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October 8, 2020 53 mins

Was the printing press a big deal? You bet it was. One of the biggest. Learn all about the early history of printing today.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:01):
Welcome to Stuff You Should Know, a production of Five
Heart Radios How Stuff Works. Hey, I'm welcome to the podcast.
I'm Josh Clark. There's Charles W. Chuck Bryan over there,
there's Jerry out there, our ethereal ephemeral producer, and this

(00:21):
is Stuff you Should Know, which um for this edition.
I feel like we should be playing like harpsichord or
something like that in the background when we start. You
want to do that? Should we gus see it up
a little? Yeah? Jerry knows what she's She knows her
way around an old harpsichord, so maybe maybe she can
do that for us. I wonder if we have a
message break stinger that's harpsichord. Oh, that's a great question,

(00:45):
because we've been getting I mean, we've gotten great ones
all along, but sometimes they're just showing up. I'm like,
where did this come from? I don't even recognize this
one's great stuff? Yeah, and too, you know, for those
of you who don't know, those are made by listeners. Yeah,
submitted out of the goodness of their hearts for yep
to say. Here you go, guys, I hope you enjoy it.
You can use it all you want. It's very sweet.

(01:08):
So we're talking about the printing press, and um, we're
talking about the invention of the printing press, and the
printing press itself is basically synonymous with a man named
Johann Gutenberg. Johannes we just got right out of the
gate man. I'm going with Johann Gutenberg, or as the
rest of us in the world call him Gutenberg, let's

(01:32):
call him Steve Gutenberg gut Buck. Okay, okay. So, Um
Gutenberg is traditionally credited with inventing the printing press, and
for all intents and purposes, he did invent the printing press.
But um, as our friend ed Grabanowski goes with great
pains to point out, he did not invent it out
a whole cloth, as apparently some people believe that that

(01:55):
it was just a pile of lumber and an idea
for him that he that he put together. Like every
inventor whoever invented anything, he he built on different concepts
that have been worked out over centuries. Um. The thing
is is, like that's not to detract from his accomplishment
or anything like that. Like what he did literally change

(02:16):
the world, as we'll see in some amazing ways, but
he helped provide the first information age and got really
kind of screwed over in the bargain. Yeah, I mean
it's kind of a familiar story at this point, right, sadly, yes, man,
And I'm kind of sick of that. I wish which
one of stealing, of building on others, or of yeah,

(02:40):
the second one. No, I understand building on the work
of others. That's the other thing, too, is I don't
think Guttenberg ever said like, no, I invented all of
this without any help. We don't have any indication he
was like that at all. That just kind of got
hung on him over the years. By sixth graders, we
built on the work of Adam Curry. We didn't he
still at it? Did you know that he's still podcasting?

(03:01):
I'm almost a million percent sure, which is really sure?
And did he really have the first one? I don't
know if he had the first, but he's credited with
having the first. Very interesting. He's definitely still active on
social media, for sure. So for the printing press, if
if we jump back in the old way back machine
and we we breathe past Adam Curry, there, Hi, Adam, Hey, Adam,

(03:32):
Look at his hair, just waving that very nice. Uh.
We would go back and see people carving up these
things into would uh and then they would um. It's
sort of like a stamp you would get for a
kid these days, or if you you know, you go
to a stamp shop and you want to get a
stamp with your address or whatever for an adult. Yeah,

(03:52):
Like we got a stamp made. Emily got a stamp
made of our house when we finally finished renovating our house,
which we've never used. Our our friend so that you
haven't used. So is it a picture of your your house? Yeah,
it's like, okay, it looks like a little woodcut. But
it's not like we send people letters and stamp that
or any man. I gotta tell you, I would like

(04:14):
to see that on a Christmas card envelope. You know.
You know she did give me, and boy, I'm going
to use it one days. Uh. You know how they
would melt wax and seal the envelope with a little stamp.
She got me one of those little kits for Christmas
a couple of years. Nice and you still haven't used it. Now,
you know what, I'm going to write you a letter
on some vellum. Thank you. I'm gonna stamp my house
on it. I'm gonna wax, seal it and with and uh,

