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The Geek Atlas by John Graham-Cumming

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023

The Gutenberg Museum, Mainz, Germany

gkat_023.pdf49° 59 59 N, 8° 16 31 E

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Movable Type

This book exists because of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of movable type in about 1450. Gutenberg’s life and printing revolution are commemorated in his home city of Mainz at the Gutenberg Museum.

Prior to 1450, printing was performed by carving each page to be printed on a wooden block. The block was inked and paper pressed against it. Gutenberg revolutionized the entire printing industry by separating the text into individual letters, spaces, and punctuation. Each letter was hand-carved onto a small metal block, which was then used to make a mold (called a matrix) by placing it against a piece of copper and hitting it with a hammer. The copper mold could then be used to make many identical letters.

A page was composed by choosing individual letters and laying them out to form words and lines. The laid-out page would then be inked and printed by using a screw press to press the paper to the page. The highlight of the Gutenberg Museum is the demonstration of this entire process using a reproduction of a 16th-century wooden screw press.

The museum also has two of the original Gutenberg Bibles. The ...

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