Gutenberg's Printing Press

Johannes Gutenberg invented one of "the machines that made us" (although we don't know very much about him). 

After he introduced his printing press, making it possible to produce books for people everywhere to read - if they could read, that is - Gutenberg changed the world.

Of his press, Gutenberg said:

Like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men.  (See Inventors and Inventions, edited by Doris Simonis, at page 742.)

This is the trailer for "The Machine that Made Us," with Stephen Fry.   The entire documentary shows us the Gutenberg printing press and demonstrates how it works. 

To this day, however, no one knows for sure how Gutenberg made his movable type.  We do know that the first book he printed was The Bible.

NOTE, however, that Gutenberg was not the first person to invent movable type.  History tells us that honor belongs to a Chinese man called Bi Sheng (990-1051) who lived during the Song Dynasty and used Chinese porcelain for his system.

And ... thereafter ... Korea was the first place where a movable-type system was invented which could be used for large-scale printing (because it was made of metal instead of porcelain).  This took place in about 1230 (during the Goryeo Dynasty).  

As a result of the Korean system, the oldest extant book ever to be printed with movable type was a compilation of Buddhist teachings known as Jikji.  That abbreviation stands for "Anthology of Great Buddhist Priests' Zen Teachings." 

That book was reportedly produced in July of 1377 (before Gutenberg's Bible).  UNESCO tells us more about it:

... this book is the world's oldest movable metal type printing evidence available and signifies an important technical change in the print history of humanity.

The BNF (National Library of France) has digitized the Jikji for online viewing.


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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5190stories and lessons created

Original Release: May 07, 2014

Updated Last Revision: May 14, 2015

Media Credits

Trailer for "The Machine that Made Us," copyright BBC, all rights reserved.  Clip provided here as fair use for educational purposes and to acquaint new viewers with the program.  Trailer online courtesy Filmakers Library.


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"Gutenberg's Printing Press" AwesomeStories.com. May 07, 2014. Feb 20, 2020.
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