Fundamental Baptist Institute

Facts From History About Our

King James Bible.

Written and Published by

by Rev. Ronald D. Lesley, Th. M., D.D.


Chapter VI

John Gutenberg or Johann Gensfleisch,



Invention of paper and printing.

As a boy in Mainz, Johann Gensfleisch was carving letters of his name our of tree bark. The letter he had carved fell into a vat of boiling dye on an open fire. He quickly retrieved his work from the hot dye with his bare hand. He just as quickly dropped it onto a piece of leather. The bark carving left the imprint of the letter on the leather. This was the beginning of the printing press later in his life.

Gensfleisch is Gutenberg’s real name which means Gooseflesh. He assumed his mothers maiden name Gutenberg for business reasons.

Gutenberg first experimented with printing about 1440 in Strasbourg, 160 km (100 miles) from his native Mainz. He was back in Mainz by 1450, and his invention had been perfected to a point where it could be exploited commercially. Gutenberg introduced the principle of replica-casting to produce the large numbers of individual pieces of type that were needed for the printing of a book. Single letters were engraved in relief and then punched into slabs of brass. This allowed the reproduction of the letters from molten lead metal in mass. These were then combined to produce a flat printing surface, thus establishing the process of letterpress printing.

The type was a rich decorative texture modeled on the Gothic handwriting of the period. Moveable type for printing was first used in 1454 AD.


The invention of paper is generally attributed to a Chinese court official, TSAI LUN, in about AD 105. The art of making paper was kept secret for 500 years.

In AD 751 the Arab city of Samarkand was attacked by marauding Chinese. Among the Chinese prisoners taken during the attack were several men skilled in the art of paper making. These men were forced by the city’s governor to build and operate a paper mill. Samarkand had an abundant supply of water, flax, and hemp; it soon became the paper making center of the Arab world.

Knowledge of paper making traveled From Samarkand westward, spreading throughout the Middle East.

The Moorish invasion of Spain, which began in the 8th century, saw the construction of the first European paper mill, at Jativa in the province of Valencia. Knowledge of the technology spread and paper mills were built in Italy (1276), France (1348), Germany (1390), and England (1494). By the 16th century, paper was being manufactured throughout most of Europe.

The knowledge of paper spread, but the process for making it remained fundamentally unchanged. Vegetable fibers, in Europe which came principally from flax and hemp, were shredded and reduced to a pulp in water. A screen was dipped in the pulp and removed with a thin layer of fibers, as water drained off the pulped fibers meshed and matted into a sheet, which was then pressed and dried making a sheet of paper.



Just as great an achievement was the development of ink that would adhere to the metal type. This ink needed to be completely different in chemical composition from existing wood-block printing inks. The quality of these first product were immense. They have lasting ability above those produced in modern times.

Gutenberg transformed the winepress of the time into a screw-and-lever press capable of printing pages of type.

While setting up his commercial press between 1450 and 1452, he borrowed a sum of money from Johann Fust (or Faust) to enable him to produce his type and presses. He was unable to repay the debt promptly. Faust foreclosed on the mortgage in 1455, and obtained possession of the type and presses. Fust set himself up as a printer with his son-in-law, Peter Schoffer. Schoffer had assisted Gutenberg in the building of his press and plates for printing.

Faust determined to keep the invention a secret for the great gain the press could give him.

After the printing of several Bibles Faust set out for Paris to sell them. The first to purchase one of his Bibles for four hundred crowns, was the archbishop of Paris. The archbishop was thrilled at his bargain. Manuscripts were extremely expensive because of the labor involved in producing them. Later, the archbishop spoke of the beautiful Bible he had purchased to the King. The King also had bought one of the Bibles for seven hundred crowns. Upon showing his Bible to the archbishop they were was amazed at the exactness of both Bibles in print. The cry of witchcraft was made, and Faust was imprisoned. Faust was compelled to tell of the Gutenberg invention of printing.

Sadly, Gutenberg apparently abandoned printing altogether after 1465, possibly because of blindness. He died on Feb. 3, 1468, in comparative poverty. There are no pictures of him known to exist. Those used on plaques to commemorate this great man are fictitious. However, printing was invented and presses went all throughout Europe.

Gutenberg was very innovative throughout his life. He established a shop to make looking glasses: he developed a means of polishing stones: he also started a business that engraved glass.

This resourceful man died alone and friendless. Yet, we owe a great deal as a people for his great art of printing! Gutenberg died on February 3, 1468, in his native city, where a museum re-creating his press and workshop is now maintained.

William Caxton, 1422 - 1491, was a merchant and writer who established the first printing press in England, in 1476.

About 1471, Caxton visited Cologne, where he learned the art of printing. He later founded a press in Bruges, Belgium, before returning to England. Caxton’s press in 1477 was set up at Westminster. He produced, Dictes or Sayenges of the Phylosophers, the first dated book printed in England. Caxton subsequently published more than 90 editions, including works by Chaucer, Gower, and Malory, as well as his own translations of French and Latin works.


The earliest writing inks were compounded of lampblack and a gum or glue and were mixed with water before use. Such inks are called India inks and are virtually permanent because the carbon in the lampblack is chemically inert and is not bleached or otherwise affected by sunlight. Colored India inks contain synthetic dyes rather than lampblack. India inks are primarily used for drawing.

The first printing inks used in Europe were made of lampblack mixed with varnish or boiled linseed oil. Colored inks were developed late in the 18th century. In the next century a great variety of pigments were developed for use in the manufacture of these inks, primarily through the application of driers. Varnishes, having different degrees of stiffness, were later developed to provide inks that could be used on a variety of paper and presses.


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Second Edition  Copyright 1997  All Rights Reserved.

Ronald D. Lesley

832 South Post Road

Shelby, NC 28152