The New International Encyclopædia/Gutenberg, Johannes

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GUTENBERG, gōō′ten-bĕrK, Johannes (c.1400-c.1468). The inventor of printing from movable types. He was born at Mainz, of the patrician family of Gensfleisch; the latest investigations tend to fix the date between 1394 and 1399. The name of Gutenberg was taken from a property long supposed to have been brought in by his mother, but discovered by recent researches to have been in the possession of his great-grandfather. The family was expelled from Mainz in 1420 and took refuge in Strassburg, where Gutenberg is found living in 1434, having already acquired some reputation for technical skill. He left Strassburg for Mainz in 1444. Attempts at printing were heard of in various quarters; to carry out his own schemes, Gutenberg in 1450 associated himself with Johannes Fust, a wealthy citizen of Mainz, who supplied the money to set up a press and print the ‘forty-two-line’ Bible. Fust dissolved the partnership in 1455, and since Gutenberg could not repay his advances, retained possession of the plant, which he improved and used. In this manner, though Gutenberg was known as the inventor throughout the fifteenth century, it was possible to claim the honor for Fust in the sixteenth; but for a century past the Dutch Coster (q.v.) has been the only serious rival of Gutenberg, and the searching investigations carried on in 1900, in connection with the fifth centenary of his birth, have established Gutenberg's claims more firmly than ever.

His commercial success was never large. In 1465 the Archbishop Adolf, of Nassau, gave him a benefice, to which various privileges as well as an income were attached. He died at Mainz toward the end of 1467 or in the beginning of 1468. He has been honored by statues in various German towns, and in 1901 a Gutenberg museum was opened in his native town supported by a society also named after him. Consult: Van der Linde, Gutenbergs Geschichte und Erdichtung (Stuttgart, 1878); Börckel, Gutenberg (Giessen, 1897); Hessels, Gutenberg: Was He the Inventor of Printing? (London, 1882); Meissner and Luther, Die Erfindung der Buchdruckerkunst (Bielefeld, 1900).