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Useful Notes / Johannes Gutenberg

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Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (circa 1400 – February 3, 1468) invented the movable type note , which is a fairly important invention.

Gutenberg was originally a goldsmith from the city of Mainz in what is now the state of Rhineland-Palatinate (at the time, it was an independent Archbishop-Electorate within the Holy Roman Empire). He was born to a patrician merchant who probably dealt in cloth. A good smith and smart businessman, Gutenberg's famous invention almost never happened: he had gotten into a scheme to fleece pilgrims expected to come to the holy city of Aachen for the city's anniversary in 1439 by selling them polished mirrors to capture "holy light," but his partners got the date wrong—by a whole year—and besides Aachen was struck by a flood that kept any festivities from happening there for quite a while. Desperate to pay back his partners, he said, in effect, "I have another idea. I've kept it a secret, but now I'll share it with you, and you'll make your fortune another way. Just give me a little while to perfect it, and you'll see." The secret, of course, was his movable-type printing press—and yes, he and his partners did get very rich—eventually, anyway.


He is the namesake of Project Gutenberg, a digital collection of Public Domain e-books.

Depictions in fiction

  • He was featured in a Peabody's Improbable History short on Rocky and Bullwinkle.
  • He appears in one of the cases in Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego?. After the original Gutenberg Bible is stolen by Carmen's thief, you have to help Gutenberg create a "Wanted!" Poster using his printing press.
  • He also appears in the first episode of the second season of History Bites, which parallels the invention of the printing press with the decidedly more recent invention of the personal computer.


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