Johann Gutenberg

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What was the historical context during Gutenberg's time?

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One element of the historical landscape that Gutenberg reflected was the spirit of endeavor and innovation that was taking a firm hold of Europe.  The emerging Renaissance movement was present at Gutenberg's time period. The only tangible evidence we have of the printing press's development is through court transcripts, brought out against Gutenberg.  The people from whom he procured money for financial projects sued him for what amounted to be misappropriation and misuse of funds.  The spirit of invention, to make something new and to embark on a dream or scheme, is a part of the Renaissance time period was intrinsic to Gutenberg's historical period.

The invention of the printing press, itself, also reflected the Renaissance's spirit of "can do."  The notion of reprinting books on type, such as the Gutenberg Bible, is a reflection of transformative capacity of the time period. Gutenberg was a product of the time period's transformative capacity.  The ability to see what can be done in the face of what was present is an essential part of the time period.  The printing press and Gutenberg's spirit around its creation was reflective of the intellectual feel of the historical landscape.  The ability to use the mind and to use human endeavor to make the world better and to transform it were elements that imbued both Gutenberg's product as well as the process of assembling it.

Finally, the aesthetic notion of the Renaissance is reflected in the development of the Gutenberg Bible.  It was not merely the replication of the Bible in printable form that was significant.  Gutenberg captured the sprit of the intellectual and historical landscape in creating a product that moved scientific advancement into an art form.  The "regularity of the lines, the justification of the margins, the quality of the ink, and especially the beautiful design of the type show how Gutenberg raised the printing process beyond a technological invention to an art," a sentiment consistent with the historical landscape.  In a letter, future Pope Pius II echoed this in 1455:  "All that has been written to me about that marvelous man seen at Frankfurt is true. I have not seen complete Bibles but only a number of quires of various books of the Bible. The script was very neat and legible, not at all difficult to follow—your grace would be able to read it without effort, and indeed without glasses."  This ability to create something that was both practically useful and aesthetically profound is a part of the historical landscape intrinsic to the Renaissance.  It was an element that Gutenberg obviously understood in his rendering of work products on the printing press.

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