Johannes Gutenberg and Gutenberg Bible

Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg was a German blacksmith, goldsmith, printer, and publisher was the first European to use movable type printing in around 1439. He also invented method of mass-producing movable type, the use of oil-based ink and the use of a wooden printing press that was similar to the agricultural screw presses of the period (and inspired by them).

Picture Of Johannes Gensfleisch Zur Laden Zum Gutenberg

Gutenberg was born in the German city of Mainz, circa 1395, as the youngest son of the merchant Friele Gensfleisch zur Laden, and his second wife, Else Wyrich. Not much is known about his early life or where he acquired his knowledge of goldsmithing. In 1439 he tried making polished metal mirrors but that business failed. In 1440 he perfected and unveiled the secret of printing in Strasbourg. The first item to be printed was a German poem in 1450. Gutenberg borrowed 800 guilders from a wealthy moneylender Johann Fust for this and some other projects. Among these projects were a papal letter, two indulgences (of which several thousand copies being printed) and editions of Ars Minor, a schoolbook on Latin grammar by Aelius Donatus. In 1456, Fust accused Gutenberg of misusing the fund and demanded his money back. It turned out that Gutenberg and Fust had a partnership for "project of the books" but, according to Fust, Gutenberg used money for other purposes. The court decided in favor of Fust and left Gutenberg effectively bankrupt and without a printing shop. Gutenberg retained a small printing shop after that and printed a Bible in the town of Bamberg around 1459.

In 1450, Gutenberg borrowed another 800 guilders from Fust (before the court case) and in 1455 he finished folio Bible which had 42 lines on each page. This Bible is today known as the Gutenberg Bible, “42-line Bible”, the Mazarin Bible or the B42. It was the first major book printed with movable type in the West. It was written in Latin and had a selling price of 30 florins which was around three years' wages of an average clerk. Even with price like that it was much cheaper than a manuscript Bible that could take a single scribe over a year to prepare.

The first sheets of the Bible were rubricated. They were passed twice through the printing press, with some lines printed using black and some with red ink. This was later abandoned and rubricating was done by hand. First sheets were done in 40 lines while later were done in 41 and 42 lines, presumably to save paper. Ink used for these Bibles was oil-based because it better adhered to his metal type as opposed to the water based ink that was used by scribes of that time. The Gutenberg Bible was printed in the black letter type styles, today known as Textualis (Textura) and Schwabacher, and in technique of justification. Illuminated decoration was added by hand and its amount depended on how much each buyer could or would pay. Some copies were never decorated. The Gutenberg Bible provided the model for several later editions. Today, it is praised for its high aesthetic and artistic qualities and has an iconic status.

Picture Of Johannes Gutenberg 1468