The Invention of the Printing Press
The printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg, has been called the most significant invention of all time. Born in 1395 in the German city of Mainz, Gutenberg was a goldsmith and a gem cutter, all the while acquiring knowledge about the properties of metals. Gutenberg was a master of metallurgy.
With financial backing from a partner, Johann Fust, Gutenberg perfected a movable type cast in metal that could be evenly spaced and set on a printing press. This was a revolutionary advancement in 1440, the year Gutenberg completed his wooden printing press and his new-fashioned metal type. This new type consisted of the metals lead, antimony, and tin and was fashioned into 290 separate symbols. Gutenberg even formulated special ink from boiled linseed oil and soot to enhance the visual appeal of the mass printing of words, which turned into pages and pages, and then whole books. He so finely tuned his invention that it enabled him to squeeze water out of the paper, while simultaneously printing on it.
Clay type had been invented and utilized in China 400 years earlier, but it was inefficient and cumbersome compared to the durable metal type employed in the Gutenberg machine. In the past, a craftsman carved a block of wood, leaving raised the section to be printed. One page of text often required that several blocks of wood be joined together.
Gutenberg's movable metal type has earned him the title of the Father of Modern Printing. His
The printing press and its moveable type had a profound impact on the spread of philosophy. “Knowledge is power,” as the saying goes, and the proliferation of great thoughts by great thinkers had the potential to make philosophers out of Everyman. The big, wide, wonderful world of ideas was suddenly open to all, something the powers-that-be were not entirely crazy about. Kings and politicians lost their luster, and the Church found its mystical power diminished. Ideas were read and savored and inspired by the mass production of the printed word. The New Age had begun.