Johannes Gutenberg was a printer and a publisher. His invention of the movable type, started the printing revolution, and ushered in the modern period of human history – a history that can now be printed easily.
Not much is known of Gutenberg’s early life, and how he came about to invent the movable type printer. There is general consensus that by 1450s, he did have an established printing press. However, Gutenberg was plagued with one financial misadventure after another.
To bankroll the printing press, Gutenberg roped in Johann Fust, a wealthy moneylender (and Peter Schoffer, a scribe that helped with the typeface). The new venture worked well, with the printing of multiple books – one of which was the Bible. In a couple of years, it quickly turned sour . Fust accused Gutenberg of misusing funds. The courts declared in favour of Fust, and soon enough, Gutenberg was for all practical purposes bankrupt.
While Gutenberg did run a small printing press after this set back, his printed books never did reference his name or a date. Fust and Schoffer, on the other hand, did print their name and date on a book, the Mainz Psalter (August 1947), and became the first publisher do so. They also mentioned the mechanical process that they used to help accomplish this, with no mention of their former partner…
In his lifetime, Gutenberg may have been financially unsuccessful. But, printing technologies did spread, and have a profound impact on how we communicated and interacted. Eventually, it became a major catalyst for a scientific revolution. With Gutenberg’s movable type printing techniques, book production increased substantially.
What took years for scribes to copy by hand, took days. Books that were circulated in the tens, were now being circulated in the thousands.
It is for this reason, Gutenberg was named the most influential person of the millennium.