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Gutenberg's Press


Johannes Gutenberg (1400-1468) looked for a better way to make books than copying by hand. He drew together elements from many trades. Noting coin punches, he carved letter punches as molds for casting quantities of identical type. Then, as with block printing, he joined the type into page-sized galleys to be inked and printed. But unlike wood blocks, the type came apart for reassembling, to spell out any word. He converted a wine press so that it would press pages onto the type. This was far superior to the old method of rubbing. Oil-painting technology yielded ink; metallurgical developments provided alloys. Paper was becoming more available. Bringing all these components together, Gutenberg created the first practical means of printing in the West. Although Gutenberg is generally credited with the invention of movable type in the West, Laurens Coster of the Netherlands was probably the first European to make type--in 1440. However, cutting each by hand, instead of casting them in molds, made the process too time consuming for mass production of books.

Sample page from Gutenberg's press.

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