Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, birth name Johannes, called name Henne, (around *1400 in Mainz; † February 3, 1468 in Mainz) was the inventor of printing with movable letter.
Gensfleisch is born in Mainz in the Hof zum Gutenberg and probably on 24 June (Midsummer Day) in the parish church of St. Christoph baptized.
Gutenberg's father, Friele Gensfleisch, dies in Mainz. The following year, Gutenberg and his siblings have to deal with her stepsister Patze because of the inheritance of the common Father in court.
The registry of the University of Erfurt shows for the winter semester 1419/20 a Johannes de Altavilla, which may well have been Johannes Gutenberg, without being a hundred percent certain though.
In Mainz there is, inter alia, because of the parlous financial situation of the city repeated clashes between the politically ruling families, which are each supported by the patricians of the city or the artisan guilds. In protest against the tax receivables of mainly composed of representatives of the guilds Council many members of the traditional ruling class, ie, the patrician families leave the city, including Gutenberg and the family Gensfleisch.
The were about of Gutenberg for this year is uncertain.
Gutenberg's mother, Else Wirich, dies in Mainz; Her estate is divided among the three children Friele, Else and Henne (John) Gensfleisch.
First mention of Gutenberg's longtime residence in Strasbourg (1434-1444). In the document we learn, that Gutenberg was responsible for the imprisonment of the City of Mainz clerk 'Nicholas von Wörrstadt' in Strasbourg to force 310 guilders lagging pension payments from the Council of the City of Mainz.
Gutenberg is accused by the Strasbourg citizen daughter 'Ennelin von der Isern Türe' because of non-compliance with vows before the ecclesiastical court in Strasbourg. Whether Gutenberg and Ennelin married then is as well as the outcome of the action not known. During the trial, Gutenberg called Niklaus Schott, a witness of Ennelin, as poor, makeshift man who leads a sad life with lies and deceit scanty. As a consequence, Gutenberg is sued by Niklaus Schott for libel and sentenced to a payment of 15 guilders.
In the entries of the Strasbourg "Helbeling-Zollbuches", a wine duty- or tax registry, Gutenberg appears first among the "Halbkonstofelern", meaning the not yet all full members of the patrician Association of "Konstofeler", but in addition also as a semi-member of the goldsmiths' guild and in the list of those who were no guild members at all. In a banns list of the city in case of war, Gutenberg, however, is reported for the year 1443/44 to support the group of patrician or Konstofeler with half a horse as his supply-defence-contribution. His social status during the Strasbourg period thus remains unclear, but probably corresponded to that of a so-called Free Master.
Gutenberg has to answer in 1439 to a trial before the Strasbourg council. The minutes of the proceedings, including extensive testimony, are the authoritative sources to Gutenberg's business, arts and crafts activities in Strasbourg. They report on a teaching and working Gutenberg's with various community Strasbourg citizens, including Andreas Dritzehn, for the production of so-called Pilgrimage mirrors for the large Aachen pilgrimage, but also mention a second business community as well as a secret art of Gutenberg, who had to maintain the partnership strictly. As in connection with this trade secret, a press and material for "trucken" (printing) is mentioned. One may assume within all probability, that Gutenberg has already been implemented in Strasbourg various elements of his invention into practice and already performed first printing tests.
In connection with a loan of 100 pounds of Strasbourg denarii, which the squire Johann Karle has borrowed from Strasbourg's Home of St Thomas, Gutenberg occurs as a wealthy guarantor. Just one year later Gutenberg himself takes a loan of 80 pounds of the same currency St Thomas which he until his death cannot repay and is prosecuted multiple times at various courts, among those, the imperial royal court in Rottweil.
1444 - 1448
For this period no news or activities of Gutenberg have been documented.
Gutenberg returned to Mainz and is taking, by recommendation of his relative Arnold Gelthuß a loan of 150 guilders at 5% interest which he probably used to perfect his invention further.
Gutenberg printed a poem of the Last Judgment in German language for a 1360 in Thuringia written "Sibyllenbuch". Probably the earliest Gutenberg attributed print is obtained only as a small fragment and place and year of publication could not be clarified until today.
The lawyer Johann Fust of Mainz lent Gutenberg initially a sum of 800 guilders for Gutenberg's costly project, which also requires constructing from scratch a whole workshop and wage-receiving apprentices. Fust may be involved in 1452 again with a further payment of 800 guilders as a participant of the joint enterprise, or, as it is called in some sources, 'the work of books'.
Printing of the 42-line Bible in Latin with an estimated circulation of about 180 copies, including ca. 30 on parchment. First copies are for sale in the form of unbound printed fascicles already in autumn 1454 during the "Frankfurter Reichstages" by a "miraculous man" (vir mirabilis), which may have been Gutenberg himself.
