British Library Treasures in full: Gutenberg Bible
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Print Gutenberg's texts

Gutenberg's invention made it possible to mass-produce books. He himself did not make money out of it, but his method had great commercial potential and it became the basis of the success of many later printers and publishers.

Technology is not enough for success however. A publisher needs to choose the right texts for his market. This was much more important for a printer than for the men and women who made a living from producing manuscripts. A printer had to sell many copies of the same work at the same time, and he had to sell them fast to recover a substantial investment.

Gutenberg and his team were aware of this problem: all copies of the Bible had been sold even before printing was completed.

In the 50 years after Gutenberg began printing, printed books spread along the trade routes of Western Europe. Books did not become cheap immediately after the appearance of Gutenberg's printed works, but prices soon began to fall. By 1500 access to books had changed profoundly. This meant more access to information, more dissent, more informed discussion and more widespread criticism of authorities. Europe and the world beyond would have been a very different place without Gutenberg's invention.

Tell Me More
1. The Bible
2. Donatus's Latin grammar
3. Indulgences

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