The Gutenberg Revolution
At the age of twelve I wrote in a school essay that Johann Gutenberg was the inventor of printing, only to be told that the honour belonged to William Caxton. I have been somewhat hazy on the subject ever since, and agreed to review this book as much as anything in order to find out exactly what Herr Gutenberg actually did.
The answer is that Gutenberg and a group of businessmen and craftsmen, working first in Strasbourg and then in Mainz, did indeed develop printing as a practical industry during the 1450s. John Man emphasizes that the various technical requirements were widely available by this time, for example the presses used for producing wine and olive oil were adapted for printing, but it was Gutenberg’s genius and vision over a long period of development that brought them together into a workable process.
Mr Man’s book makes a highly readable account of a fascinating subject, and brings one area of 15th Century society – the prosperous urban tradesmen – to life. As an academic, however, I found the absence of references frustrating. Worth reading.