Gutenberg’s Greatest Invention of all Time

Mark Twain once said that, “The whole world admits unhesitatingly; and there can be no doubt about this, that Gutenberg’s invention is the incomparably greatest event in the history of the world” (cited in Woreck & Zora, 2001). The movable printing press is Johann Gensfleish zum Gutenberg (1400-1468) claim to fame. The said invention paved the way for the establishment of the fundamental premise for significant changes in the socio – economic, political and cultural aspects of society which have been evident in the years that followed.

In addition, the movable letter press has undoubtedly influenced the development of human communication (Woreck & Zora, 2001). To a larger extent, it even created a major impact in the history of humanity. The advent of the new technology marked an end to the old geographical limitations known to man. By making information available even to the masses through the aid of maps and printed books, the world made itself a comprehensible resource waiting to be exploited. In fact, Gutenberg was voted as the “man of the millennium,” against other significant and influential people in world history over the last few centuries (Woreck & Zora, 2001).

Gutenberg lived during the end of the Middle Ages until the Renaissance. It was the time considered as the most unfathomed in terms of social transformations unlike any other era. His life and character was largely influenced by the period of decline of the old feudal order as well as the beginning of the pre – capitalistic society on commodity – money relationships (Woreck & Zora, 2001). It was during the late Middle Ages when the Roman Catholic Church represented the most omnipotent fortification of resistance to change. Almost all walks of life have been influenced by the doctrines of the church.

The clergy has had dominion over all branches of learning during that time. Gutenberg’s invention made it possible for the masses to get a hold of a copy of the Bible, a book formerly exclusive to the elites of society (Woreck & Zora, 2001). This event caused a stir to the otherwise well laid foundation of the Roman Catholic Church. The masses learned that they can relate to the belief in Jesus, as He was a son of a carpenter. He did not belong to the upper class. He was poor just like them. New interpretations of the Bible made its way to the press and soon to the rest of the population (Woreck & Zora, 2001).

As a result, the world saw an end to the monopoly of the Church and the monarchy. The merchants came into a realization of their vision of a strong nation – state, as opposed to many regional domains. It was Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible to the German language which was to be considered the greatest challenge to the political system of the Roman Catholic Church. This event signaled the birth of the Protestant Reformation. Luther challenged the Church by the aid of Bibles and prayer books written in the vernacular (Woreck & Zora, 2001).

Truly, it was Gutenberg’s invention that made it possible to make information made available not just to the chosen few. If it weren’t for the movable printing press, generations of people would remain illiterate to the very least. Society would not be able to have a tight grasp of understanding of the world we live in. History would not have been made known to people and remarkable events would clearly go unnoticed (Jukes, 2005). In addition, it was Gutenberg’s printing press which sparked the Renaissance. On the other hand, computers, networking and the Internet gave birth to what we now know as the Digital Renaissance.

We now can gain access to a wide variety of information we need to know with just a click or two. If not for Gutenberg, humanity may not have known and developed what could later trace the direction of education (Jukes, 2005).


Nelson, L. H. Carrie. (17 December 2007). The Northern Renaissance and the Background of the Reformation. Retrieved January 29, 2008 from http://vlib. iue. it/carrie/texts/carrie_books/gilbert/09. html. Jukes, I. The InfoSavvy Group. (2005). From Gutenberg to Gates to Google (and beyond… ). Retrieved January 29, 2008 from