17 novembro 2004

Gutenberg Printing Method Questioned

Johannes Gutenberg may be wrongly credited with producing the first Western book printed in movable type, according to an Italian researcher.
Presenting his findings in a mock trial of Gutenberg at the recent Festival of Science in Genoa, Bruno Fabbiani, an expert in printing who teaches at Turin Polytechnic, said the 15th-century German printer used stamps rather than the movable type he is said to have invented between 1452 and 1455.
Gutenberg (c.1397-1468), whose real name was Johannes Gensfleisch, is credited with inventing a mold for small metal blocks with raised letters on them. The blocks could be put together to form words.
After a page was printed, the type could be reused for printing other pages.
With this method, Gutenberg is said to have printed an edition of about 180 copies — of which only 48 exist today — of the 42-line bible, so called for the number of lines in each printed column.
The invention produced a literary boom in Europe.
According to Fabbiani, Gutenberg printed his bible not with movable type, but with a brilliant metallographic invention.
After scrutinizing an original page of the 42-line bible, Fabbiani noticed that some letters were slightly superimposed.
"Movable type are metal blocks, sort of parallelepipeds put together, one attached to another, to form words. With this method, it is practically impossible for type to be superimposed," Fabbiani said.
Instead, Gutenberg used keys similar to those on a typewriter, according to Fabbiani.
"Just think of something like the keys of a typing machine, but bigger of course. Using them, a character after another, a line after another, Gutenberg impressed a metal plate until he created a page and printed it. With this method, it is quite likely that some imperfection such as the slightly superimposing type, occurred," Fabbiani said.
The researcher devised and showed 30 experiments at the trial that would indicate Gutenberg did not use moveable type.
The claim caused uproar among academics. Some researchers simply dismissed Fabbiani's experiments as a stunt.
Eva Hanebutt-Benz, director of the Gutenberg Museum in the German town of Mainz, where Gutenberg was born, told reporters that there are "many open questions" on how Gutenberg produced the Bible as no documents exist from the printer's workshop. But she was strongly skeptical about Fabbiani's claim.
Other experts were intrigued.
"This is very important and credible research. We should not be afraid to destroy the myths".

From Discovery

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