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The Gutenberg Revolution

In 1450, all Europe's books were handcopied and amounted to only a few thousand. By 1500 they were printed, and numbered in their millions. The invention of one man - Johann Gutenberg - had caused a revolution.


Born in 1400 in Mainz, Germany, Gutenberg struggled against a background of plague and religious upheaval to bring his remarkable invention to light. His story is full of paradox: his ambition was to reunite all Christendom, but his invention shattered it; he aimed to make a fortune, but was cruelly denied the fruits of his life's work. Yet history remembers him as a visionary; his discovery marks the beginning of the modern world.


I loved this subject because of its significance and because it gave me a chance to re-establish links with Germany, particularly the Rhineland. It also made me wonder why printing with moveable type did not take off in China. Answer: China had the wrong sort of paper, no olive presses to adapt, and a complex writing system.

The best book about the origin of books you could read. It is clear, engaging, fast-paced and authoritative

Stephen Fry

Vivid… engaging, detailed and highly readable…. A window on an extraordinary display of consummate skill and creative genius

New Scientist

Extremely erudite and enormously enthusiastic

The Guardian

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