Famous Printmaking Artists – Johannes Gutenberg
(Mainz, c.1398 – Mainz, February 3, 1468)
Gutenberg was born in the German city of Moguncia. The year of his birth is not precisely known but probably was around 1398.
Probably some will say that this inventor can’t be considered a famous printmaking artist, yet we could not begin to write about the other artists without him. 😉
As a young man, he showed a strong passion for reading, reading all the books his parents had at home. Books at the time were handwritten by monks, students, and scribes, and each copy took months to prepare, its price being extremely high and inaccessible to most people (this was about to change).
He worked as a jeweler, where he mastered the art of building molds and casting gold and silver. This is very relevant in this history and at the beginning of printmaking because Gutenberg is considered the inventor of the movable types of cast lead, more durable and resistant than those manufactured in wood, and therefore reusable. That conferred a huge versatility to the process of elaboration of books and other printed works, allowing its massification.
The invention of the movable types was followed by the invention of the first printing machine. This first press was based on the presses used to squeeze the juice from the grapes in the making of wine.
After the invention of the types and the adaptation of the winepress, Gutenberg continued experimenting with the press until he got a functional machine.
He also researched paper and inks. Both had to behave in such a way that the inks were absorbed by the paper without dripping, ensuring the accuracy of the strokes. It was necessary a quick drying and a permanent impression.
Gutenberg experimented with olive-based pigments, which he used not only for printing with the matrices but also the capitulars and illustrations which were made manually with the rag paper of Chinese origin introduced into Europe at his time.
The Gutenberg Bible
The first book printed by Gutenberg was the Bible, a process that began around 1450 and ended five years later in 1455. This marks the beginning of mass production of books.
A complete copy of this Bible has 1282 pages, with text in two columns.
It is believed that 180 copies were produced, 45 on parchment and 135 on paper. They were printed, initialed and illuminated by hand over a period of three years.
To prove the magnificence of this German inventor of the fifteenth century, the “Gutenberg Festival” – a sort of Fair of demonstrations and innovations in the areas of graphic design, digital printing, publishing and the conversion of text – is a relevant evidence that Master Gutenberg’s invention is still able to cultivate followers who, from their basic experience, try to overcome the invention and adopt modern technologies to the demanding needs of today’s world.
To continue your research on Gutenberg, follow these links:
This book describes the life of Johann Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press.
If you want to know more about this fascinating history…
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