(04:36):
then put on some red lipstick huh, and then tinkle
on the whole thing, give it a kiss, and then
be on it. Um. We we have a stamp too,
but it's um has our address stamped on. Our friends
Lorrel and Brandon gave it to us. Yeah, I mean
that makes a lot of sense, right, and we have
used that one before. But I want to see this stamp,
this whole Christmas card would tinkle on it and vellum
and wax. I can't wait to see it. All right,

(04:58):
it's gonna happen. So a wood cut and a long
way of saying it looks sort of like one of
these stamps. It's cut out, um, out of a wood block.
And then you take paper or vellum or something or
whatever you want to print it on, rub it down
with some ink, and then press it down. And they
had a thing back in the day in Europe in
the fourteen hundreds called block books that were made from

(05:20):
these wood cuts. They were you know, ten to pages long,
and they kind of look like comic books if you
look them up. They have a little bit of artwork,
a little bit of text. Medieval comic books. Yeah, it's
like comic books without any of the fun because they
had some sort of moral message attached to it. Usually right,
it was like a jack Chick tract or something. But
they were a big deal in Europe in the fourteen hundreds,

(05:43):
and they thought that they invented something. But of course
the Chinese were like, excuse me, We've been doing this
stuff for hundreds of years. Yeah, and and I think
as far back as nine No. Eight sixty eight c.
Which is a while ago, more than a thousand years about.

(06:04):
Plus the Diamond Sutra, which was a buddhist Um text,
was the first known printed book, and they printed it
like you just described, where each page was a wood
carving in negative chuck in negative, because if you made
it in in the positive when you put the paper
on it with the ink, it would be in reverse
when you looked at it on the page. So you

(06:26):
had to carve each page like that in negative. So
it was a really difficult process, but it worked. It
was useful. It was a lot easier once you got
those blocks carved for a page. Then it was to
transcribe entire books and texts by hand, which is what
they've done up to that point and still continue to
do for a very long time. Yeah. So when I
saw the Diamond Sutra, just obviously the word sutra stood

(06:49):
out to me because of the Kama Sutra, and I really,
of course, and I didn't even I realized I didn't
even know what that word meant. And it's just it's
a collection of observations basically, he said, Oh, I mean
cook book. Well, it could be. It's a collection of
observations in a book or a pamphlet. And I think
we really missed a diamond opportunity for our book title

(07:11):
by not calling it like the Stuff you Should Know Sutra. Yeah. Well,
hey if this one, if this one goes even passingly
well ourselves passingly, well we'll probably have a second chance.
You can pre order that thing, by the way, the
Stuff you Should Know, No, boy, you could pre pre
order that one, right. I'm getting limber as we speak
to try to get that one done. Right. Yeah, you

(07:31):
can preorder our book, an incomplete compendium of mostly interesting
stuff Sutra. Thanks. You should have just had comma comma sutra,
get it right. I like that? So that was one
in eight six eight CE like you said. Then in
seventy one b C. There was another one called did
you mention that one? The Trippy Taka? Not yet? That
was another Buddhist text that was ce C E. Oh

(07:56):
it is, so they got wrong here, Yeah, all right,
so the whole thing starts about eleven years ago. Okay,
well that makes more sense. Yeah, but that's the one
that had I think a hundred and thirty thousand would
block carvings. Yeah, that's insane. That means not only that
somebody carved that, but somebody kept that like at their house.

(08:18):
Imagine living around a hundred and thirty thousand wood block carvings,
and you would be like, I need to reprint page
eight thirty two, and then having you to go find
the wood block carving for page eight thirty two and
just it just sounds like a nightmare. I'd be like,
I don't I don't care about reading or literacy or
moving humanity forward at this point. Maybe it was the house.

(08:39):
Mm hmm. You just blew my mind right out of
the top of my head. So there was some more
experimentation going on after this in China and Korea, UM
and some big and they were using like little wood
or ceramic or metal blocks to make individual characters for
the first time. And this was a big kind of
pushed forward towards what we all though as what would

(09:01):
eventually be the Gutenberg Press. Is individual letters are in
their case characters instead of just doing each page as
a separate woodcut. Yeah. What's awesome is there is a
commoner in China named B. Shang who um is thought
to have come up with movable type, where rather than
you know, carving a woodblock for each page, you have letters,

(09:21):
individual letters carved out and you can arrange them just
so anyway you want, and then once you print that page,
you can arrange them in a different way to print
the next page. And that is a huge innovation for sure.
And again note that this guy came up with this
in about ten forty one CE, so a good four
hundred years before Guttenberg was working. What does Ed keep saying, BC,

