Thursday, September 8, 2016

Gutenberg's genius

Gutenberg (b. 1398) was the first European to use the printing press and movable type in Europe. Among his many contributions to printing are: 1- the invention of a process for mass-producing movable type, 2- the use of oil-based ink for printing books, 3- adjustable molds, 4- mechanical movable type, 5- the use of a wooden printing press similar to the agricultural screw presses of the period.

His genius is to combine all these elements into a practical system that allowed the mass production of printed books and was economically viable for printers and readers alike. So in a sense, Gutenberg is the John Ford of printing.

The moveable type for the printing press allowed Gutenberg to create multiples of the same page. It also allowed him to quickly change the letters and make another page. The printing press was made of many different components. Many important documents were made with this invention. Some of the documents were made right away, like the 95 Thesis. It was able to change mistakes, and style text. The invention was an idea of true genius.

Summarizing: A hard metal punch (made by punch-cutting, with the letter carved back to front) is hammered into a softer copper bar, creating a matrix. The matrix can be reused to create hundreds, or thousands, of identical sorts so that the same character appearing anywhere within the book will appear very uniform, giving rise, over time, to the development of distinct styles of typefaces or fonts. After casting, the sorts are arranged into type-cases, and used to make up pages which are inked and printed, a procedure which can be repeated hundreds, or thousands, of times. The sorts can be reused in any combination, earning the process the name of "movable type."