Johann Gutenberg

Johann Gutenberg

Gutenberg, Johann, c.1397-1468, German inventor and printer, long credited with the invention of a method of printing from movable type, including the use of metal molds and alloys, a special press, and oil-based inks: a method that, with refinements and increased mechanization, remained the principal means of printing until the late 20th cent. His type, which was hand set with characters of equal height, was printed on handmade paper. Similar printing had been done earlier in China and Korea. In China printing from movable woodblocks was invented by Pi Sheng in 1040, and printing with movable type made of clay was also prevalent; in Korea movable copper type was invented as early as 1392. Europeans who have been thought by some to have preceded Gutenberg in the practice of his art include Laurens Janszoon Koster, of Holland, and Pamfilo Castaldi, of Italy. Early in the 21st cent. scholars, using computer technology, proposed that Gutenberg's movable type may actually have been sand cast, rather than produced in metal molds. If true, this would indicate that the development of Western printing technology was somewhat more gradual than previously thought.

Evidence indicates that Gutenberg was born in Mainz, trained as a goldsmith, and entered a partnership in which he taught his friends his secret profession of printing in the 1430s. He lived in Strasbourg for some years, and he may have made his great invention there in 1436 or 1437; he returned to Mainz (c.1446) and formed a partnership with a goldsmith, Johann Fust. Gutenberg's goal was to mechanically reproduce medieval liturgical manuscripts without losing their color or beauty of design. The masterpiece of his press has been known under several names: the Gutenberg Bible; the Mazarin Bible; and in modern times, as the 42-line Bible, for the number of lines in each printed column. Fust's demand (1455) for repayment of sums advanced resulted in a settlement in which Gutenberg abandoned his claims to his invention and surrendered his stock, including type and the incomplete work on the 42-line Bible, to Fust, who continued the business and completed printing the Bible with the help of Peter Schöffer, who later became his son-in-law. Although the work bears no place of printing, date, or printer's name, it is usually dated to 1455. Printed in an edition of about 180 copies, it is the earliest extant Western book printed in movable type.

It is thought that Gutenberg reestablished himself in the printing business with the aid of Conrad Humery; works attributed, not unanimously, to him include a Missale speciale constantiense and a Catholicon (1460). The Elector of Mainz, Archbishop Adolf of Nassau, presented him with a benefice (1465) yielding an income and various privileges. There is a Gutenberg Museum in Mainz.

See O. W. Fuhrmann, The Five Hundredth Anniversary of the Invention of Printing (1937); J. M. Fontana, Mankind's Greatest Invention (rev. ed. 1964); D. C. McMurtrie and D. Farran, Wings for Words (1940, repr. 1971); J. Ing, Johann Gutenberg and His Bible (1988); J. Man, Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World (2002).

Gutenberg! The Musical! is a musical written by Scott Brown and Anthony King. Brown and King developed the show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York City, where it ran for over a year. The show was part of the 2005 and 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival and ran at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London in January 2006.

Gutenberg! The Musical! opened off-Broadway on December 3, 2006 at 59E59 and then transferred to The Actors' Playhouse on January 16, 2007. The production closed on May 6, 2007. The off-Broadway production was directed by Alex Timbers with music directed by T.O. Sterrett. It starred Christopher Fitzgerald and Jeremy Shamos.


The show was originally produced as a 45-minute one-act, workshopped at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in New York and the 2005 New York Musical Theatre Festival, starring the authors, Scott Brown and Anthony King. These early versions of the show were Directed by Charlie Todd and Music Directed & Accompanied by Barry Wyner.

The search engine, Google, makes a wonderful cameo appearance in the show.

The full two-act version of the show premiered at The Jermyn Street Theatre in London in January 2006. That production was Music Directed & Accompanied by Michael Roulston and also starred the authors, Scott Brown and Anthony King.

In September 2006, Chris Fitzgerald and Jeremy Shamos were cast in the roles of Bud & Doug for the 2006 New York Musical Theatre Festival. That production was directed by Dave Mowers and Music Directed & Accompanied by Matt Castle and won awards for "Best Book" and "Best Performance."

In March 2008, The Landless Theatre Company produced the Washington, DC premiere. Directed by John Sadowsky and Music Directed & Accompanied by Charles Johnson, the production starred real life brothers Andrew Lloyd Baughman and Matt Baughman as Bud and Doug. "The Baughmans...are fetchingly eager, singing with skill and gusto while gamely dancing in every style you can think of. You have to love the unselfconscious way the Baughmans just do it". Nelson Pressley of The Washington Post

In September of 2008, Gutenberg! The Musical was premiered in Seattle by Strawberry Theatre Workshop. Starring Troy Fischnaller and MJ Sieber, with piano accompaniment by Don Darryl Rivera, and directed by Greg Carter. "Fischnaller's Doug is giddily foul-mouthed with self-congratulation, and Sieber has a twinkle in his eye even as he works himself into a sweaty state of breathless zeal. Both performers toil feverishly to keep director Greg Carter's pace for the show—a five-shot-espresso-with-a-Red-Bull-chaser momentum from start to finish. The brakes are completely disabled on this speeding clown car of inside theater jokes." - Kevin Phinny of the Seattle Weekly.


The play is performed as a backer's audition by two characters named Bud and Doug, the fictional authors of a musical about Johannes Gutenberg, which they pitch to producers who might put their show up on Broadway. Because they don't have a cast or an orchestra, Bud and Doug wear hats with the nearly 30 characters' names on them and play all of the roles themselves. In the play-within-a-play, Johann Gutenberg is a wine presser who invents the printing press. An evil monk tries to stop him, and a beautiful girl named Helvetica loves him.

Musical numbers


  1. Prologue/Schlimmer
  2. I Can't Read
  3. Haunted German Wood
  4. The Press Song
  5. I Can't Read (Reprise)
  6. Biscuits
  7. What's The Word?
  8. Stop The Press
  9. Tomorrow Is Tonight

  1. Second Prologue
  2. Words, Words, Words
  3. Monk With Me
  4. Might As Well (Go To Hell)
  5. Festival!
  6. Finale


GUTENBERG! THE MUSICAL! was nominated for:
-The 2007 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Musical
-The 2007 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Musical

Anthony King & Scott Brown were nominated for:
-The 2007 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Book of a Musical

Alex Timbers was nominated for:
-The 2007 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical

External links

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