Monday, 12 April 2010

Naming a problem is the first step towards a solution - Story of Johannes Gutenberg (Part 2 of 4)


At the turn of the 15th century, reading material was expensive and the choice of titles severely limited. The price of a volume of three hundred pages would exceed one hundred times what it costs today. Less than one per cent of the population was able to read; as a result, only the clergy and aristocracy had access to written information.

Since ancient times, the cost of producing books had been proportional to the effort it took to copy them by hand. A monk labouring at a monastery would need two years to copy and illustrate a Bible by hand. In addition, pages of medieval books were made of parchment, that is, prepared animal skins, which also increased the overall cost of production.

Despite the high price of books, it was obvious that there was a growing market for them. The interesting question is why none of the thousands of people in Europe involved in the production of hand-written volumes had perceived the slowness of the process as a problem. Apparently, before Johannes Gutenberg, the established mode of operation was taken for granted.

For thousands of years, goldsmiths had been using gold to make delicate jewellery, as well as religious and ornamental figures. Gutenberg did not conceive the idea of casting figures with molten metal, but he was the first to realize the massive economies that could be made by casting movable types and using them for book production.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by coda under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Naming a problem is the first step towards a solution - Story of Johannes Gutenberg
(Part 2 of 4)


At the turn of the 15th century, reading material was expensive and the choice of titles severely limited. The price of a volume of three hundred pages would exceed one hundred times what it costs today. Less than one per cent of the population was able to read; as a result, only the clergy and aristocracy had access to written information.

Since ancient times, the cost of producing books had been proportional to the effort it took to copy them by hand. A monk labouring at a monastery would need two years to copy and illustrate a Bible by hand. In addition, pages of medieval books were made of parchment, that is, prepared animal skins, which also increased the overall cost of production.

Despite the high price of books, it was obvious that there was a growing market for them. The interesting question is why none of the thousands of people in Europe involved in the production of hand-written volumes had perceived the slowness of the process as a problem. Apparently, before Johannes Gutenberg, the established mode of operation was taken for granted.

For thousands of years, goldsmiths had been using gold to make delicate jewellery, as well as religious and ornamental figures. Gutenberg did not conceive the idea of casting figures with molten metal, but he was the first to realize the massive economies that could be made by casting movable types and using them for book production.

To be continued in Part 3

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by coda under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]