Other Free Encyclopedias » Science Encyclopedia » Science & Philosophy: Positive Number to Propaganda - World War Ii » Printing - History Of Printing, The Gutenberg Revolution, Conventional Printing Methods, Letterpress, Large Presses, Printing Pictures - Photogravure, Dot-matrix printers

Printing - The Gutenberg Revolution

type letter letters printed

The first European to successfully use movable type was probably Johann Gutenberg, who was born in Germany in 1397. Gutenberg hit upon the notion of cutting each letter in the alphabet on the end of a small stick. Each letter was then pressed into a small square of metal, and when Gutenberg had a letter-shaped hollow for each letter of the alphabet, he could produce type.

Gutenberg fitted four pieces of wood around the letter-shaped hollow, called a matrix, to form an open box. He then poured molten metal into the box, allowing it fill up the matrix. After the metal had cooled and hardened, the sides of the box were removed, leaving a small block with the letter in relief.

Gutenberg reassembled the box to produce as many copies of each letter as he needed. The walls of the box formed a mold that could be adjusted to fit all letters. This mold made possible the development of a less expensive and faster method of printing than had previously been in use.

By trial and error, Gutenberg discovered that the best metal for his type was a mixture of lead, tin, and antimony. This alloy had the advantage that it did not shrink when cooled, so all letters resembled the original matrix, and the pieces of type could be linked in rows. Alloys of lead, tin, and antimony are still used to make type.

The first book of any note to be printed with movable type was Gutenberg's Bible, published in 1456. Copies are still in existence. Printed in Latin, its pages consist of two columns of type, each 42 lines long. It is 1282 pages long. In producing this book, the type was arranged on each page, and inked before the paper was pressed down on it. Gutenberg may have used a wine press fitted with a heavy screw to press the paper against the type. After removing the sheet of paper, the type would then have been re-inked before another sheet of paper was placed on it.

Gutenberg printed about 200 Bibles in a five-year period. Each of the printed characters in the Bible was made to resemble handwriting. Because the type in the Gutenberg Bible makes the printed page very dark, it is called black letter. Gutenberg's Bible has wide margins, and the pages are well designed.

Gutenberg died in poverty. But his invention rapidly spread to other countries in Europe. By the time that Columbus was setting off for the New World, around 14,000 separate books had been printed in Europe. As hundreds of copies of each of these books could be found, there may have been as many as 20 million books in Europe at the time.

European printers continued to experiment with Gutenberg's technology. To make printed type easier to read, the Frenchman Nicolas Jensen introduced serifs, or tiny tails, at the end of his letters. This innovation had the effect of causing the reader's eye to skip from one letter to the next. This type eventually became more popular than Gutenberg's black letter type, and the letters are now known as Roman-style letters, because they were designed to resemble the stone carvings in ancient Rome.

Aldus Manutius designed a narrow slanting type, now called italic in honor of Italy where Manutius lived. This enabled Manutius to place many words on a single page, and small, cheap books soon became readily available.

The early European printers arranged their type by hand, character by character in a process known as typesetting. Type was stored in cabinet drawers, called cases. Each case held a complete set of type in a particular style and size, called a font. It was the convention for printers to keep their capital letters, now referred to as upper-case letters, separate from their small, or lower-case, letters.

Letters were removed from the type case, and arranged in rows in a small metal tray. Space bars were inserted to adjust the width of the line. Filling out a line became known as justification.

When the metal tray had been filled with justified lines, the lines were transferred to a larger metal tray called a galley. The galley was inked when the printer had made sure that there were no mistakes in the set type. The printed sheet of paper that was produced became known as the galley proof.

At first, European printers traveled from town to town, taking their type and small hand-operated presses with them. They became known as journeyman printers. Later, when plenty of shops had been established where they could practice their trade, itinerant printers traveled about with only their skills.

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over 10 years ago

this is pretty useful for my project, thanks!

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over 11 years ago

This article is pretty good but where in the country of Germany was this Bible printed, I mean i have to do this puzzle for school and thats one of the things that I have to find out but all I know is that the city/town (which ever it is) has an "i" for the 3rd letter so if you could find that out and get back to me ASAP that would be great! It really is a great article/webpage by the way.

