With his discovery, the creator of printing technology, Johann Gutenberg, made a real revolution, thanks to which books and knowledge became available to the widest sections of the European population. His invention turned out to be one of the main symbols of the coming New Age.
The exact date of birth of Johann Gutenberg is unknown. The biographers of the inventor relate it to approximately 1398. Johann Gutenberg belonged to the family of wealthy citizens of Mainz, who, in the Roman manner, were called patricians. About the boy's childhood, there are also practically no confirmed data. Nevertheless, as a son from a wealthy family, he no doubt received a good urban education.
Medieval Mainz was torn apart by internal conflicts. The power in it belonged to the patricians, then their opponents artisans. Armed clashes between different social strata were considered commonplace. One of them occurred when Johannes Gutenberg was a young man. Craftsmen attacked the rich quarter and ravaged their homes. The pogrom forced the Gutenberg family to emigrate to Strasbourg. Johann did not return to his native city for a long time, despite the fact that in 1430 the political pendulum swung in the opposite direction, and an amnesty was announced to all the patricians who had fled.
After many years of prosperity, the Gutenberg had to adapt to the new harsh living conditions. Johann's youth passed in poverty. Lack of wealth taught him to independence and hard work. Traditionally, the patricians disdain to engage in crafts, considering such an occupation ignoble. Johann Gutenberg thought otherwise. He made acquaintance with the skillful jewelers of Strasbourg and began to study their work. Having received an appropriate education, the young man began working in a company engaged in polishing precious stones and producing mirrors.
Gradually, Johann Gutenberg became more and more famous and eminent master. He began to appear first students. History has preserved the name of one of these apprentices, Andreas Dritsen. In 1435, Gutenberg concluded a contract with the student and created a joint venture with him. By this time, historians attribute the emergence of the idea of printing, which caught fire in the Strasbourg jeweler. Throughout his life, he tried not to divulge the secrets of this art. That is why, even when entering into a contract with Drizen, Gutenberg did not directly say that their company would print books. A regular mirror workshop was created publicly.
Johann Gutenberg’s revolutionary printing press did not appear overnight. First, he came up with the idea of depicting letters on wooden posts and combining the resulting letters into a convenient set. Today this idea seems simple and obvious. However, for the Middle Ages it was a great breakthrough.
In 1438, the Aachen Fair, where the workshop of Gutenberg sold most of its mirrors, was postponed for two years. The inventor used the resulting free time to continue working on his secret machine.
On the way to discovery
The epoch-making invention of printing by Johann Gutenberg was somewhat delayed due to the death of his pupil and team-mate Andreas Dritzen. The workshop broke up. Moreover, Grutenberg was sued by Dritsen’s heirs. The protracted process has distracted the inventor from the work of his whole life. The court dealt with the property dispute. The heirs of Andreas demanded part of the workshop. Therefore, the court papers contained references to the press, forms for letters, lead, etc. Nevertheless, Gutenberg managed to keep the secret of the not yet ready invention in secret.
In 1439, the jeweler won the lawsuit. After that, he single-handedly plunged into work on the typographic design. By creating mobile letters, Gutenberg was able to move them in countless combinations. The German indulged in a cherished idea in the working room in the suburban Strasbourg monastery on the banks of the River Il, until finally he brought the prototype to the working version. Historians attribute this event to the year 1440.
Even after the invention of the letters and the prototype of the machine, Johann Gutenberg's books printed on the new technology did not appear immediately. Experimenting, he worked with wooden molds. However, they were not suitable for regular work, as the images of the letters quickly deteriorated.
To improve the machine required to continue to experiment with other materials. Such surveys cost a lot of money. Having thrown mirrors and jewelry work, Johann Gutenberg, in short, was left without serious means. He began to search for creditors, but in Strasbourg, no one ventured to invest money in the inventor's venture. The distrust of familiar rich people was intensified by the fact that the father of typography did not disclose all the cards and did not tell in details about his machine tool.
Cooperation with Fust
In 1445, Johannes Gutenberg, whose biography was again associated with Mainz, finally returned to his hometown. Here he hoped for the help of his family. However, over the course of five years, the inventor has not advanced in his main enterprise. The theoretical idea of typography was ready, but its implementation was delayed.
In 1450, Gutenberg still smiled luck. He met a rich entrepreneur Johann Fust. A businessman entered into a contract with the inventor, under which he gave him a loan of 800 guilders. The amount was issued in installments over several years. Thanks to Fust's capital, the father of book printing finally perfected his technology.
Gutenberg hired several employees for lending money, bought paper and paint, rented a spacious room. But the most important thing is that he cast quality and reliable letters based on an alloy of several metals. When the printing house began to work in full force, Fus, t as its main owner, realizing the value of the unique technology, forbade the workers to tell anyone about the secrets of typography. The typesetters vowed this to the merchant, swearing on the gospel. Until that time, books were copied in monasteries. Manually they multiplied very slowly. For a long time the monks refused to believe that books could be printed using the invention of Gutenberg without resorting to devilish magic.
"Latin grammar" and indulgences
The invention of Gutenberg quickly found a profitable application. Pope Nicholas V, fearing the Turkish threat, declared a crusade against the Turks and promised absolution to those who donate money for the upcoming war. In 1453, the Ottomans seized Constantinople, and the Germans rushed en masse to buy indulgences. It took a huge number of copies of this receipt. It was here that Gutenberg appeared. On his machine, indulgences were printed at a speed that was inconceivable for his time. Some copies of that circulation have remained and today belong to museums.
Grammar and indulgences were for Gutenberg intelligence before the fight. The dream of his life was to establish a massive print of the Bible. Preparation, book set and other preliminary works took almost five years. The famous 42-line Bible appeared in 1455. It was published as a two-volume folio (the first part contained 324 sheets, the second - 317 sheets).
The Bible was named Gutenburg. The caps in it were missing. They were hand-painted by a calligrapher. Also, the usual numbering of pages was absent. This is not surprising, because only just appeared typography. Johann Gutenberg published this Bible on parchment and paper (parchment versions were more expensive). Nevertheless, the books were instantly sold out.
Last years and death
The printing press, in which Gutenberg printed his Bible and other books that immortalized his name, was closed due to debts to Fust. The inventor was unable to pay the interest due to the usurer and lost to him in court. Fust became the sole owner of the printing house. He sold books all over Europe and became fabulously wealthy.
Left with nothing, Gutenberg did not give up. With new partners, he opened another printing house. It published a new Latin grammar "Catholicon", as well as the book of the Dominican priest Joagan Balba. In 1465, the publisher, as chamberlain, entered the “eternal service” of the archbishop of Mainz and the elector Adolf Nassau. Since then, Gutenberg has forgotten about the material hardships and was able to fully concentrate on his beloved work. By that time, the inventor was already an old man. He died in 1468, to his own happiness, finding the beginning success of printing technology. Gutenberg was buried in Mainz, but his grave was consigned to oblivion, and its location is unknown today.
The secret technology of the publisher could not forever remain secret. After the death of the master, his loyal disciples spread the most valuable knowledge throughout Germany, and from there to other countries. Already in the New time the name of the founder of typography caused disputes and doubts among historians. The version of Gutenberg triumphed only at the end of the 19th century, when his court papers and other documents were discovered, confirming that it was he who was the first to create a printing press.