The Printing Press - Johannes Gutenberg
In 1436, Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith, set to the task of designing a machine capable of producing pages of text at speed. By 1440, he had figured out the basics of the printing press and his invention was put to commercial use, revolutionising the way people received and consumed information – and changing world history.
Gutenberg’s machine was a combination of several prior discoveries and inventions, which incorporated individual cast letters and symbols that could be rearranged. This made it quicker and easier for printers to produce text, compared to older block printing – making mass publication a reality.
However, it was James Watt’s pioneering innovation that created the steam engine we all recognise today, with his design enabling the turning of a wheel. Having incorporated a crankshaft in his engine, it was able to produce a circular motion, resulting in the first railroad locomotive.
Gutenberg’s invention marked the beginning of the printing revolution. It gave a voice to new segments of society, while enabling philosophers, academics, scientists and politicians to reach audiences throughout the continent like never before.
The legacy of the printing press lived on long after Gutenberg’s death, as the basic mechanics of his hand-operated design continued until the invention of steam-powered presses in the early 1800s.