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Useful Notes / Johannes Gutenberg

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Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg (circa 1400 – February 3, 1468) was a German inventor and publisher during The Renaissance.

He pioneered 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 technique for movable-type printing—or more specifically, for making molds for movable-type printing. The process needed letters of consistent dimensions to work, so Gutenberg's goldsmithing knowledge of how to make a mold that could be reused hundreds or thousands of times to produce identical copies was critical. And yes, he and his partners did get very rich—eventually, anyway. He would lose all of that money as well as his equipment in a lawsuit against one of said partners, and the only reason he didn't die in abject poverty was the protection and pension that Adolph II of Nassau, the Archbishop of Mainz, granted him afterwards.

The first and most prominent book that Gutenberg's workshops printed was, of course, The Bible. 49 of them survived to this day in various states.

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

Gutenberg in media:

  • Gutenberg, l'aventure de l'imprimerie (Gutenberg, the Adventure of Printing), a 2017 French docudrama. He's played by Philippe Ohrel.
  • 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.
  • Assassin's Creed: Initiates had an entry about him.
  • Gutenberg and his press are mentioned frequently in Connections and its Spiritual Successor The Day the Universe Changed, and have sections devoted to them in each series.
  • The Day After Tomorrow: Half of the protagonists end up stuck at the New York Public Library while the city is being devastated by a tsunami then by an instant-freeze frost wave. They start burning books to keep themselves warm, then bump into the Library's Gutenberg Bible. One of them, although atheist, decides to keep it as a treasure of humanity and brings it along when they are eventually rescued.
  • Gutenberg and his printing press make an important appearance in Mister B. Gone.
  • Ascendance of a Bookworm: Myne's new world is a Medieval European Fantasy that has yet to see the printing press and she fixes this as part of her overall initiative to bring more books into it. Past a certain point of the story, any member of her entourage that she considers a major contributor to the printing industry gets a title of her invention, literally called "Gutenberg." This first to get the title is the precision-oriented blacksmith who manages to make the first set of letter types. His name is "Johann."