(09:42):
I don't know. I think he really likes the sound
of it, all right, fair enough, it's definitely see either.
Uh no, I'm not doubting that. I'm just I was
thinking too. I was like, gosh, what if he was right?
What if all this had started a good thousand years earlier,
Like how much further along would we be right now?
Because it held Yeah if this had happened three thousand

(10:02):
years ago rather than one thousand years ago. Yeah, because
here's the little spoiler. Printing books is a big deal.
Like some say that religion and democracy and I mean
just sort of the advancement of humanity was was this?
It was key to advancing all those things. Do you
know who says that us people who are right us. Yeah,

(10:27):
I definitely am on board with that because, yeah, the
for the best way you can put it, it was
the first information age that got launched by Guttenberg, by
gut Buck. So that's I keep saying that because it's
Steve Guttenberg's handle on Twitter. Oh is it really okay?
Steve gut Is it really? He is the nicest guy too.
I haven't Uh yeah, I haven't. I haven't checked in

(10:48):
on his feed for a very long time, but um,
years back, he used to be like all up in
our feed, and um he was just so nice, Happy
Friday everybody kind of stuff, like every Fridays. Just a
super nice guy. So I'm assuming nothing's gone horribly wrong
with him and that he's still just as nice as
he was a few years ago. Well, I highly recommend

(11:09):
you know, I've always um promoted the Great Great Stars
TV show Party Down one of my favorite shows of
all time, and Goots has a great, great, great episode
and it seems like that's who he is, and he's
a super nice guy in that episode because he um,
you know, it's about a catering company. There were a
bunch of like writers and actors and stuff doing catering

(11:31):
work and he hires them to come over to his
house for his birthday. There there at the house when
he pulls in and he's like, oh man, we ended
up having a surprise party for me and I've forgot
So he's just like, why don't you guys just come
and then we'll be the party. Right, But you could
really get the idea that that's who Goods is as
a person. You know, it's great as you've definitely definitely

(11:52):
told that story before on the podcast, which means like
we've gotten to this point where we're amassing, like we're
building a standalone universe where like when Steve Gooberg appears,
this story pops up as well around him. You know
what I'm saying, like, Oh, I knew, I told it.
I couldn't remember when though, What when would he have
come up? I don't remember, but I'm sure we talked
also about what a great guy he is on Twitter

(12:14):
and all sorts of stuff, like like we have a
character like a simil acrome of or simil acro of
Steve Guttenberg that lives in our podcast universe, and he's
very less multifaceted than I'm sure he is in real life,
but in our universe's nice guy on Twitter, had a
great episode of Party Down. That's all you need to

(12:35):
know about Steve Goomberg. I know we haven't even gotten
into police Catty. Do we do a show on Police Academy?
So that probably would have made sense. I don't think
we have. If we have, I must have been blacked
out or something. Alright, So printing press is advancing forward.
Go to Korea in twelve thirty four, and you're going
to find a man named Show Young Wee who was

(12:57):
commissioned to do uh some more boot is text. A
lot of this was Buddhist text. Well yeah, if you'll
notice religious texts help push this whole thing forward from
different religions, even yeah, like that Bible that Guttenberg would
make stunts. Sorry, so this one was really really long,
and he was using this movable print that had already

(13:18):
been around, but this time he was making these letters
for metal um, kind of using what the technique they
did for coin minting, which had been going on for
a while. Set him in a frame, lined them all up,
coded them with ink, and pressed them. And if you think, hey,
that sounds like a printing press, you would be exactly right.
You're right, fella, for sure. That's that's basically what Guttenberg

(13:40):
came up with. He had a couple of extra innovations,
for sure, that are definitely credited to him directly, but
that general idea had been around for a couple of
hundred years at least before he started printing his own
stuff using this machine of his invention. Now, again, this
is not detract at all from Guttenberg. He put together

(14:01):
a lot of disparate ideas, and there's also a lot
of debate whether he would have known about the Korean
or Chinese advancements in printing um. If so, maybe it
was the Mongols that spread it west, but they're not
entirely certain there's no smoking gun, so it's possible he
also thought of it himself, just by being involved in
it and thinking about it, or maybe he heard about

(14:24):
some other stuff and refined it into his own thing. Regardless,
he came up with the printing press, and the Chinese
and the Koreans are not credited with that for actually
a couple of reasons. And the upshot of all of
it is that it didn't ever really take off in
China or Korea. Um, even though it was invented there,
it didn't become widespread or widely used, and it certainly

(14:45):
didn't create an information age revolution. Well, how's this for cliffhanger.
We'll take a little break and we'll tell you a
couple more reasons why it never took off in Asia
right after this, alright, Chuck, I can't take this any longer.

