Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press

Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press

Diana Childress
For ages 10 to 14
Lerner, 2008   ISBN: 978-0822575207

Every day thousands of books are printed in presses all over the world. We are so used to having books in our lives, that we take them for granted. We rarely think about what it must have been like to live in a world where there were not printed books. When Johannes Gutenberg was born in the late 1300’s or early 1400’s every book had to be hand written. Books were expensive and hard to come by, and only well off people could afford to buy them.

Gutenberg’s father was a manger in the mint in Mainz, Germany, and it is likely that young Johannes went to the mint with his father to watch the metalworkers make coins with precious metals. Johannes would have seen how many things could be made by stamping out metal shapes using dies or punches.

We do not know for sure when Gutenberg got the idea that one might make stamps of letters which could then be assembled, inked, and used to create a page of text. However, we do know that in 1436 he paid a goldsmith “solely for that which pertains to the use of a press.” Clearly, he was experimenting with the use of presses at this time. In 1448, he was printing leaflets and other items using moveable type; a few of Gutenberg’s printed pages from this time have survived. Then, sometime between 1452 and 1455, Gutenberg printed his famous 42-line bible.

This interesting book not only tells the story of Johannes Gutenberg’s life, but it also provides readers with a picture of what it would have been like to live in Gutenberg’s world.