The first section of the Gutenberg Bible was published on this day in 1452. Why is this important? Because this was the first book ever printed with movable type, paving the way for an explosion of printing and publishing that changed the world.
Johann Gutenberg was a printer in Mainz, Germany. Before he developed his movable type system, books were printed by carving the text for each page onto a block of wood or other material, which obviously took a lot of time. With movable type, the printers just needed a set of letters which could be quickly arranged in frames, cutting down the time it took to prepare each page for printing. Books could be made faster, and became less expensive. More and more books were printed and more and more people could afford to buy them. People became exposed to new ideas and things haven’t been the same since.
If you’d like to learn more about Gutenberg and his Bible, read Gutenberg: how one man remade the world with words by John Man (686.2 Man).
If you’d like to browse through a virtual copy of this famous book, visit the British Library. If you’d rather see a real copy, visit The Huntington Library in San Marino, where one of the few copies of the Gutenberg Bible printed on vellum (animal skin) is displayed in the gallery.