Movable Type

As part of BBC Four's medieval season Stephen Fry presents a heartfelt tribute to the man who invented the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg. Part biog, part historical engineering experiment, he tracks the man himself to his hometown of Mainz and follows (as far as he is able) his personal story while early printmaking experts attempt to recreate the original press Gutenberg used to print his legendary and groundbreaking Bible. Despite protesting that he is cack-handed at every opportunity Fry tries his hand at carving the double helix screw mechanism required for the press as well as casting lead type and creating paper the 15th century way. His investigations about the life of the man reveal an engineer/entrepreneur supremely placed to capitalise on his ingenious creation by revolutionising the medieval church bureaucracy. The impact of printing was massive and formed the basis for the spread of knowledge that led to the Renaissance and modern life itself. The earliest machine of mass production was shrouded in secrecy and, in the end, failed to net its inventor the wealth he deserved thanks to his unscrupulous investor. It's fascinating to consider how immediate the influence of early printed text turned out to be. In a world where we are surrounded by printed material it's hard to imagine what it must have meant to make books commonplace and (relatively) affordable. It could be compared to the internet in terms of its reach but its probably more important and the fact that from 1450 to 1500 literally millions of printed texts were produced demonstrates how popular it became in a short space of time.

1 Comment:

  1. Anonymous said...
    history lesson during ddm? lol x

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