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almost 6 years ago

I hope you to consider changing your website errors

Dear webmaster

First of all, I'd like to express my respect for your website such an excellent and valuable contents.

VANK is a cyber diplomatic mission whose goal is to raise the national image of Korea throughout the world.

We are carrying out a variety of activities to introduce valuable information about Korea to foreigners around the world

who don't know about Korea, and show a national image of a "Friendly Korea, Friends of the World"

in the hearts of the people around the world by promoting international exchange with foreigners and Koreans.

I am a member of VANK, cyber diplomatic envoy mission, and have a great interest in the metalloid type considered one of the greatest inventions

in human history for its capability of mass delivery of information.

I believe that the metalloid type made Reformation of the Christianity and Renaissance success in world history and,

in the 21st century, even global knowledge network with Internet system as well.

With such interest in the metalloid type, while I researched and examined the column of global printing described in world major textbooks,

websites and encyclopedia, I happened to find inaccurate historical record of the metalloid type from the website operated by your company.

Therefore I take this chance to let you know of it and to ask to correct.


Please refer the following in your website




Although he[Gutenberg] was not the first to try casting metal type?the Chinese had tried it and found it too difficult

to do properly?he created the first system for casting type so that the letters could form a flat surface, essential to their use in printing.


Such an error in a well known organization as yours comes as a surprise

since we regard you as one of the world's best.


so, I hope you to consider changing as below


The Korean invented movable metal type printing in the early 13th century. The oldest extant metal type printing is

"Baegun Hwasang Chorok Buljo jikji simche yojeol," abbreviated to "Jikji," which was published in 1377 Cheungju,

Korea and is currently kept in France National Library.


"Jikji" a buddhist doctrinal book called as "Jikjisimcheyojeol" or "Jikji" in short form is the oldest book among

existing books made by metalloid type. It had been made in 1377, 78 years earlier than "the Bible in 48 lines"

made by Gutenberg of German which has been known as the first book made by metalloid type in about 1455,

and is under custody of the National Library of France.

For your reference, I'd like to tell you that UNESCO confirmed "Jikji" as the world oldest metalloid type in September ,

2001 and officially recognized and certified "Jikji" as the Memory of the World.

If you visit below website, you may find the website of UNESCO related to "Jikji" and systematic evidence showing that

"Jikji" was the first metalloid type in the world.

→ Website of UNESCO related to "Jikji"


→ Introduction Jikji and its value


Your web site takes a critical roll as a window to deliver the accurate historical fact and truth

to the netizens in the world who have interest in world history.

It"ll be our appreciation if you introduce the true story of the

"Jikji" to deliver the accurate historical truth to the people in the world.

We wish to revive the spirit of creation that contributed to all people in the world by development of the world first metalloid type,

the greatest invention of the 14th century in human history, by our voluntary strive in these days. And we wish to make Korea,

which has grown as one of the great nations of information and communication in the 21st century,

to be recorded one more time as the nation which contributes for all people of the world in world history,

and to tell the people of the world of the national image of Korea.

We need your support and cooperation to achieve our dream.

Thank you, and we would appreciate your favorable consideration.

* Contact to VANK



"Though it is the smallest of all your seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree,

so that the birds of the air come and perch in its branches." - [Matthew] -

VANK stands for - "Voluntary Agency Network of Korea", a civilian international exchange association in Korea.

We work for the promotion of Korea's image all over the world by Internet. VANK was established in 1999 by volunteers,

and now has over 12,000 members. Using email or internet we serve as cyber travel guides to overseas Koreans and foreigners

so that they can understand Korean culture and language better, and at the same time we hope we build international friendships.

VANK is a great chance for those who are interested in Korean language, arts, cultural education, history, geography, social studies,

sciences to learn about our country, and we also welcome with open arms anyone just wanting to make Korean friends!


Their claim that the East Sea has some historical precedent worked, as some major book and map publishers,

educational web sites and other reference materials now include the East Sea name along with the Sea of Japan. - worldatlas.com-


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over 7 years ago