In Gutenbergs workshop, the 30- or 31-line so called "Zyprischen Ablassbriefe" (Cypriot indulgences) are printed whose proceeds Pope Calixtus III wants to use to finance a crusade against the Turks in Cyprus.
About the trial filed by Fust against Gutenberg, in connection of no payment of interests and capital, a document by the notary Ulrich Helmasperger mentions a so-called 'Helmasperger Notarial Instrument' of 11.06.1455. Although only some few pieces of the entire process still exist today, it represents our most important source about Gutenberg's business connections to Fust and the printing of the 42-line Bible.
In the trial, the outcome is not clearly documented; Gutenberg loses probably the entire Bible printing as well as large portions of his printer workshop.
In the printer's workshop Fust-Schöffer the "Mainz Psalter" is completed as the first example of a three-color printing. A second version, textual heavily modified though, is published in 1459.
During the course of the dispute between the two competing archbishops of Mainz Adolf of Nassau, the pope's favourite candidate is taking over the city on 29 October during the night with self-initiated riots. Mainz is looted and partly destroyed. Many families are banished for a long time of Mainz, leaving their farms and much of their possessions to the partisan of Adolf of Nassau. Even the Estate of Gutenberg changed in these years ownership, suggesting that Johannes Gutenberg also was among the losers and victims of the bishop's feud. Also some various family member of Johannes Gutenberg were documented in exile in the City of Frankfurt during these years.
The Archbishop of Mainz Adolf of Nassau appoints Johannes Gutenberg to his courtier and grants him until the end of his life generous wine, grain and clothing donations, and freedom from taxes and services which usually being charged by the elector from the citizen of Mainz. The background of this award could not yet be clarified.
On 3 February, 1468 Johannes Gutenberg died in 'Hof zum Algesheimer' and is in the Franciscan Church at Mainz (resigned 1742) buried. Within the same month the former City Counsel Dr Konrad Humery receives various printing devices, which Gutenberg had borrowed from Humery previously, with the definite condition for use within the city of Mainz only.
A first obituary of Johannes Gutenberg, written by Adam Gelthuß with the note that Gutenberg was buried in the Franciscan church in Mainz, is first published in Peter Friedberg's in Mainz printed book "Ad illustrissimum Bavariae ducem Philippum".
Ivo Wittig, Professor of the University of Mainz has in the Hof zum Gutenberg (Gutenbergs Birthplace) a memorial stone put, with an inscription in Latin: "Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz, who was the first of all who invented the art of printing and who has made an outstanding contribution to this art around the world"
The first fictional Gutenberg portrait appears as a woodcut in the Latin edition of Heinrich Pantaleon biography of "Famous Germans in Basel". In the just three years later published German edition, there is already a second portrait of the inventor, which is based also on no authentic or contemporary template. We have no true records of Gutenbergs actual looks.
The scripture "Vindication Gutenbergs" is being published in Leipzig by JD Köhler.
A meeting of European astronomers in Gotha decides to incorporate the location between the constellations ship, Unicorn and Great Dog (canis major) constellation as a constellation "Gutenberg" into the astronomy map. This decision was implemented by J.E.Bode. There were at least two editions of its widespread sky maps. On both, the printer's workshop and the Officina Typographica / Atelier Typographique are located. Around 1825 those cards were used as a template as an interesting teaching materials for self-study of the starry sky, the "Urania's Mirror". This map collection was established in 1993 and reprinted in C. Tennant's "The Box of Stars", including the constellation "Atelier Typographique".
Erection of the first figurative Gutenberg memorial, created by the sculpture Joseph Scholl (now situated in the administrative building of the Gutenberg Museum) in "Hof zum Gutenberg" in Mainz.
The astronomers Beer and Maedler named in their "Mappa Selenographica" a lunar crater "Guttemberg". This was later by International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1935 recognized as Gutenberg.
Inauguration of the Gutenberg monument by the neo-classical sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, which stood model for many more monuments to come.
Foundation of the Gutenberg Museum to commemorate the 500th birthday of Johannes Gutenberg.
The Gutenberg Museum receives the title: World Museum of Printing Arts.
The 500th anniversary of the death of Johannes Gutenberg is commemorated around the globe.
The digital printing technique has been invented and is on its way to conquer the scrip and image media.
The Time–Life magazine picked Gutenberg's invention as the most important of the second millennium.
US-American journalist elect Johannes Gutenberg as the „Man of the Millennium“ and also name him "the most important person of the second Millennium".
The A&E Network ranked Gutenberg the No. 1 most influential person of the second millennium in their "Biographies of the Millennium" countdown.
The city of Mainz celebrates the "Gutenberg Year" on the occasion of the 600th birthday of Gutenberg.
From printed books to e-books - thanks to new reading devices, which let their displays look like printed digital texts and images. The book industry is facing serious challenges. Is the art of classical printing coming to an end?
Interesting web links for these subjects are:
www.d-nb.de/ - Deutsche Nationalbibliothek