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Johannes Gutenberg

Page history last edited by kelsey.mangold@iwc.edu 9 years, 2 months ago

  Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (ca. 1398-1468)




Johannes Gutenberg is most well known for his invention the printing press.  Gutenberg changed the way the world saw the printed word.  His form of printing with movable type was used without any major change until the 20th century, making the written word more accessible to all. With the printing press he also started many other types of government, media, and everyday events such as school and reading that never would have happened without the mass production of books and newspapers.



          Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden was born in Mainz, Germany. He was born in the year of 1398.  Gutenberg was born to a well-to-do man who worked with precious metals and a woman who was the daughter of a shopkeeper. His father's name was Freile sum Gensfeisch and his mother's name was Else Wirick sum Gutenberg. He later adopted his mother's name and added sum Gutenberg. It is said that through his father’s affiliation with metalworking, Gutenberg learned different metallurgy techniques.  Around 1428, Gutenberg and his family were exiled from Mainz because of conflicts between craftsmen and the ruling noble class.  After Gutenberg left Mainz, he was very active in Strassberg between 1434 and 1444. This time will play a huge role in the production of his invention because he had experimented with printing. Gutenberg had no known whereabouts from 1444 until 1448. In October of 1448 he was documented to be in Mainz again. In 1450 he started a printing plant but needed to borrow money so he borrowed 800 guilders from a rich financier, Johann Fust. This loan helped him buy equipment and tools he needed. The loan was supposed to be paid back by December 1452 but Gutenberg was unable to pay it back so Fust and Gutenberg made another agreement. Fust was going to become Gutenberg's partner in the printing company. Gutenberg started working on the moveable type printing in Strassburg but didn't make it reality until he was in Mainz. In 1452 Peter Schoeffer, a young employee, joined with Gutenberg. Schoeffer was a very valuable assistant to Gutenberg. In 1455 Fust and Gutenberg took a bad turn and Fust sued Gutenberg for 2000 guilders and there was no longer a partnership between them. Fust won and went into partnership with Gutenberg's assistant, Schoeffer. Gutenberg then went on to having his own business again. One of the most popular things Gutenberg printed was the 42 Line Bible. It was also called the Gutenberg Bible or the Mazarin Bible. It was worked on by Gutenberg, Fust, and Schoeffer. When the Bible came out Gutenberg was no longer in the partnership anymore but he did most of the work on the Bible. Gutenberg did not put his name on his work so it is unknown what works are his. In1462 Mainz was attacked by the troops of Adolph II. In this attack Fust's office was set on fire and other craftsman including Gutenberg suffered losses of their own. Many craftsmen spread out throughout Europe and spread their know-how along with them. Gutenberg stayed in Mainz and again became poor and requested from the archiepiscopal court a sinecure. It was obtained on January 17, 1465 and Gutenberg carried on with his printing activities. Gutenberg became blind in his last few months of life and lived partially in Mainz and partially in a surrounding town, Eltvile. He died in St. Victors parish in Mainz on February 3, 1468 and was buried in the church of the Franciscan convent in Mainz.  

Gutenberg's Bible

The Printing Press 

     Gutenberg was not the first person to invent printing because in China, Japan, and Korea they used wood carvings to print but it was not moveable in the eighth and nineth centuries. The handcarving of the wood took a long time because each individual block needed  to be hand crafted. This type of printing didn't occur in Europe until the fourteenth century. It was the first reconfigurable machinery for mass production. Gutenberg's printing press made printing easier and a lot quicker because the pieces were reusable and moveable. Gutenberg's press didn't come along until the fifteenth century.

     Gutenberg's printing press enabled new ideas to spread rapidly through the culture. The printing press able to replicate many copies very quickly and many people were able to get ahold of the copies. Having many copies also allowed material to travel more quickly as well. Making many copies helped to have reliable storage of written materials. With having many copies it was less likely to be lost, destroyed, or corrupted. It helped laws, maps, histories, scripture, and the classical writings all to be copied the exact same way. The printing press also made it easier to advance and progress in science and sholarship. After the printing press books became cheap and there was an explosion of schooling that occured. With the printing press copywrite, public domain, and plagarism was invented as well..The press was used as an instrument in mass media by using the press to make mass advertising. Newspapers, novels, and journals became popular after the invention of the press.  Leisurely reading was never heard of before the printing press but because the mass production of novels and newspapers it became popular. The printing press also helped improve government by making the states stonger because of the centralized bureuacracy. It also accelerated the reforms of banking and insurance because they were able to use bookkeeping and letters of credit and exchange.

Printing Press


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