Many minds were on the alert to apprehend it. We believe, for instance, that if Gutenberg had not invented movable types, somebody else would have given them to the world about that time. The invention of the electric telegraph seemed to burst upon the world simultaneously from many quarters not perfect, perhaps, but the time for the idea had come and happy was it for the man who entertained it.
He was connected with a newspaper in the city, and wrote wonderful articles about police courts, that, somehow, sounded more like sermons than stories. In my early days, before Gutenberg and his movable types came within the scope of my knowledge, I believed he printed out the whole edition with a lead-pencil, and entertained most exalted ideas of his capacity.
But Gutenberg, or whoever else it may be to whom the honour belongs, 'invented' printing; he made something to be, which hitherto was not. In like manner Harvey 'discovered' the circulation of the blood; but Watt 'invented' the steam-engine; and we speak, with a true distinction, of the 'inventions' of Art, the 'discoveries' of Science.
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He can only be driven out by a little sane companionship. So I turn on a light and call for one of my bedside friends. They stand there in noble comradeship, ready to talk, willing to remain silent, only asking to do my pleasure. Oh, blessed be the name of Gutenberg, the Master Printer. A German? I care not.
See in particular the "Rise of the Dutch Republic" and the other works of John Motley on the history of the Netherlands all of which are available at Project Gutenberg. A few French generals who were by and large ineffective; and many promises of gold which were undelivered.
In 1455, as we find by a notarial document, dated November 6th of that year, Faust separated from Gutenberg, and successfully instituted proceedings against him for money advanced. Gutenberg, who had exhausted all his means in bringing his invention to maturity, was obliged to mortgage and in the end surrender all his materials, and, it should seem, his printed stock.
A Stradivarius was warping apart, and a Gutenberg was swollen to twice its size, its moldy pages curling away from the parent-book. The books had fared worse. Great stacks of leather-covered libraries were turning into moldy, starchy mounds. Papyrus and lambskin scrolls were falling apart.
But Gutenberg was no longer upon earth to enjoy the possession of that intellectual world, religious and political, of which he had only had a glimpse, like Moses, in the vision of his dream in the monastery of St. Arbogast.