Without a doubt, the Gutenberg press is one of the all-time greatest inventions in history. This pioneering invention, developed by Johannes Gutenberg, lead the way for advancement in copying, and paved the way for future technology to speed this process. Some of today’s high-speed commercial printers can generate upwards of 15,000 pages per hour! Life magazine states in the top 100 events of the millennium that the printing of the Bible on the Gutenberg press is the number one event, and the first full Bible was completed on August 24, 1456.
Norm Conrad, the Curator of Americana and English Bibles at Museum of the Bible, recently did a day of demonstrations on the replicated Gutenberg press on the Impact floor. Guests were able to stop by and see a full demonstration of how the press worked in its early days, and how the small letters, made of metal, were arranged and printed for maximum capacity. He discussed how some places in the page were left blank, to be handwritten in, so those of nobility could personalize their Bibles.
In all of Europe, before the Gutenberg press, there was an estimated 30,000 books in totality. Less than fifty years later, there were an estimated 12 million books. Of those 12 million, the most often printed book was the Bible. Not only was it printed in Latin, but it was printed in German, French, and ancient Greek.
When first entering the museum, one will notice the 40-foot bronze panels flanking the sides of the entry way. These panels, weighing in at approximately 16 tons each, depicts the first chapter of Genesis from the Gutenberg Bible. Since the moveable metal type would have been used for the printing press, you will notice that it is backwards, and reads from right to left. Oh, you may want to brush up on your Latin, because that is the first language the Bible was printed!