Books, calendars, newspapers and tickets are an essential part of our everyday life. Therefore it is hard to believe that back in the Middle Ages only rich people could afford books. Thanks to Johannes Gutenberg‘s ground-breaking invention of letterpress printing the way for intellectual, political and religious changes was paved. Today, his invention is considered as trigger for one of the greatest revolutions in human history.
Who Was Johannes Gutenberg
Although little is known about his life, Gutenberg is said to be the pioneer of letterpress printing. In his youth, he did an apprenticeship as a goldsmith. Through the knowledge he gained in the field of metalwork, Gutenberg was able to solve technical problems during the production of metal-types. In 1434 Gutenberg moved from Mainz to Straßburg where he probably did his first attempts with the new printing process. Back in Mainz 1448, he continued to work on this idea and invented a hand mould for the production of moveable print characters. The great advantage of his method was that he could reuse them as often as he liked.
Besides many contributions to typography and the use of moveable print characters, Gutenberg also invented an alloy from lead, antimony and tin, as well as an oil-based ink. His biggest step was that he brought all these components into a feasible and effective production process. Henceforth books and other printing products such as newspapers could have been produced significantly faster by a mass production method for more than 500 years. In the following video “The future of print is in the past with Gutenberg’s brilia” of drupa 2016, Zvijedzdana Cordier, member of the Gutenberg Foundation, explains how difficult and time-consuming printing was at the time of Gutenberg:
Digital Revolution – Augmented Reality in the Book Industry?
It is obvious that the letterpress printing changed and enriched our society. The new method enabled people to exchange and spread thoughts and ideas much faster. Some compare this so-called globalization of thinking with the breakthrough of the internet nowadays. Even if everyone agrees that Gutenberg‘s invention revolutionized our society and paved the way for a new media age, opinions of experts about the future of books differ. The reason: the digital revolution. Nevertheless, a recently published statistic of YouGov shows that almost 50 percent of the people asked prefer printed books. Anyway, the American journalist Jeff Jarvis points out the biggest advantage of electronic books: their interactivity. Our former blog post about augmented reality emphasizes that other traditional industries, such as the film industry have already found out ways to combine both, analog and digital.
Why to Hold the Letterpress Printing in High Regard
The answer to the question why we should hold the letterpress printing in high regard is quite simple: Letterpress printing is a beautiful craft with a long tradition. To transfer the considerable work of Gutenberg into the digital age, the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz started a project called „Gutenberg Museum of the Future“. The aim of this project is to establish a modern and interactive museum with a flexible exhibition concept based on various topics. If you want to have more information about this innovative exhibition concept, click here.
To put it in a nutshell, we have to value the work of Johannes Gutenberg because he lay the foundation for our industry. How does his invention affect your everyday life? Let us know in a comment below.