(15:19):
To tell us, tell us why it never took off
in Asia. Well, some some reasons that just make a
lot of sense. Um. They are they have very complex
characters with their language, and they have, you know, up
to tens of thousands of characters with different pronunciations, different
phone ms, different syllables, and you can't. You just can't

(15:42):
do it. You can't have that many little tiny blocks,
much less multiples of those if you want to print
a page, you know, because it's not like you can
move them around. And then keeping up with all these
was literally one of the big problems. Like they made
these big I think there was a man named Wang
Wang Zen who use these revolving tables to access these

(16:03):
big racks of letters. But it was kind of like
what you were talking about with the house made of
woodblocks of hundred and thirty thousand wood cuts. It's like,
you you just can't keep up with that many. So
it wasn't practical. And then Guttenberg comes along, He's like,
we only have twenty six letters, so this is pretty
this is pretty dumbed down as a language goes. Yeah,
because I mean even if you do you know, capitals

(16:25):
and lower case, that's still just what fifty two and
throwing some punctuation, Yeah, some punctuation makes some doubles because
you know you're gonna use E a lot more times
than one per page, so you need to make some
backup copies of them. He made about three hundred in
the end, right, That's what I saw Yeah, three hundred um,
different characters, spaces, punctuation um, upper case, lower case, and

(16:51):
that that's all he needed. So the three hundred verses
tens of thousands um. Number one is this easier to make,
but number two it's he's year to keep up with two.
So um. Guttenberg just happened to be working in just
the right language for a movable type printing press to
really make sense. Should we talk about this guy? Yeah,

(17:12):
because I like him. He's he's um. He had a
bit of a hustle to him, and I like and
he's also one of histories kind of hard luck guys
in a way, even though I mean, you know, his
name is legendary, so you can't put a price on that.
I'm sure he would have liked to have put a
price on that, so it I just want to say,
from what I saw, it is very much up for

(17:33):
debate whether he actually was financially ruined in the end
that he was doing fine. Because one thing we got
to tell everybody chuck out of the gate is Guttenberg
was born at a time where his father was a patrician.
He was an aristocrat in Um in Germany. Mains is
it mains Minz Germany. Um, So he was, you know, notable,

(17:57):
but this wasn't a time where people of that class,
you know, he wasn't like a king or anything like yet,
so there was not a lot of documentation of his birth.
Were not entirely certain when he was born. His early
life has kind of lost to history too, because he
was just kind of a nobody until he invented the
printing press. But the thing is, when he invented the
printing press, it was so revolutionary and so obvious how

(18:20):
revolutionary it was out of the gate that within a
decade or two of his death, historians were studying and
documenting his life. So there's a surprising amount of stuff
that was documented about him that's preserved still. But the
stuff that we do have is almost entirely his work.
And then court records when he was dragged into court

(18:41):
by creditors and investors. Yeah, so you said he had
a little bit of a hustle, um, I think ed says.
They referred to him charitably as having entrepreneurial flair. It's
another word of saying he had a bit of a
hustle to him, and he would get in He was
always trying to make a buck, always had some sort
of scheme in the works, and which means he had

(19:02):
investors a lot of times and a lot of times
he might not come through. So as a result, he
was taken to court a lot, like you said, and
it's kind of funny to build this guy's life out
of court records, but we are able to construct a
little bit of it because of him being hauled in
there and being sued time and time again, and most notably,
were able to kind of piece together the printing press

(19:24):
that he invented, what he invented, what he knew when
from these court records, because all of these um these
lawsuits basically were over his work. They were between investors
in his work and him. And the thing is is,
like I don't have the impression that he was a
hustler in the sense that he was a con man
or shark or anything like that. He he had very

