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Printing History 101 Shared from a Phoenix Printshop

Do you know printing history? I bet it’s not something they covered in the public school system. I’m not generally a gambler so I won’t bet the farm on it.

Print History 101 -Who Was Gutenberg?

Printing History-Guttenburg
Johannes Gutenberg (1398-1468), was a goldsmith from the mining town of Mainz in southern Germany. His name is associated with printing, not because he invented it, but because he invented a machine that automated and revolutionized it: the moveable type printing press.

Before his invention, he was involved in what sounds like a scam to me: he manufactured polished metal mirrors sold to religious pilgrims in Aachen. Customers were told these mirrors could capture holy light from religious relics. This enterprise failed, but from it he is said to have received inspiration to build a printing machine.


Printing History – Is this what a phoenician scribe looked like?

Scriptoria, or writing shops, were the printshops of the day. Each page was hand printed by a scribe.

Business was brisk; demand was huge. The The Renaissance saw rapid cultural change in Europe which embraced low-cost written documents, important to expanding literate nations.
Gutenberg saw an enormous profit potential from a machine that could automate the laborious work of a scribe. Movable type meant that letters could be cast once in metal, placed, printed, then removed and used again.

The Chinese had developed a similar kind of moveable type 1200 years earlier. Instead of metal they used clay. They failed to develop it because they didn’t have an alphabet. The West found it easier to make words from letters, than thousands of Chinese characters.

Printing History – The Art of Enterprise

Gutenberg unveiled his research in 1440. He called it “Art and Enterprise.” His press combined existing technologies: textile, papermaking and wine or grape presses (the printing press gets its name from this press). Other significant innovations included inks and casting of metal for moveable type. Eight years later he finally got his print business going. His biggest customer was the Catholic Church which printed various manuals and indulgences.

printing-history-Gutenburg Press

Who knew? The printing press named after the “grape press.” The Fruits of Labor.


Gutenberg designed a Latin print Bible which became his signature work. He printed 300 two-volume Gutenberg Bibles that sold for 30 florins each. That was three years wages.
Gutenberg managed to default on a loan and lost everything. His techniques were made public and his creditor won the rights to the proceeds from the Gutenberg Bibles.

Three years before his death, Johannes, was recognized for his achievements with a stipend and title of the court. The printing press was indeed an astounding achievement!

Printing History was changed with the iPhone

At Arizona’s Fastest Printshop….Printing history is still being made. In our lifetime, we have seen two equally astounding printing developments: the copy machine and digital print (ipads, computers). Hurray for printing! These advances are making printing ‘history.’

I’m just glad people still like to use business cards.