Johannes Gutenberg: Spreading the Good News
What is written here is not written by pen. But by pen is how all printing was done when Johannes Gutenberg came into the world. He changed the distribution of writing. By creating the movable type printing press, books and documents could be printed much faster than by hand. From this printing press, he most famously printed his Gutenberg Bible, a large 42-line Bible. Gutenberg had set the stage for printing books in large quantities, which afforded the common people opportunities of reading and learning.
One main command of the gospel is to spread it, to tell the Good News. Johannes Gutenberg endeavored to do so in his trade as a goldsmith. He used his profession and his innovative mind to spread the gospel more than anyone of his day could imagine. His Gutenberg Bible contains these words: “God suffers in the multitude of souls whom His word can not reach. Religious truth is imprisoned in a small number of manuscript books, which confine instead of spread the public treasure. Let us break the seal which seals up holy things and give wings to Truth in order that she may win every soul that comes into the world by her word no longer written at great expense by hands easily palsied, but multiplied like the wind by an untiring machine.”
Johannes Gutenberg grew up learning how to work metal, as his father worked at a mint. By the time the idea of the printing press shot into his head, he had the knowledge to craft metal type for printing. By 1440, he had his wooden printing press complete and began using the movable metal type to print indulgences and other documents.
Gutenberg’s printing press allowed him to mass-produce other works over the next ten years. By 1450, Gutenberg had taken out a loan to put his printing press in full operation back in his hometown, Mainz, Germany. The focus of printing turned to the Bible. The first full book, the Gutenberg Bible, was published in 1455. As many as one hundred and eighty copies of the 42-line Bible were printed, some of which still exist today.
Unfortunately, trouble also came in the same year. Johann Fust, Gutenberg’s business partner sued him and won in court. This caused Gutenberg to lose most of what he had created, but he was able to open a new shop in just a few years.
Widespread fame did not come to Gutenberg upon his invention. In fact, when Fust took over the printing shop, he didn’t even mention Gutenberg in any projects, although he was using Gutenberg’s invention. Upon beginning a new printing operation, Johannes Gutenberg went right back to printing the Bible. However, none of his printed books have his name recorded in them. He wasn’t after fame. He was printing the Word of God for people to read and be spoken to.
Gutenberg’s contributions were finally recognized in 1465, just three years before his death. His contributions, however, had an unthinkable lasting impact on society. Scientific discoveries could be published and spread much faster, increasing the opportunity for scientific advancement. All sorts of news and literary works could be circulated to the common person.
Gutenberg was a goldsmith. But he did not let that seemingly common profession go to waste. Instead, by creating the movable type printing press, he changed the course of history and spread the Good News just like God commanded him to do. About his press, he said, “Yes, it is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall soon flow in inexhaustible streams the most abundant and most marvelous liquor that has ever flowed to relieve the thirst of man! Through it God will spread His Word. A spring of pure truth shall flow from it! Like a new star, it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine among men.”