(19:47):
high aspirations. He also had these smarts to figure out
how to achieve these aspirations. He just didn't have the
money to achieve these aspirations, so he needed outside help.
His big problem is far as investors go, from what
I can tell is that he was a perfectionist. So
rather than just figure out how to invent the movable
type printing press, which he did, he also tried to

(20:09):
figure out one that could also print in red on
a different set, or using copper engraving to create um
different types of of type. Some stuff that like details
that were like kind of unnecessary, but made this transform
this thing from you know, an amazing piece of work
to a masterpiece. And the time it took to be

(20:31):
that much of a perfectionist made him run into creditors
and investors that were not that patient. Yeah, And his
first sort of tinkering with pressing anything, it seems because
of again a lawsuit was in Strasbourg when he lived
there in around fourteen thirty eight, is that ce and

(20:53):
he would, uh, he had this plan to produce these
trinkets for people going on religious pilgrimage is more than one. Yeah,
So he had these tools that he could stamp out
these trinkets and press these things, and so he he
sort of had an idea at least of how this
kind of technology worked as far as cutting something, stamping

(21:15):
and pressing it. And there's some indication, Chuck, that he
was already figuring out the rough contours, if not more
detailed than that of his printing press in Strasbourg. Because
that first court case um was by the family of
some creditors who who took him to court because they
wanted in on some secret work he was keeping from

(21:37):
them um um and being investors in him, they were saying, well,
you know, if you're doing work on the side, we
should have a piece of that too. And that's where
some historians are like, this, actually what they're describing here
is part of the printing press because of debate. Still, well,
I mean it was ten years later if that was
in around four and by the time he got back

(21:59):
to minds in fort teen forty eight, he borrowed some
money from his cousin to do like a real printing business.
So it's I mean, I think you could be right.
It's very likely those people knew that he was in
the back room with his plan to print books and
they wanted some of that action, right, But he's like, no, dud,
you you you in on the ground floor of the

(22:20):
trinket business. This is a whole different, world changing business.
You're gonna have to cough up some more dough. And
they said nine yeah, they did say nine. And he said,
all right, well, I'm gonna invent this thing, or I'm
gonna cobble together a bunch of other people's work in
a way that makes sense that you can, you know,
make massive amounts of books that look good and that

(22:40):
you can sell and make money on. And the Bible
was a pretty obvious choice for the first big, big project.
But he was like, the Bible is a lot to undertake. Um.
And if you've ever seen a Gutenberg Bible, they're they're huge,
They're not there's two volumes. Yeah, there's not like these
little handheld Bibles. They're very large arge and I didn't

(23:01):
get an exact measurement, but you can see when someone
holds it. It's a big, big book. It's like a
big fat coffee table book. Eleven by eight mm hmm.
They seem a little wider than that. But thirty six
that's as high as I'm going. So he said, uh,
one dollar. He said that I'm gonna I'm gonna not

(23:22):
start with the Bible. Too much to bite off. It's
a little doll um. So I'm gonna start out with
some other stuff. I'm gonna print some um, some pamphlets.
I'm gonna see if I can sell these things. I'm
gonna see how good they look. And h he did.
He printed a grammar book, um was one of the
first things. This is from another lawsuit by a Roman

(23:43):
writer and it was a popular book, which was again
it's a smart thing that he did. Is is basically
taking like what would be a bestseller at the time
and seeing if he could mass produce it instead of
block book as a regular printed book. Right. So he
was also doing broad cheese Wi your kind like early newspapers,
which they had a pretty We should do one on
newspapers because the early life newspapers were these broadsheets, and

(24:07):
sailors would buy them, read them and then take them
into town at the next port and they would be
sold to those people who who most people weren't literate
at the time, so they would hire somebody who could
read in town to read the news out at like
the local tavern or something. And we both have experience
with newspapers. Sure, man, um, I would like to do

(24:28):
newspapers one day. Let's do it. Oh totally, that sounds
like a two parter to me, okay, so um he
basically the upshot of all this. And I think that's
the second time I've said that. I never say that. Um.
I always want to like deliberately make everything much slower
than that, the upshot of something like you want. Just
like you said, as much as we talk about Guttenberg

(24:50):
and party down, you know what's sad, I'm an unreliable
narrator in my own life. Oh man, what a great quote.
So Um. The the overall general point of what we've
been saying for this moment is that he kind of
broke his teeth on some slightly easier projects to kind
of figure out the ins and outs and everything. And

