Johann Gutenberg (ca. 1400-1468), born Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany.
Gutenberg was the inventor of the exchangeable letter moulded in lead which made it possible to reuse the printing types. He invented the art of book printing in the Western World although the Chinese did print with types of clay in the 13th century.
The use of exchangeable letters revolutionized the way of book production.
Gutenberg’s way of printing quickly spread in Europe and the rest of the World. It is seen as a key element in the Renaissance and especially his master work “The Gutenberg Bible” is valued for its beauty and its technical quality.
Besides the use of exchangeable letters Gutenberg is known for several other inventions in the art of printing books, i. e. the development of a very effective alloy of tin, lead and antimony, a printing ink containing oil and an instrument for type-casting by a handhold device. He also invented the printing press.
Gutenberg’s greatest achievement is that he brought all the mentioned components together to a highly effective mechanized printing process, which for the first time made mass production of books possible.
In 1997 the American journal Time-Life chooses Gutenberg’s way of printing as one of the most important inventions of the second millennium.
Only little is known of Gutenberg’s life and work since only a few sources have survived.
Further reading: www.gutenberg.de