Johannes Gutenberg was born into a noble family of the
city of Mainz, Germany. His early training was in goldsmithing.
In 1428, he moved to Strasbourg for political reasons, where he
remained for over 20 years. It was in Strasbourg that he probably
made his first experiments with moveable type.
Gutenberg had the idea of utilizing techniques of metalworking,
such as casting, punch-cutting, and stamping, for the mass production
of books. European books at this time were hand written by scribes
in a gothic script with many flourishes and ligatures (interconnected
letter pairs). To reproduce this look Gutenberg fashioned
a font of over 300 characters, far larger than the fonts of today.
To make this possible, he invented the variable-width mold, and
perfected the blend of lead, antimony, and tin used by type foundries
up to the present century.
Many years of Gutenbergs life are lost to history, but by
1450 he was back in Mainz at work on a printing press. Between 1450
and 1455, while preparing to produce a large folio Latin Bible,
Gutenberg is thought to have printed a number of smaller books,
a calendar, and a papal Letter of Indulgence. The Bible
of 42 lines, the oldest surviving printed book in the western
world, was completed by August 15, 1456, and while it is now credited
to Gutenberg, he appears to have been relieved of his supervisory
position, and his press, before the time of its publication. In
fact, no printed material was ever credited to Gutenberg during
Gutenberg is also believed to have worked on the Catholicon
of Johannes de Janua, an enormous encyclopedia: 748 pages in two
columns of 66 lines each. In later years, he received a position
as a courtier to the archbishop of Mainz, and was buried in the
towns Franciscan church.
A page of the Bible of 42 lines