(25:12):
then when he was finally ready to do the Bible,
he apparently was well aware that this was going to
be a masterpiece. He had figured it out and he
was ready to bite it off, and he started work
on the Guttenberg Bible, also known as the Gutenberg Bible
and also known as the forty two line Bible because
that's how many lines he had per page. Um. And

(25:35):
even at forty two lines per page, which was more
lines because he lowered the space in between lines to
fit more lines per page, it was still something like
twelve hundred and eighty six pages um over two volumes.
That's a lot. But the kind of bear that in mind.
What we're talking about when we talk about this project eventually,

(25:56):
is that he was creating twelve hundred and eighty six
page bible. Okay, yeah, one at a time. Yeah, one
page at a time. That is so, which we'll figure
in here in a second. So he starts to work,
he knows that he I mean, before he starts, he
knows that he's gonna be able to charge a lot
for these things. And he knows he's gonna need to

(26:16):
crank them out um as quickly as he can. So
he's gonna need more space, he's gonna need more presses,
he's gonna need a lot of ink and and other
little dude ads and spawn divots that it takes to
make one of these. And he's gonna need people. You know,
he's gonna need some assistance. He can't do it all
by himself. Because here's where that comes back. You can
only it's not like he would print out a bible,

(26:38):
and he's like, I got one go sell this thing
and we can continue to fund our little project. Here.
You gotta print out one page at a time, over
and over and over and over, and then print out
page two over and over and over or two and
whatever the reverse side is. And eventually you're gonna be
able to start putting them together in bound form, and

(27:00):
only then can you start actually making money, right, right,
So he he was Also that was another thing that
he doesn't get credited for enough, I think, is that
he figured out like how to um do a rough
primitive version of an assembly line. Basically he was he
was mass producing these books out of the gate. That
was the point. You're you're mass producing it, not doing

(27:20):
it one page at a time, like you were saying,
like the old block books used to be. Right. So
he gets four presses going at a time, later went
up to I think six, and because of all this
upfront money that he needs to keep this going until
he can sell them and turner profit was uh, he
needed like always, he needed some dough. He he wasn't

(27:41):
just he didn't have his pockets lined with money. So
he had to go to a guy. And that's this
guy's name was Johann fust Hm. And and because he
calculated he would need about two years and because before
he could start selling. Yeah, the whole project, he figured
out was going to be about two years. This print

(28:01):
run of Bibles is going to take him two years
to do. So he needed to be able to pay
everybody he needed money for all the supplies, all the materials.
He needed to be able to survive for two years
because he would not be able to sell one single
Bible until all of them were done. None of them
were going to be done until all of them were done.
That's just the way the process worked out, right. So Foost,
I think saw the writing on the wall, knew it

(28:23):
was gonna be expensive, but knew that he was going
to probably be able to make a lot of money.
And who knows, I don't know this Foost guy from Adam,
but maybe in the back of his head he also thought,
you know what, I might also be able to just
sue this guy at some point and take control of
these printing presses because this guy didn't have a pot

(28:44):
to urinate in and he's not gonna have any money.
So and that's exactly what happened. He ended up um
having no assets other than these presses. And when he
got sued and lost, and I don't even know what
he got sued for was it for taking too long? Yes, yes,
that makes the whole thing that much worse that he
was sued basically like I was saying, for being a perfectionist.

(29:08):
And technically Guttenberg could have gotten the Bible out before
Foost sued him. Um, but again he was Yeah, just
a slightly less masterful version that would have just knocked everyone.
So had just the same amount of an impact on
the world. I don't think the world would have been
changed really any um had he had he gotten him

(29:32):
out in a time when Foost was was willing to
not sue him, but he wasn't prepared to do that.
He was he was an artist. He was an artist.
He had the soul of an artist. So he just
kept going deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole to
try to make this thing more and more perfect and elaborate.
And Foost said enough, and the court actually sided with Foost.
So Foost line him eight hundred guilden or golden um,

(29:55):
which at the time was about the the price of
a lot of money. Eight houses. That's what we're going with.
We'll see in a second it will make sense. But
let's say eight average cost houses. Um, that's how much
he lent him, Then he did it again. He lent
him another eight hundred golden, and so he was into
him for sixteen hundred golden. Would have easily been able

(30:17):
to pay that back when he Foost. Foost sued him.
The court said, not only do you owe him sixteen
hundred golden, you owe him in interest. We're gonna say
to get this, about two thousand and twenty golden is
what he ended up having to pay Foost. Now, did
he sue him because, uh, he was that far over schedule?

