Johannes Gutenberg Biography

(German Inventor and Printer Who Introduced Printing to Europe With His Mechanical Movable-Type Printing Press)

Born: 1400

Born In: Mainz, Germany

If not for Johannes Gutenberg, the world might not have had access to mass printed books and for that particular reason it is not a surprise that the German is regarded as one of the most important contributors in the history of the world. Gutenberg’s invention of printing is without doubt one of the biggest in history simply because of the fact that it allowed people to share the knowledge that had been at the hands of a select few for hundreds of years. Johannes Gutenberg was a visionary of rare quality but other than the fact that he invented movable type printing, he also laid the foundation for printing the Bible which was certainly one of his biggest achievements. However, by the same coin it is also quite necessary to keep in mind that he Johannes Gutenberg was a man of many gifts and initially worked as a blacksmith before graduating on to becoming a goldsmith. Other than inventing modern printing technology at the time he was also the one who invented the type of ink that would make printing feasible and make sure that the books would be readable for a long time. The printing technique that he introduced was far more advanced that the ones perfected by the ancient Chinese. Read on to know more about the life and works of this pioneering inventor.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg

Died At Age: 68


father: Friele Gensfleisch zur Laden

mother: Else Wyrich

Inventors Artists & Painters

Died on: February 3, 1468

place of death: Mainz, Germany

Notable Alumni: University Of Erfurt

City: Mainz, Germany

discoveries/inventions: Printing Press

More Facts

education: University Of Erfurt

Childhood & Early Life
Johannes Gutenberg was probably born in 1398 in the German city Mainz to Friele Gensfleisch zur Laden and Elyse Wyrich. His father was a wealthy cloth merchant and Johannes was the youngest son in the family.
There is very little record about the early life of Johannes Gutenberg but some historians speculate that he studied at the ‘University of Erfurt’ at some point in 1418.
The family of Johannes Gutenberg had to leave Mainz some time in 1428 due to a raging power struggle between the politicians and the guilds in the city. Since his family belonged to the highest class, they had to leave the city and go to Strasbourg.
In Strasbourg, he started working in the jewellery industry and specialised in cutting gems.
While still only a goldsmith, Johannes continued to work on his secret, believed to be printing technology and managed to get some investment from three men in Strasbourg and it is often said that his decision to later on sign a contract with them in 1438 was a masterstroke.
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Gutenberg had claimed that his idea of movable type printing had come to him in a moment of light or what he called a ‘ray of light’. It was in the year 1440, while he was in Strasbourg that Gutenberg first introduced the then revolutionary concept of printing to his partners.
A significant portion of his life is not on record during the period between 1444 and 1448. His brother in law game him a loan in order to start his own business and although it is speculated that it might have been for a printing press; it could also have been used for his goldsmith business.
In the year 1450, Gutenberg had successfully opened up his printing press and it is said the very first item that was printed in order to test the effectiveness of the press was a poem in German, the precise name of which is unknown. Later on Gutenberg was able to take out a substantial loan from the moneylender Johann Fust for his workshop.
Gutenberg opened up his workshop in the year 1452 and it was in that workshop that he first decided to print the Bible, which he was sure would be a profitable venture. However, he has another press in which he published run of the mill books like textbooks in Latin or Church indulgences.
It was in the year 1455 that Gutenberg printed his first copy of the Bible, which later came to be known as Gutenberg’s Bible. Initially he had printed in 180 copies and needless to say it did not seem like a venture that would have brought him a huge amount of profit.
In 1456, Gutenberg’s main financial backer Johann Fust sued him for misappropriation of funds and in an unfortunate turn of events, Gutenberg lost the court battle. He had run out of money due to the Bible project and in addition to that the printing workshop was turned over to Johann Fust.
Major Works
Johannes Gutenberg’s most important work remains the invention of the movable type printing that he invented and it became the basis of further printing devices and styles, till the 20th century.
Awards & Achievements
Although Gutenberg’s invention of the movable printing technology was completely ignored by Johann Fust who took over his printing press; in 1465 he was honoured with the title Hofmann which literally meant Gentleman of the Court.
Personal Life & Legacy
Not a lot is known about his personal life but since there is record of him taking a loan from his brother in law, there are speculations that he might have got married. It is not known if he had any children or not.
Johannes Gutenberg died at the age of 70 on 3 February, 1468. The reason of his death his unknown and he was buried at a church in his home town of Mainz.

See the events in life of Johannes Gutenberg in Chronological Order

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