Innovation of movable type
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Johannes Gutenberg: 15th century printing with type.
  • 1452, Gutenberg conceives of the idea for movable type. The first to invent an effective casting of type and thus making an industry and change in European civilization.

  • Gutenberg's major contribution to printing came while he was working as a goldsmith, back in Mainz.

  • He knew if he could produce indulgences quickly and by the hundreds he could pay off some of his debts from his trinket selling days.

  • So he created metal molds for letters, which were then filled with a molten lead alloy.

  • The cast letters were uniform in size so that they could be aligned easily on a frame, and once assembled in proper order, the frame holding the letters was then pressed against parchment or vellum.

  • The result was an exactly repeatable, error-free piece of "writing." Gutenberg may have printed thousands of indulgences (whose abuse by the Catholic Church annoyed a certain Martin Luther).



The earliest known portrait of Gutenberg,
engraving on copper,
(1584)

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Letters of indulgence,
Block print, (1454) (
CloseUp)


  • Earliest dated moveable type specimen

  • An indulgence could be purchased as a sort of "coupon" by sinners as credit against time to be spent in Purgatory.

  • The written additions in this copy indicate that on the last day of December 1454, one Judocus Ott von Apspach was pardoned of his sins.


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These early-19th-century engravings illustrate Gutenberg’s system for casting type.

    A. Punch

    B. Matrix

    C. Type mold (with matrix removed to show a newly cast H)

    D. & E. Type mold (opened so that the newly cast H can be removed.)

    A steel punch (A) is used to stamp an impression of the letterform into a softer brass matrix (B). After the matrix (B) is slipped into the bottom of the two-part type mold (C), the mold (D & E) is filled with the molten lead alloy to cast a piece of type. After the lead alloy cools, the type mold (D & E)is opened and the type is removed.

 

 

 

  • Gutenberg himself did not actually invent the printing press.  
  • His true innovation is the mechanism that allowed individual letters to be interchanged,
  • This shaved weeks off the pre-printing process itself and reducing the price of and luxury of the book.  
  • He also created an instrument for hand-pouring that allowed the printer to create any number of individual letters out of a unique mixture of alloy, the Gutenberg Printing Press soon became the standard across Europe.  
  • The medieval Catholic Church became Gutenberg's largest patron after he established himself without the later support of an investor Fust, in 1455.
  • Other documents printed on Gutenberg's press were flyers, calendars, letters, and general works of Latin literature. This close relationship with the Church also had an ironic turn--Mainz was the city where the first censorship edict was decreed in Germany.

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(Click here for actual type used by Gutenberg)

In Gutenberg's workshop, he brought together the following technologies to print books.

    • paper
    • oil-based ink
    • & the wine-press
  • As a metal smith, Gutenberg knew the write metals to use, soft enough to cast, but hard enough to hold up for thousands of impressions.
  • Unique metal mixture: A unique alloy of 80% lead, 5 % tin, and 15% antimony
 

another description of Gutenberg's type system

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42 line Bible


A single page from Gutenberg's 42 line Bible, (1450-55)

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2 pages from Gutenberg's 42 line Bible, (1450-55)

websites on Gutenberg

site01 | site02

  • The world’s first book printed by movable type.

  • Gutenberg’s name does not appear on any of his work, but he is generally accredited with The 42 line Bible

  • Named for the # of lines that were in each column from its double-column pages

  • also known as the Gutenberg Bible or the Mainz Bible (for the place where it was produced).

  • generous margins

    first printed book of quality

    In order to achieve his final result, Gutenberg cast 290 different type shapes. Each shape was an individual type component, such as a lower or upper case letter, a punctuation mark, or a symbol.

 

  • it took Gutenberg at least two years to complete his first book.
  • Had a staff of about 20

  • Finishing touches, including color of red and blue headers, intials and text were added by hand by an illuminator.

  • 42-line Bible was near completion by 1455
  • Published in 2 volumes, totaling over 1,200 pages, is one of the most beautiful of all printed books.

  • No one knows exactly how many copies of the Bible were printed, but the best guess is that around 180-145 on paper and a few more on the more luxurious and expensive vellum. (high quality parchment)

    (Forty-eight of these books have been preserved.)

 

Gutenberg's life timeline

Example of Gutenberg style press

 

Printing Advances

  • The art of printing was perfected by Gutenberg in Germany by 1450.
  • The first Italian press was set up by the partnership outside Rome by 1465
  • 4 years later a German named Johannes de Spira began printing in Venice.
  • Venice rapidly became the printing capital of the 15th century.
  • Huge immigrant population
  • a place where foreigners could thrive, all new settlers being promised protection and liberty.
  • Most of the early 'Venetian' printers were in fact immigrants,
  • including Nicolaus Jenson who was originally from France.