An escape to Gutenberg Museum

Last year in October, I went to Frankfurt again to attend the book fair but unlike previous years, I spent most of my time at the Malaysia Pavilion doing my things; drawing, introducing my books and talking to potential publishers.

The year before that, I was there for only few hours for few days while the other days were spent travelling around Frankfurt and Köln with my family. I did not make much networking hence the hard work the year after.

After working hard for few days, I guess I needed some sort of an escape to go to places I have not been; therefore decided to tag along with publisher friends to visit Gutenberg Museum on our second last day in Frankfurt. We took a free ride (ride was free as each of us had our Frankfurt Book Fair exhibitior pass) from Frankfurt to Mainz. The view was breathtaking along the 45 minutes ride.


Gutenberg Museum is a heaven for book lovers. It is one of the oldest museums of printing in the world and named after Johann Gutenberg, the inventor of printing using moveable metal type in Western Europe. The collections inside the museum include printing equipment and examples of printed materials from many cultures.

The museum was founded by a group of citizens in 1900, 500 years after Johann Gutenberg’s birth, to honour the inventor and present his technical and artistic achievements to the public at large.

The exhibition in the museums includes the history of Johannes Gutenberg, Gutenberg Bible, Early printings 15th C., Letterpress 16th-18th C., Letterpress 19th-20th C., Paper, History of the manuscript, Book Cover, Children’s Books, Newspaper and Press, Islamic Book Art, Script and printing is East Asia and Gutenberg’s workshop.


Johannes Gutenberg

Little is known about the life of Johann Gutenberg, including his actual year of birth. For example, we do not know if he was married or had children. Even the famous engraved portraits of Gutenberg were made long after his death and are based on the artist’s imagination, not on Gutenberg’s actual appearance.

The few known facts about Gutenberg’s life originate from a handful of legal and financial papers. These papers reveal that he was born Johann Gensfleisch zum Gutenberg in Mainz, Germany and moved to Strasbourg sometime before 1434. Legal records show that he and a partner produced metal hand mirrors used by pilgrims visiting holy sites. His metal-working skills must have been useful to him as he developed a method of making metal type for printing.

Sometime between 1444 and 1448, Gutenberg returned to Mainz and it was likely that he spent this time developing his new printing method, as some scholars believe, that took at least ten years to develop.

Little is known about Gutenberg’s later years, except that he was financially supported by the Archbishop of Mainz and may have lived comfortably until his death in 1468.



Gutenberg Bible

The Gutenberg Bible (also known as the 42-line Bible, the Mazarin Bible or the B42) was the first major book printed in the West using movable type. It marked the start of the “Gutenberg Revolution” and the age of the printed book in the West. Widely praised for its high aesthetic and artistic qualities, the book has an iconic status. Written in Latin, the Gutenberg Bible is an edition of the Vulgate, printed by Johannes Gutenberg, in Mainz, in present-day Germany, in the 1450s. Forty-eight copies, or substantial portions of copies, survive, and they are considered to be among the most valuable books in the world, even though no complete copy has been sold since 1978.

GutenbergBibleGutenberg Bible. Source:

The height of Gutenberg’s art of printing is considered to be the 42-line bible (B42). The 2-volume bible with a total of 1,282 pages was created with the help of 20 staff. The colorful initials and signs were added later by an illuminator and a columnist. Today, 49 copies remain in existence. Of these, two are owned by the Gutenberg museum.

To view more of the The Gutenberg-Bible online, click here.

Early printings 15th C.

earlyprintingThe Gutenberg Museum has a number of major works from the early years of printing on permanent display. Books printed up to 1500 differ in many ways from the books we are familiar with from later years. These early examples have no title page, chapter headings or page numbers. What they do have are pages of beautiful illumination and illustration.

The protagonists of first few decades of the printed book often still clung to the traditional forms of the manuscript. The characteristics of the modern book emerged only gradually through fierce competition among printers, dependent on selling their books to be able to continue business, and through technical innovation in the printing of pictures.


For more information about printing in the 16th-18th C. and 19th-20th C., just follow the linked texts.

And for further reading ,do head to Gutenberg Museum Mainz.

So, basically, photography was not allowed in the museum except for the demonstration and lobby area. My friends and I were just in time for the afternoon daily demonstrations at the basement demonstration workshop and shot some pictures in there.

The daily demonstrations are done all year round at 10 and 11 am and at 12, 2, 3 and 4 pm. The museum is closed on public holidays and Mondays. No prior booking for demonstrations is required. Just turn up in the museum basement at the times mentioned and enjoy the show.

GutenbergMuseumGutenberg’s workshop; one of the museum’s main attractions. Seen here is the replica of Gutenberg’s printing press, rebuilt according 15th- and 16th-century woodcuts.

demogutenbergatMs. Margot Uhrig explaining how the printing was done. Even though we didn’t understand most of the words spoken, we did understand how the printing was done from what we read in the museum.



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  1. Alang-alang dah ke sana, mesti lah jalan-jalan juga ke tempat-tempat menarik di sana kan Kak Em?

    Its a pity that most museum did not allowed to take photo inside T_T…

      1. hehe.. betul jugak ya kak Em.. maklumlah, exhibit museum jarang bertukar.. kalau dah tgk gambar, pegi sana rasa boring pula tgk benda yg sama 😛

        1. Masa saya kat Jepun dulu…. exhibit list panjang…. so dalam 1 bulan selalu bertukar-tukar….. saya suka pergi museum.. salah satunya boleh dapat banyak poskad free… cantik2.. hehehe

            1. hmm.. kenapa la kat sini tak dpt poskad free kalau pegi muzium.. bayaran nak masuk dah mahal.. pastu masuk blh tgk je.. tak blh bergambar.. semua mampu simpan dlm memori jela..

    1. Biasanya… muzium memang ada certain part yang dia tak bagi ambil gambil… kalau yang ok sikit… boleh ambil gambar tapi no flash… Kadang2 ok jugak berehat sebentar bermain dengan kamera…. tumpukan pada subjek kat depan mata,,,,

        1. kenapa tak blh ada flash ye? blh menjejaskan kualiti exhibit ke? saya mmg tak pandai bab ambil gambar.. main tekan je.. tak reti nak adjust bagi ada flash ke takde.. huhu..

      1. bulan feb dah tiba! tapi masih menunggu post baru dari kak Em.. buat masa ni, kita tambahkan lagi komen di post2 yg sedia ada 🙂

          1. hehe.. harap jaja tak lari sampai ke pluto la ye.. penat nak kejar nanti 😛 sekarang pun dah termengah-mengah nak tambah komen.. >.<

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