Johannes Gutenberg Johannes Gensfleisch, know as Gutenberg, was born around 1400 (at the latest, however, in 1406 ) as son of Friedel Gensfleisch Zur Laden and its wife Else Wirich in Mainz. He lived with his parents and his elder brother and sister, Friele and Else, probably in the manor "hot zum Gutenberg" after which he also named himself later.
Gutenberg's paternal ancestors, the Gensfleischs, were wealthy merchants and belonged to the privileged Mainz patriciate.
School and Studies Not one single document has survived about Gutenberg's infancy and youth. As the son of a wealthy patrician and merchant, Johannes had to learn reading, writing, arithmetic and Latin. In order to acquire this knowledge, he probably attended one of the renowned monastic or collegiate foundation schools in Mainz.
Education at a Latin school was usually followed by study at university. The university was the most important place of higher learning in the Middle Ages.
Departure from Mainz From the year 1420 comes the first certain piece of news about Gutenberg. We learn from scanty note only that Johannes was already of legal age in 1420 - that means over 14 years of age - as he was not represented by a guardian.
There are no documentary records of any kind about Gutenberg's following years. However, he was living in Mainz at the end of the 1420s and became involved in the legal disputes between the guilds and patricians. As a consequence he had to leave the city with many patricians.
So we find his name in a conciliation agreement of Aichbishop Konrad listed among those who are expressly described as "non-resident" and to whom a return immune from punishment was assured.
Stay in Strasbourg From March 1434 on at the latest, Gutenberg lived a little way outside of Strasbourg near the monastery of St.Arbogast.
In Strasbourg, Guetenberg, together with Hans Riffle, Andreas Dritzehn and Andreas Hellmann, founded an association for the manufacture of "Aachen pilgrims' mirrors" - these were pilgrimage emblems for which there was a great demand.
At the end of 1438, Gutenberg and his partners decided on a second, very costly project which they called "aventur und kunst" (enterprise and art) and in which they possibly occupied themselves with the first attempts at the new printing technique.
When one of the partners died, his heirs tried to sue their way into the undertaking, but they lost their case.
Gutenberg needed a lot of capital for his project. In 1442, he took out a loan from the collegiate foundation of St. Thomas in Strasbourg. Despite the loan,Gutenberg lived in a financialIy secure situation as is proved by various documents.
Return to Mainz ad First Attempts at Printing In October 148 at the latest, Gutenberg had retumed to Mainz. In that month, his relative Amold Gelthus proured him a loan of 150 gulden. With this loan, Gutenberg probably built up a workshop and tried out the most important components of his invention, the had-casting device ad the printing press. In order to develop the complex technique of printing with movable metal letters, Gtenberg had to invest a great deal of time and money. The first small printed works were probably school grammars and calendars that were easy to sell.
They were printed using a larger gothic typeface which is called" Donatus-Calendar type" after these printed works.
The Bible Project Around 149/50 Gutenberg was able to persuade the wealthy Mainz entrepreneur Johann Fust to grant him a loan of 800 gulden. With a fu同her 800 gulden a litle wile later Fust became a partner in a joint printing venture which subsequently printed the" B 42", an imposing Vulgate Bible with almost 1300 pages. A new type had to be designed for this and workers taught to be typesetters and printers.
Already in autumn 145, Enea Piccolomini, the later Pope Pius I, was able to admire finished quires at the Frankur Autumn Fair. He also repots to us that the printing of the Bible had already been completed in 1455.
The Fust Lawsuit The successful completion of the Bible project - at the end of 1454/ beginning of 1455 - was overshadowed by a dispute about the profit. The differences of opinion were so serious that Fust sued his partner Gutenberg for the immediate repayment of al loans. There is no record of the exact outcome of the lawsuit, but Gutenberg had to repay at least the loan of 800 gulden and al the interest that had on that.
After the lawsuit, the joint printing shop was presumably divided up. Johann Fust was probably able to take possession of the greatest part of the workshop inventor and founded a second printing shop in Mainz together with a former employee of Gutenberg, the scribe Peter Schoffer.
Donatus-Calendar Type in Perfection: B36 Despite the loss of large pats of the Bible workshop, Gutenberg would seem to have continued printing in a workshop of his own using his first typeface, the Donatus-Calendar type.The French King Charles sent his stamp-cutter, Nikolaus Jenson, to this printing shop in 1458 in order to learn the new technique from Gutenberg.
In the following years, Gutenberg developed his Donatus-Calendar type further into a new typeface variant with which a second edition of the Bible was completed in 1460 following the model of the "B42". This Bible has only 36 lines per page and is therefore known as the"B36". However, the place of its production was probably not Mainz, but Bamberg (South Germany) .
Gutenberg may possibly have arranged to send personnel and equipment to the archbishop there for money.
The Final Mystery: Catholicon Between 1457 and 1460, Gutenberg's workshop would seem to have been involved as well in a further large printing job which appeared in Mainz for the first time in 1460, the" Catholicon". A new type was produced for this extensive scholarly dictionary in Latin.
Appointed a Courier When the dispute over the succession to the archiepiscopal see broke out, Gutenberg's life was once again influenced by the political turmoil in the city of Mainz. In 1462, Adolf II von Nassau conquered and devastated the cit. Many burghers had now to leave the ct. Gutenberg also moved to the safety of Eltville. Here he probably supported the BehterOnze brothers who were setting up a printing shop at just about that time.
The new archbishop of Mainz, Adolf II von Nassau, also resided in Eltville, He had become aware of the inventor and appointed him a courier in 1465 "in recognition of his services".
Gutenbrg probably spent the last years of his life in his native ct again. He lived, if one may believe a Mainz chronicle of the 15th century, just a few yards away from his parental home in the " Algesheimer Hof ”.
Johannes Gensfleisch, known as Gutenberg, died in February 1468 and was buried in the Franciscan church in Mainz. This date of death has come down to us through to contemporary witnesses.