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The secret life of Johannes Gutenberg

Posted by: | February 4, 2016 | No Comment |

In 1455, Johannes Gutenberg created something that changed his world forever and helped shape the society we live in today. Though many may already know this creation was the Gutenberg Bible and that his invention was movable type for printing presses, ask those same individuals to name another fact about Gutenberg’s life and they will likely be at a loss. This is because even though he may arguably be one of the most important individuals in history, history has forgotten nearly every other aspect of his life.82889db3261b2dd07dafe49f7d8c0448

For those who do not understand the importance of Gutenberg, simply look at the effect he had on his own time period. Before Gutenberg perfected movable type printing was a much more arduous process that made the cost of the papers printed affordable only to the upper classes. Books were seen as a sign of wealth and since they could not afford them the majority of the people in his time were illiterate.

Movable type solved this problem and allowed publishers to increase output exponentially. This increase in literacy created more authors and more informed and serious discussion of societal issues. A perfect example of this can be seen in the example of Martin Luther starting the Reformation with his 95 theses.

Not only did the printing press help distribute his work to the masses, but the increase in literacy at the time meant that not only did his fellow monks and clergymen receive his message, but so did the common people. A century earlier with a less educated and less literate populace, Martin Luther likely would have been crushed by the power and control the church had at that time.

Tjohannhough his contribution to the world and journalism more specifically has been easy to explain, the rest of Gutenberg’s life is almost entirely speculation. As the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin explains about Gutenberg, “We do not know if he was married or had children.

Even the famous engraved portraits of Gutenberg were made long after his death and are based on the artist’s imagination, not Gutenberg’s actual appearance.”

The few facts we do know about Gutenberg are that he was born in and passed away in Mainz, Germany and that he was a metal worker before creating his printing press. WE also know that he likely retired early and was financially supported by the Archbishop of Mainz until his death in 1468.

Though we may have little historical evidence about Gutenberg’s life outside of his greatest achievement, we will at least always remember his name as a man who changed the world forever.



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