Monday, April 11, 2011

Geography Post #1

I decided to base my geography project around the history of printing/books & the impact it had on society up to the present day. It is an invention widely taken for granted in the modern world, yet probably one of the most important of the 15th century.

Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, was a German goldsmith, publisher & printer, that began the Printing Revolution. He was born in Mainz in 1398 to a patrician family and unusually, considering the period, was taught to read at an early age - which perhaps is where his passion for literature originated.

Growing up, Gutenberg showed great interest in the mechanical arts however, the precise date of his first attempts in the art of printing are unknown as no record was taken. Despite this, it can be confirmed that Gutenberg invented the first printing press in 1439, designing characters made from a combination of tin, lead and antimony. In the same year, Gutenberg also developed a printing press made entirely of wood.

Gutenberg's movable type, however, was not the first means of printing. It is believed in fact that it was an art originating in China, using ink and carved wooden blocks late in the second century (woodblock printing). The earliest known printed book (year 868) was a 16ft scroll of the Diamond Sutra, created using woodblocks. The book itself was discovered by Sir Auriel Stein in 1907 inside a sealed cave in north-west China. The Chinese later developed a system of copying documents in 1041, using hardened glue and clay.

In order to set up his printing press, Gutenberg entered into partnership with a wealthy goldsmith named Johannes Faust. It was Faust who provided the capital to establish the first printing press on which the first Latin Bible was printed. It was this financial aid that would later cause the dissolving of the partnership. When Gutenberg refused to refund Faust's money, the matter was brought before a court of justice and ultimately, Faust was given rights to the press.

Later, with the help of Conrad Hummer, Gutenberg set up another press which existed until 1465 in Mainz. It is believed that Gutenberg died on 24th February 1468.

The development of the printing press started a revolution - books were now cheap and plentiful which enabled more people to learn to read. It also allowed ideas to spread rapidly throughout society, which began a period of questioning the ways of the Church and the power it held in the community. Enlightenment writers such as Rousseau and Voltaire also played a huge part in the rebellion against the Church.

Mainz, Germany is both the largest and the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate and is located on the west bank of the River Rhine. With a population of approximately 196,784, the city is made up of fifteen districts in total: Altstadt, Neustadt, Mombach, Gonsenheim, Hartenberg-Munchfeld, Oberstadt, Bretzenheim, Finthen, Drais, Lerchenberg, Marienborn, Hechtsheim,Ebersheim, Weisenau, & Laubenheim.

Following the last ice age, sand dunes were deposited in the Rhine Valley...the western edge of the city. The sand dunes in Mainz are today, a nature reserve with a very abstract landscape and rare steppe vegetation for the area.

According to legend - Mainz is the birthplace Pope Joan, the first and only female pope. She achieved this by disguising herself as a man & she served for two years.

"It is a press, certainly, but a press from which shall flow in inexhaustible streams...Through it, God will spread His Word. A spring of truth shall flow from it: like a new star it shall scatter the darkness of ignorance, and cause a light heretofore unknown to shine amongst men"
— Johannes Gutenberg

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