Gutenberg's Press


Johann Gutenberg in Mainz invented the modern printing press in about 1440, where he produced the world's first movable-type printed book in 1456.  Between 1450 and 1452, to finance his experiments, he had borrowed 1,600 guilders from Johann Fust, a local banker.  Inventors are not usually much good at running their affairs profitably.  Gutenberg was no exception.

Banker Fust, in contrast, was particularly hard-headed and hard-hearted.  So aggressively impatient did Fust become, not only to see a profitable return on his promising investment but also to seize the lion's share of any profits, that in 1455 he sued Gutenberg for repayment of capital and interest amounting to 2,026 guilders.  When judgment was given in Fust's favor he foreclosed on his loan and installed his future son-in-law, Peter Schoeffer, to run the business instead of Gutenberg. 

Thus it came about that the world's first printed book to contain the date and place of publication, 14 August 1457 at Mainz, and the first to use more than one color, the Great Psalter of 1457, was published by Fust the banker and his junior partner, Schoeffer.  Thereafter the business never looked back, for if ever there was an invention whose time had come, this was it.

So, as Paul Harvey often says, "Now you know the rest of the story."

Source: "A History of Money: From Ancient Times to the Present Day," by Glyn Davies (p. 177-78)


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