Gutenberg and Movable Type


Good typography is like bread: ready to be admired, appraised, and dissected before it is consumed. ~ Bringhurst Elements of Typographic Style

In the year of 1448, the birth of printing, movable type replaced hand-copied manuscripts. Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of movable type, is known for his heavy blackletter typestyle. This typestyle was popular in Germany at the time. From there, printers were inspired to improve on this system. Gutenberg was a goldsmith from Mainz, Germany, and he was the first to carve the characters of the alphabet onto metal punches (which were driven into other pieces of metal called matrices). The movable type could fit into printing presses. This process was called letterpress printing.

The first book Gutenberg printed with his movable type was the Bible. The scribes would take years to a lifetime to hand-write them, and now Gutenberg was able to make them in a fraction of the time. His invention enabled everyone to be able to circulate information so much easier.

Just recently while antique shopping, I found an old drawer filled with wood and metal typography. The printer’s drawer (that now hangs on my wall) means so much to me–it made the history of movable type real to me. In light of studying about print and typography, I really appreciate what Gutenberg did for us. Written communication is all around us today; in fact, there is no end to what can be found. Books are so precious to us. John Milton said it best: “A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit, embalmed and treasured up on purpose to a life beyond life.”

And best yet, according to Daniel J. Boorstein: “A wonderful thing about a book, in contrast to a computer screen, is that you can take it to bed with you.” (Revised 2/16/2006)


Source by Debbie Jensen


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