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Printing Press And A Changing World

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Printing Press and a Changing World

The Development of Print Technology

In the mid-15th century Johannes Gutenberg invented a mechanical way of making books. This was the first example of mass book production.

In his workshop, he brings together the technologies of paper (brought from China to Italy in the 12th), oil-based ink (these had been around since the 10th century) and the wine-press (screw-type press that had been in use for hundreds of years, throughout Europe and Asia) to print books. The printing press is not a single invention. He brings together the technologies known for centuries before Gutenberg, but have not jet been used simultaneously. This invention was (as some say) developed in Prague and Holland, before Gutenberg.

Before the arrival of the printing press, books were made of vellum (calf or lamb skin) because of its durability. Vellum is extremely durable, but it costs a lot. For books that took more than a year to produce, paper was inappropriate, because it wasn't long lasting.

In the Far East, movable type and printing presses were known but did not replace printing from individually carved wooden blocks or movable clay type. The use of movable type in printing was invented in 1041 AD by Bi Sheng in China. But because the Chinese language has thousands of characters, the benefit of the technique is not as obvious as in European languages. Besides that they were printing texts that weren't reprinted many times, which cost a lot of money if they were printed by the printing press. That's why they still used wood block printing..

Picture 1: Wood-block printed paper

It is not clear whether Gutenberg knew of these existing techniques or invented them independently, but because of the differences in technology we can conclude he didn't know.

Gutenberg began experimenting with metal typography (letterpress printing) after he had moved from his native town of Mainz to Strassburg around 1430. Knowing that wood-block type took a lot of time and cost a lot of money to reproduce, Gutenberg concluded that metal type could be reproduced much quicker once a single mold had been designed.

Johannes Gutenberg began building his press in 1436, his press was wooden, and the most important thing was that he used movable type. It was the first form of printing by the use of the movable type. In 1440 he mass produced indulgences for the Catholic church.

Although Laurence Koster (Coster) of Haarlem, Netherlands also claimed that he invented movable type printing, Gutenberg was generally accepted as the father of modern printing.

Gutenberg left Strasburg around 1444 and has perfected his invention at his expense. He borrowed the money from his relative and started printing the "Poem of the Last Judgment", and the "Calendar for 1448".

Gutenberg also began printing the Bible around 1450. In this year he started a partnership with Johann Fust, who lent him money to finance the production of a Bible. Because of the popularity of the Gutenberg Bibles (the first mass-produced work, starting in 1452) and effective method of printing , there was a boom in book production in Evrope. But Gutenberg was a bad businessman, and made little money from his printing system. In 1455, just before he completed this project, Johann Fust sued Gutenberg and took possession of his printing equipment and the almost completed edition of the Bible. Fust gradualy entered into partnership with Peter Schoffer (Gutenberg's assistant) and finally completed this project in 1456. Fust also started marketing the Bible.

In 1457 Fust and Schoffer published a large Psalter, known as the Mainz Psalter, which featured printed red and blue intitials along with the black text. It is still not known wether these initials were either printed from two part metal blocks that were inked separately, re-assembled and then printed with the text, or they were stamped on after the main text was printed. But because the process was time consuming and expensive it was more common for such decorative elements to be added by hand. The Mainz Psalter was also the first book to have a printer's trademark and imprint (a printed date of publication and a colophon).

About 1457 Gutenberg also parted with his earliest-constructed founts of type, which he had made for the Bible and used for his earliest texts.

Gutenberg next manufactured a new printer's outfit with the assistance of Conrad Humery, a distinguished and wealthy doctor of law, leader of the popular party, and chancellor of the council. This outfit included a set of small types designed after the round cursive handwriting used in books at that time and ornamented with an extraordinary number of ligatures. The type was used in the "Catholicon" (grammar and alphabetic lexicon) in the year 1460, and also in several small books printed in Eltville to the year 1472 by the relatives of Gutenberg (brothers EchtermÐ"јnze). After that in 1465, the Archbishop Adolf of Nassau, presented him with a benefice (a church office), an income and various privileges.

Gutenberg's invention spread rapidly after his death in



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