Johannes Gutenberg Research Paper

Since the creation of the first printing press in the fifthteenth century by Johannes Gutenberg, printing has come a long way with modern printers able to print thousands of books in a matter of days. The first form of printing that is known of appeared in China in something called block printing. Block printing was the transfer of ink to paper from carvings of characters in small wooden blocks and was used on playing cards and paper money (Kreis, Steven).

The first movable type was also created in China in the eleventh century by Bi Sheng using baked clay (“Technological Advances during the Song”). These forms of printing had eventually reached Europe by the thirteenth century, along with gunpowder and the compass, and, in the words of Francis Bacon, “. . . changed the whole face and stage of things throughout the world, the first in literature, the second in warfare, the third in navigation . . . ” (“Technological Advances during the Song”).

The history and influence of the printing press goes back a long way but took off in Germany where Johannes Gutenberg invented the first printing press which in turn influenced the literacy of people, the spread of religion, and the spread of scientific discoveries all over Europe. The inventor of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg, was born in the late fourteenth century, lived as a son of a noble family in Germany. He was a former goldsmith before and had created an alloy made of lead, tin, and antimony that was very durable (Kreis, Steven).

Using this alloy, he was able to create a printing press that was easy to use because of its pieces being reusable. Gutenberg is most famous for the printing of 200 of his Gutenberg Bibles, sold at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1455. These bibles were expensive and elaborate with a price equal to three years worth of pay for an average clerk (Kreis, Steven). In order to create these bibles, Gutenberg borrowed lots of money from Johann Fust and never returned it, which led Fust to suing Gutenberg and getting some of Gutenberg’s printing equipment (Who was Johann Gutenberg and what do we know about him? ).

Johannes Gutenberg played a key role in the spreading of the printing press and its functions because of these bibles which were sold all around Europe and introduced the idea of the printing press, By that time many other countries had acquired a kind of printing press and were using it to mass produce literature. The increase in creation of written pieces, allowed for a higher literacy rate among people, especially laypeople. The mass production of books that had been made after the Gutenberg Bible were available not only to the elite who could afford them but also to the general public. It was estimated that “. . . y 1500 there were fifteen to twenty million copies of 30,000 to 35,000 separate publications” (Arthur, Peter).

Although most of these books dealt with religion, people, upper and middle class, bought books on many other subjects, including science. The first person to make a real use out of the printing press was Erasmus, a European writer who strongly criticized some of the Church’s workings. The Gutenberg Bible was a luxury item so it was harder to obtain, but Erasmus distributed pamphlets written in Latin to the educated people of Europe; as a result, more and more people were in possession of literature (Witt et al. 52-53).

The printing press enabled the availability of books and other written pieces all throughout Europe and opened way for literacy to reach more than those who could afford an education, or the higher class. The presence of the printing press also led way to the spreading of more than just literacy. Religion and culture during the fourteenth through the fifteenth centuries was just as prominent as it had been before; but with the creation of a new printing device, religious ideas and culture could spread faster and thoroughly to Europe and beyond.

A good example of this is Italian humanism, which made its way north faster than intended. As written in The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, by American historian of nineteenth century France Elizabeth Eisenstein, “Staffs of vernacular translators were mobilized; fewer trips over the Alps had to be made; dictionaries and thesauruses lessened reliance on personal encounters and the service of emigres” (Eisenstein 177). Had this not occurred, humanism may have never spread and, therefore, may have stopped being studied.

In the case of Christianity, Eisenstein found that printed works such as bibles, sermons, breviaries, and even calendars and almanacs became staples of Rhineland trade in Germany and were shipped throughout the country. A final example of the spreading of religion through the use of printing was the knowledge of the power of the Pope in the Catholic Church. Catholicism was able to spread much faster and influence a larger region than it had before.

All this an more impacted Europe significantly because religion became even more of an important aspect in daily life, especially once the Reformation took place, and the printing press became a great aid in the spread of knowledge. Not long after the creation of the printing press, there was an explosion in science and technology. The most important part of the advancement of these two things was the preservation of knowledge in standardized form which initiated an “information revolution” similar to the internet (Kreis, Steven).

The easier access to scientific discoveries through printing led to what later became known as the Scientific Revolution, or the emergence of modern science during the early modern period. In the Ways of the World: A Global History with Sources textbook by Robert Strayer, it informs that the initial breakthrough in this revolution came from Polish mathematician and astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus who had written a book titled On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres in which he shattered the idea that everything revolved around Earth by revealing evidence that the Earth, in fact, revolved around the sun (Strayer 742).

Due to the publishing of this book, other scientists such as Galileo and Johannes Kepler were able to find and build on his findings. Another scientist that had broken traditional views of the region was Charles Darwin, also mentioned in the textbook, whose famous books The Descent of Man and The Origin of Species brought up the idea of evolution and therefore again initiated further scientific study (Strayer 748).

Without the use of printing, neither of these scientists would have been able to spread their ideas as far as they had with the publication of their books. In conclusion, the invention of the printing press in Europe by Johannes Gutenberg was a very impactful invention because it increased literacy rates aided in the spreading of religious, cultural, and scientific ideas. All of this was just what the printing press had done in Europe in its time which was during the Protestant Reformation, the Scientific Revolution and the Renaissance in Italy.

It was one of the many reasons these largely studied periods in history occurred and why other forms of knowledge spread across the world as well. Its use was found all over and not just in Europe because even Buddhist monks were traveling with printed copies of their religious ideas, which they spread throughout the East. Just this one invention had such an impact on people’s everyday lives that it has been created and recreated over and over to get to where it is today, producing millions of books that are sold all across the world.