Johannes Gutenberg was a German inventor who invented the movable type printing process in Europe. His invention is seen as revolutionary in the printing industry. Besides an inventor, he was also a goldsmith, blacksmith, printer, and publisher. Initially, his printing process used oil-based ink to print books and other stuff. The later researchers improved the process, which resulted in the development of advanced tools and machines.
During his lifetime, he was unable to witness the success and pinnacle of his invention. It was centuries later, when his invention became popular over time. Our readers can familiarize themselves with this great inventor as we have compiled 9 amazing facts about Gutenberg.
Johannes Gutenberg: 9 cool and exciting facts about this inventor
1. His surname comes from his paternal ancestral house
Gutenberg was born in Germany. Historians are not sure about his date of birth, but it is believed that he was born between 1394 and 1404. His father’s name was Friele Gensfleisch zur Laden, and Gutenberg was his youngest son from Gensfleisch’s second wife, Else Wyrich.
During the 15th century, Germans used to take their family names from their family properties. Gutenberg was living with his family at his family house called Hof zum Gutenberg. His father’s family name, Gensfleisch zur Laden, was derived from other family properties. So, Gutenberg developed his family name from his ancestral house, Hof zum Gutenberg.
2. Gutenberg’s father worked at Mainz Mint
His father, Friele Gensfleisch, was a goldsmith, and used to serve as a town councilor as well. Gutenberg’s mother, Else Wyrich, was from a business family. As his father used to work at Mainz Mint, he learned how coins were made since his childhood, an interesting fact about Johannes Gutenberg. He had a sister, Else, and a brother, Friele, while Patze was his half-sister from his father’s first marriage.
3. Gutenberg’s family was a patrician
Patricians are aristocratic families which used to live in Europe. They paid few taxes and were given money, which was gathered from taxing non-patricians. At the time when the bubonic plague broke out in Europe, an uprising erupted against Patricians in Mainz. This forced Gutenberg’s family to move out of Mainz during 1411. According to historians, they moved to Eltville, where his mother had a family house.
4. He didn’t marry
His father died in the year 1419, and after that, his family moved back to Mainz, and Gutenberg spent time in his hometown. According to historians, in 1434, he was living in Strasbourg, and a lady named Ellewibel zur Isernin Thure filed a case against him for refusing to marry her daughter, Ennelin. The result of the facts about Johannes Gutenberg is unknown, and historians didn’t find any evidence that Gutenberg ever married or had children.
5. He suffered a loss in a mirrors business partnership
Some 160 miles northwest of Strasbourg city, there was located a shrine called Aachen during 15th century Germany. This shrine was sacred, and an event was scheduled in the year 1439. It was expected that a large number of people would attend the event because the pilgrims believed that if they can catch the reflection of Aachen in a mirror, they would be able to capture the healing powers.
An interesting fact about Johannes Gutenberg is that he formed partnerships with investors to produce convex mirrors for pilgrims to make a profit. Unfortunately, the event was postponed due to flooding and the outbreak of a disease. This situation created problems for him as investors were asking for their money. This was the time when he shared his idea about developing the mechanical movable type printing process.
6. Gutenberg printed copies of the Bible using his invention
In the year 1450, Gutenberg printed around 180 copies of the Bible using his invention. These printed copies were named as Gutenberg Bible. He used superior quality because of which these copies sold out quickly. Historians have termed printing of these copies as the first mass printing in Europe. Out of the total 180 copies, 49 are still present in different libraries, universities, and museums. It was in the year 1978 that the Gutenberg Bible was sold for $2.2 million. It is believed that the sold-out copy was not complete. Had the Bible copy been completed, it would have fetched around $35 million.
7. He was unable to see the success of his invention during his life
When Gutenberg started to work on his Bible project, he didn’t have the required funds and had borrowed money from Johann Fust. During 1456, Gutenberg and Fust developed differences as Fust alleged him for misusing the money and asked him to return. He filed a case against Gutenberg in the archbishop court. The court ruled in Fust’s favour, which resulted in Fust taking control of the printing workshop and half of the Bible copies. Later, Fust and his son-in-law, Peter Schoffer, printed the religious book, the Mainz Psalter. For the first time, this book had the name of its printers, Fust and Schoffer. Unfortunately, it did not mention anything about the inventor.
8. Mainz Archbishop awarded Hofmann title to Gutenberg
In the year 1465, Archbishop gave the title of Hofmann to him in recognition of his services. At that time, Adolph von Nassau was the Archbishop. Besides the title, Gutenberg was awarded 2,000 liters of wine and 180 liters of grain.
This inventor died on February 3, 1468, and was buried in Mainz. During his lifetime, his debt grew up to 20,000 guilders and was widely unknown.
9. His invention made books affordable for people
It was because of his invention that books became economical for Europeans. Before this invention, according to an estimate, around 30,000 books were present across Europe, while after this invention, more than 20 million books were printed. He was declared as the most Influential person of the universe by Time-Life in the year 1997, an interesting fact about Gutenberg.
So, readers, there was some information about this German inventor. His invention played an essential role in the age of the Scientific Revolution and the Age of Enlightenment. He was buried at the Franciscan cemetery in Mainz.
Besides inventing the printing process, he developed some essential and unique elements to enhance the printing quality.
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