(30:39):
The only because he told him it would take two years.
Did it take like six or something? I saw that
from the court records. They believe that he was done
by fourteen fifty five, and I believe he started in
fourteen fifty three, so he was probably right on schedule.
I have the impression that Foost was a bit of
an impatient sure squad well, and also get the feeling

(31:02):
that that Guttenberg probably didn't dot his eyes and cross
his teas contractually. Maybe not, maybe not. I could see
that too. You got to bake in a little bit
of over over time there, you know for sure. But
I think I think he may have been roughly on schedule,
because because by fourteen fifty two he had created the Bible.

(31:24):
And here's the other thing. Here's the other reason why
Foosh suing him was a bit of a screwjob or
a huge screw job. Um. And by screwjob, I mean
like the act of a screwdriver screwing a screw into
a slab of wood that the screw doesn't want to
go into that wood. It wants to stay free. That
kind of kids. So um, the reason why, why why

(31:44):
it really stunk that Foos sued him, is because he
got the Bible's done. The Bible. The Bible run was completed,
and Foosh still sued him. And still one Um, if
I had been foosed in, the investor would have been like, okay, fine,
you finished. Um, maybe pay me more or something like that.
But that was not the case. Yeah, and who knows
what's going on back then? He could have bribed a

(32:06):
judge who got a piece of the action. You know.
I mean not speculation, but I'm just saying, it's not
like today when our court system is just so perfect
in every way, right, wall, let's run exclusively by artificial intelligence.
So um ed was kind enough to cobble together if
you just sort of fun facts about that Bible run. Uh.

(32:26):
He printed a hundred and eighty of these things, initially
sold all of them, of course. Uh today there are
forty nine of them still around, which um ed points
out and and I agree, is a really great UM
survival percentage for something that old UM forty nine out
of a hundred and eighty. And that just sort of
pinpoints UM or or just puts a point in the

(32:49):
fact that puts a pin in what am I trying
to say, really drives home the fact that these things
were very cherished and taken care of from the beginning. UM.
I went to see how much he could buy one
of these four Oh yeah, what'd you find? Well? Eight
seven was the last one I saw at auction. UM.
There maybe one since then, but in seven it went

(33:09):
for five point four million, So that was one one volume.
A complete set hasn't been auctioned since nineteen seventy eight,
for two point two million in nineteen seventy eight dollars.
From what I saw, if you were you get the
New Old Testament only or something if you're lucky, but
if the complete copy they think would be UM thirty

(33:29):
five million today. I think it went to auction. That
makes sense, it's about right. But so so he made
two he made two versions. He made one like a
regular version on paper and it sold for twenty golden,
and he made a vellum one on calf skin for
fifty golden. I mean forty five of those. So allow
me to figure these calculations real quick. Okay, boy, here

(33:52):
we go. So remember I'm going to get this right right.
So there's this historian named Andrew Petigree who says that
a house in Mainz Mines would have cost up to
a hundred golden a house. So the total that he
could have made selling this is these bibles is hundred

(34:14):
and eighty print run of bibles is fifty golden. It
is let's say, at a hundred golden a piece. That's
forty nine and a half houses. Don't ask about the
half of a house, but let's say today's dollars that
we're saying that a house is two hundred thousand dollars
per house. Okay, so two hundred thousand dollars times forty
nine and a half houses means that he made off

(34:36):
of these hundred and eighty bibles almost ten million dollars. Oh,
I can't wait for the correction. It's right, dude, I
I am definitely right. And so here's the other thing too.
So Um, when Foost sues him and gets that twenty
like two, gets that judgment of two thousand golden against him, Um,

(34:56):
a lot of people say, well, that ruined Guttenberg and
he died a pauper. If that Bible runs sold out,
he still would have had more than half of that
nearly ten million dollars left over after paying Foost. So
it's very much unclear that that he was a pauper
or not. The the overall point of what I've been

