by W. Ruth Kozak
New computer technology including the current rage for e-books, has brought about a new printing revolution, and it seems that traditional printing presses will soon be extinct. When I was an aspiring young journalist fresh out of high school working in a newspaper editorial department, one of my tasks was to run errands to the composing room. I was in awe of the type-setters who sat behind their massive machines preparing the print for that day’s newspaper. My most prize possession was an old Underwood manual typewriter. The printed word has always meant a lot to me, so when I visited Mainz, Germany recently, I made a point of visiting the Gutenberg Museum, to have a look at the world’s first printing press. It was in Mainz in the early 1450s that the first European books were printed using moveable type.
A German goldsmith, printer and publisher, Johannes Gutenberg invented the mechanical moveable type printing press and this invention started the Printing Revolution. His first major work was the Gutenberg Bible (known as the 42-line Bible). 180 of them were printed on paper and vellum, though only 21 copies survive, two of them may be seen in the museum. There is also a replica of Gutenberg’s printing press, rebuilt according to woodcuts from the 15th and 16th century.
Located in the heart of Mainz historic inner city, right next to an impressive Romanesque cathedral, the Museum was founded in 1900 to honour the inventor and to exhibit the writing and printing techniques of as many different culture as possible. Many of the objects and presses were donated by publishers and manufacturers. Later the museum expanded to include book art, graphics and other types of printing, plus modern artists books.
This museum is a must-see for anyone interested in books and printing. The Gutenberg Museum displays two copies of the Bible and Shuelburgh Bible as well as other publications representing the history of the printed word. Here you may see the very earliest typesetting machines and books that were published centuries after the Gutenberg Bible. There is also a small library open to the public that contains a collection of books from the 17th to the 20th centuries.
After you’ve looked at the fascinating displays, be sure and visit the Museum’s gift shop where you’ll find an interesting array of unique souvenirs to purchase as mementos of your visit.
If You Go:
The Museum is open from Tuesday through Saturday, 9 to 5 and Sundays 11 to 3. Closed Monday and holidays. Admission: 5 Euro adult, 2 Euro children 8 – 18, 3 Euro students and disabled.
About the author:
Ruth has been interested in the printed word since she started reading as a child, and then when she got her first typewriter at the age of 16. When she worked as a copy-girl in the Vancouver Sun after she graduated from high-school in the ‘50s, she became familiar with printing presses. So this visit to the Gutenburg Museum was a fascinating experience especially since these days it’s the computer age and those old presses are now part of our history.
All photographs are by W. Ruth Kozak.