Steve Jobs and Johannes Gutenberg: Apple iPad and Printing Press

Was Johannes Gutenberg the Steve Jobs of his day?

Johannes Gutenberg and his invention has intrigued me for just about as long as I have been in this business. (His invention contributed to the invention of preflight solution, Markzware FlightCheck.) There is however not much historically know about arguably one of the most important inventors of our times. There was a great fictional book though, which used all historic facts know and filled in the rest with ideology and other common ways of things back in those days called, “The Justification of Johann Gutenberg” by Blake Morrison and it is a book I recommend for anyone in desktop publishing and certainly printing and prepress.

Thus, it was with great interest I clicked through to this article on (via a Tweet I believe):

Feb. 3, 1468: Closing the Book on Gutenberg

1468: Johannes Gutenberg dies in Mainz, Germany. His name lives on.

Gutenberg made one contribution to technology in particular and to civilization in general, but it was a doozy. The printing press made the mass production of printed material possible and revolutionized human communication.”
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Now the article itself is quite generic and could have highlighted better that the mass production of the movable type was the real breakthrough. This aside, the title is what caught me and has me still wondering if they wanted us to read more into this as a print vs digital publishing thing and the entire buzz around the Apple iPad. (Remember to use FlightCheck to preflight files for quality print output.) This said, back to why Jobs launching the iPad event with mention of the Ten Commandments is so interesting, historically.

Here is a quote that I found years ago, but lost the source, that claims Gutenberg actually said this. As a matter of fact, I’ve had personal emails with a scholar in history debating this with me and trying to figure it out as well. There are very few quotes by Gutenberg, but here it is anyway:

“Religious truth is captive in a small number of little manuscripts which guard the common treasures, instead of expanding them. Let us break the seal which binds these holy things; let us give wings to truth that it may fly with the Word, no longer prepared at vast expense, but multitudes everlastingly by a machine which never wearies to every soul which enters life.”
— Johannes Gutenberg

Gutenberg’s revolutionmay have very well been all about doing what Johannes and many others considered God’s will (Matthew 24:14). That to me, when grasping this, was amazing, for the life story of what is know about Johannes Gutenberg (also know as Gensfleisch in his day) is furthermore awfully moving. He dedicated most of his entire adult life to developing movable type and the modern printing press and died penniless, victimized and in that time, without much earthly honor. (Sounds a lot like another great inventor, Tesla!) Yet succeeded in perhaps getting ‘his’ ultimate goal achieved:

Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Matthew 24:14 (NIV)

To preach without a printed Bible is very difficult… Here is a short, fun, amateur video, that Patrick Marchese and I shot some years back in Strasbourg, France, where Gutenberg carried out much of his work (which was part of Germany in those days), but further adds weight to potential goals of Mr. Gutenberg. See: (Our original ‘would Gutenberg have used FlightCheck’ YouTube upload was 4+ minutes, but mysteriously got shortened to 32 seconds!)

With the above now in your minds cache, it to me was awfully ironic that Steve Jobs, perhaps just in humor, kicked off the launch of the iPad highlighting God’s tablet with the Ten Commandments, delivered in the image above to Moses, now Isn’t?

Was Johannes Gutenberg the Steve Jobs of his day? All I know is that no matters what Johann’s goal was, it revolutionized the church and humanity in general via the ability to mass reproduce words via ink on paper. Jobs and his Macintosh also spurred the Desktop Publishing revolution, which turns 25 this year even! And, naturally, mobile devices, like these media readers, such as the iPad, are well positioned to further advance this DTP revolution. No, Johannes Gutenberg was not the Steve Jobs of his day, but both men will go down in publishing and printing history.

Note: It is known today that before Gutenberg, Bi Sheng (990-1051 AD) was the inventor of the first known movable type printing press technology. (Source)