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Gutenberg, Johannes Gensfleich zum

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


(1397–1468) A citizen of Mainz, Gutenberg was trained as a goldsmith and was hence well versed in the art of forging metal. He applied his technical expertise to perfecting the process of mechanical text reproduction by inventing movable type around 1445. His famous 42-line Latin Bible, traditionally regarded as the first printed book, dates from 1455 ( table 18 ). In addition to the letters of the Latin alphabet he used a variety of ligatures and abbreviations as were common in medieval manuscript writing ( table 19 ). These characters were a typical by-product of the slow technology of handwritten reproduction. As the advantages of the new technology became fully understood and exploited, ligatures and abbreviations gradually disappeared from the printer's letter case. Gutenberg was a pioneer who is often credited with revolutionizing intellectual life in Europe ( figure 8 ). Although printing with movable type in Korea pre-dates Gutenberg by several centuries, the historical context of humanism and then the Reformation movement guaranteed his invention immediate impact, providing as it did a means for the popularization of literacy. Table 18 Alphabet of the Gutenberg Bible Table 19 Some of Gutenberg's ligatures and abbreviations Figure 8 Anonymous portrait of Johannes Gutenberg from the seventeenth century (by permission of the Gutenberg Museum, Mainz: photograph Ludwig ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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