Today, Gutenberg is remembered for the Bibles he printed with movable type. Two hundred Gutenberg Bibles, each a printing masterpiece, were produced over several years, beginning in 1455. While the Gutenberg Bibles were not the first books to be printed (full-length books had been produced in China using wooden ink blocks since the 800s), they were the first books to be mass produced in Europe. Gutenberg used the best paper. He concocted a particularly black ink. The quality amazed everybody, and the Bibles sold quickly. Gutenberg could have printed hundreds more, perhaps thousands. With a couple of husky helpers, he and his modified wine press could have produced 50 to 60 pages an hour. However, Johannes Gutenberg, who never had much business savvy, concentrated instead on quality. Forty-seven Gutenberg Bibles remain today, all collector’s items. One sold in 1978 for $2.4 million, another for $5.4 million in 1987, and experts estimate their current value at around $35 million.

Writing Prompt What Do You Think? – Johannes Gutenberg

Would Gutenberg make your list of the 10 most important persons in human history? Explain where you would rank him, and why.

The response entered here will appear in the performance dashboard and can be viewed by your instructor.


2.2.2 Gutenberg’s Impact

  1. Objective: Outline the ways in which moveable metal type changed communication

The impact of Gutenberg’s work was transformational. Scientists who earlier had carried on time-consuming handwritten correspondence with colleagues now could print their theories and experiments for wide dissemination. Modern science thus took form. Religious tracts could be mass-produced. So could materials with serious challenges to religion. The growing quantity of printed materials fueled literacy and, slowly, a standardization in written languages. What Gutenberg begat can be called the Age of Mass Communication, but his innovation also spurred Western civilization into the new Age of Science and Age of Reason. Civilization hasn’t been the same since.

Gutenberg’s invention changed history in numerous ways:

Scholarship. Scholars were enabled to publish multiple copies of their discoveries and theories. By tracking each other’s progress, scholars could build on each other’s work as never before. Human knowledge made quantum advances that brought on the scientific revolution.

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