mainz, and with a loan from his brother-in-law, he built an operating printing press in 1450.
  • With a working press, Gutenberg got a wealthy moneylender, Johann Fust, to lend him more capital to fund further refinement of the printing process.
Johannes Gutenberg going bankrupt

Gutenberg had two presses, one for lucrative commercial texts, the other solely for printing the Bible.

In 1455, Fust (his moneylender) accused Gutenberg of misallocation of funds, sued Gutenberg, and demanded his money back. Fust won and took possession of the printing workshop and half of all the printed Bibles, leaving Gutenberg bankrupt.

In 1459, Gutenberg opened a small printing shop in Bamberg (Bavaria), where he continued printing the Bible.

Six years later, Prince Archbishop of Mainz recognized Gutenberg's accomplishments and named him a gentleman of the court - meaning he could live on the court's large annual stipend.

Johannes Gutenberg's innovation spread throughout Europe and beyond.

  • Books became cheaper and more easily accessible.
  • The flood of printed texts helped to increase literacy rates.

The monopolistic controls that were held over Europe's economic and social life for centuries were broken, making Gutenberg a Hero of Progress.

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