IXD102-Week 2- Gutenberg and Moveable Type

For today’s lecture we looked at the history of typography. Learnt that Johannes Gutenberg was a German goldsmith, inventor, printer, and publisher who introduced printing to Europe with his mechanical movable-type printing press.

Before Gutenberg, books were either copied out by hand on scrolls and paper, and even a small book could take months to complete. they were also printed from hand-carved wooden blocks in which each block printed a whole page, a part of a page or even individual letters. However, this was unsustainable as the wood work was extremely time-consuming and the carved letters or blocks were very fragile and the susceptibility of wood to ink gave such blocks a limited lifespan.

Gutenberg’s printing press was then invented in 1440. For this press, movable type was laid out over a flat wooden plate called the lower platen. Ink was applied to the type, and a sheet of paper was laid on top. An upper platen is then brought down to meet the lower platen. The two plates pressed the paper and type together, creating sharp images on the paper.

Gutenberg’s biggest accomplishment is considered to be the Gutenberg Bible. This 42-line Bible was amongst the earliest major books printed using moveable type in Europe. It took three years to print approximately 200 copies which was extremely fast during this time period. It also opened up countless opportunities for other authors to mass produce their books, changing civilisation for good as more people were beginning to read and therefore slowly started to create a more literate society.


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