In today’s era of digital publishing, TikToks and the never-ending churn of Twitter, it can be easy to forget that in the not so distant past, being introduced to the written and printed word was perceived to be nothing short of remarkable. That’s why it’s fitting that today’s Google Doodle honors Johannes Gutenberg, the German craftsman, goldsmith and inventor who introduced the moveable type printing press to Europe. According to Google, Gutenberg was an inventor and tinkerer for a while before the late 1430s, when he first began to manufacture a machine that would more efficiently print text in order to to pay off accrued as a result of a failed mirror business.
Next, in 1450, Gutenberg finally perfected his device and made his first wholly successful print, which happened to be a Latin book about making speeches. Things picked up spectacularly from there, and soon, Gutenberg was able to up to 3,600 pages per day. It’s impossible to overstate how much of a seismic shift this was for book manufacturing in Europe; literature that was once available to a rarified few could now be engineered as a product for the eager masses.
By the 16th century, according to Google, it’s estimated that no less than 200 million books were in print thanks to Gutenberg’s invention, which also paved the way for enormous technological advances to be enjoyed in the future. The fact that so little definitive information exists regarding Gutenberg’s daily life only adds to the mystery of his legend, and to the notion that extraordinary innovations in human history can truly come from anywhere. Like Jovita Idár, the journalist who fought tooth and nail to document Mexican-American history, Gutenberg made it possible for history to be transcribed, written down and distributed in real time. In doing so, he made history himself.