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Johannes Gutenberg: Google Doodle honours printing press pioneer

German inventor Johannes Gutenberg revolutionised the publishing industry by introducing movable-type printing to Europe in 1439. Today, Google Doodle honoured Gutenberg, 553 years after his death.

“When it comes to first impressions, no other historical figure made one quite like the inventor of the mechanical movable type printing press: German craftsman Johannes Gutenberg”.

Google

JOHANNES GUTENBERG: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Google explains that Gutenberg’s “revolutionary technology made the knowledge found in books both affordable and accessible to the common person for the first time in history”.

johannes gutenberg google doodle
Johannes Gutenberg (1400 – 1468), Strasbourg, Alsace, France. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/M.Strīķis

There is no record of when exactly Gutenberg was born – although Ducksters claims it was the year 1398 – and he “probably” died on 3 February 1468, according to Britannica.

So why celebrate his life and achievements on 14 April? Google explains:

“Today’s Doodle celebrates Gutenberg on the anniversary of this day in 2000, when the Gutenberg Museum launched a retrospective exhibition in his honour”.

MOVABLE-TYPE PUBLISHING

While the concept of movable-type publishing doesn’t sound all that exciting, it’s important to note that the printing press is often considered the most valuable invention in modern times.

Yes, we might consume most of our information via online platforms – 48% from social media platforms, according to the Global Online Content Consumption report for 2020.

johannes gutenberg google doodle
Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Sami Mlouhi

That said, we would not be able to learn, pass on information, or share said information without books and computers. And before Gutenberg came along, making one single book was a laborious task.

Now imagine creating not one but thousands of books, in order to spread information to the masses. Without Gutenberg’s printing press, the Scientific Revolution would have been lost to the ages.

JOHANNES GUTENBERG’S LEGACY

Despite much of Gutenberg’s life being shrouded in mystery, Google explains that the inventor “first made his living as a metalworker in the goldsmith trade”.

“By the late 1430s, historians believe Gutenberg began to develop a more efficient text printing device in an attempt to pay off debts from a failed mirror business. The machine he invented replaced the hand-carved wooden letter and graphic blocks of traditional printers for easily-cast metal type, which were then dipped in proprietary ink to print entire pages at once”. 

That invention was followed up with his first successful print in 1450, a Latin book on speech making. He then hired an assembly line to “produce books quicker than ever”.

johannes gutenberg google doodle
Johannes Gutenberg Monument. Image by Gabriele M. Reinhardt from Pixabay

THE GUTENBERG BIBLE

His most notable work was published in 1455. It is referred to today as the Gutenberg Bible and had 42 lines on each page. The book cost the equivalent of three years wages for the average clerk.

The Gutenberg press could print up to 3 600 pages on a regular workday, which ushered in the first large-scale production of books in Europe. By the 16th century, an estimated 200 million books were in print already.

That, in turn, “gave birth to a new era of mass communication and a new branch of media: the press.” His legacy lives on today through Project Gutenberg, an online library consisting of free books.

“The Gutenberg Project, the oldest library of digitised books, is named in his honour. The volunteer effort encourages the creation and distribution of free e-books and counts more than 60 000 items in its collection”.

Leon Van Ransberg

Written by Leon Van Ransberg

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