(35:17):
saying up to this moment is this upshot. It's that, Um.
That was the word you could have used earlier too,
when you were looking for a word upshot, what it worked.
I wasn't going to encourage the use of that though.
But the the the the upshot of his that Foost
got his hands on Guttenberg's printing press right after that

(35:40):
that run of Bibles was made, or his six printing presses.
Rather he and his and his printing assistant Um, who
was actually Foost's son in law, that he got the whole,
the whole, she bank, all this plates everything. You know.
My favorite thing about your math stuff is what I
know the second that you start that there are thousands

(36:03):
of people math math busters, if you will that just
immediately get out their pencil and pad and to see
if they can prove you wrong. That is fantastic. Yeah,
it is a game, and I always win. All right,
So we're gonna take another break. Okay, we're gonna tally
up your math uh wins and losses, and we're going

(36:25):
to talk about how this thing actually worked right after this.

(36:48):
So I think we came up chuck with the the
that I've won every math contest I've I've initiated everyone. Okay, alright,
so shall we talk about the Guttenberg Press. Yes, well,
you got your individual letters, okay, al right, so if
you're gonna we we said he ended up making three
hundred of these things, so you're gonna need all these

(37:10):
little individual letters carved. Uh, they're carved into steel using
these little files, and these are the master letters, and
then they punch those into soft metal um, most likely copper,
and then the impression in the copper is formed into
a mold and then you're gonna pour molten metal. And
what I saw was that one thing that Gutenberg definitely

(37:34):
invented with this hand casting instrument where they actually uh,
where you would actually pour this this molten metal. I
think he used lead tin and uh antimony whatever that is.
That was an alloy that he invented, even like add
that to his list. Yeah, so he invented some stuff.
But this is how you would actually make the individual
letters was by this early process. Right. So the one

(37:57):
thing that's still up for debate, supposedly is whether he
invented or used that punch matrix thing where you punched
the letter into a softer metal. It's they're not entirely certain,
but yes, he definitely was casting letters with alloy of
his own making um, and apparently it cooled like the
moment like you just poured it in closed the mold

(38:17):
and opened it and it would be cool enough to
dump out on the table and start filing down. Because
that was the other thing too, You had to file
down every letter to make sure that they were uniform.
And he even went, this is an example of how
how um, how detailed he got. He even was like, oh, well,
this this f has a lot of space between, you know,
on either side of it. So he filed down the

(38:38):
sides of all the fs after testing it a few times,
to make basically curning. He was. He was. He figured
out curning right out of the gate um, the first
time anyone had ever really created the printing press. There
was also curning, just the spacing between letters. Like, if
you've ever seen a bunch of letters strung far apart,
it looks really weird. Curning is out of that. That's hot.

(39:01):
That's a high curning value. Low curning values where they're
tighter together, which is what you want. Yeah. So the
long and short of his this of these little blocks, though,
is that you only needed to carve each one one time. Um,
you had to pour a bunch of molds if you
wanted a bunch of ease or as or other vowels
and stuff, but yeah, that was nothing. You only had

(39:21):
to do that carving once. File these things down until
they're all uniform, and then it moves on to someone
known as the compositor. Yes, the compositor or not to
be confused with the eradicate tour from kids in the
hall um. The compository was the person who sat there
with like the manuscript right and read each line. And

(39:43):
as they were reading each line, they were gathering the
letters they needed and putting putting the letters together in
like a like a handheld little rack um to basically
make each line. And they would slide each line into
a frame um called the form um. And you we
do that just line by line until the whole form
the whole frame is filled up with the lines that

(40:06):
you're going to print a page with. Yeah, basically what
they did in Korea two years earlier, except with far
fewer characters. Yeah. And you get the idea that if
you were a composit or working for uh, for Guttenberg,
the perfectionist, it was probably a pretty nervy job because

(40:26):
you're reading that manuscript. Any misspelling, any any misuse of punctuation, uh,
that would have I'm sure there would have been heck
to pay from Herr Guttenberg. So I imagine that job
was just sort of um high, high tension. And Gutenberg
very famously was super passive aggressive in his managerial stuff.

(40:48):
He would just kind of wander on the shop with
his coffee and say, you're gonna I'm gonna need you
to work Sunday as well. Yeah. Yeah, And it was
it was like you try to avoid him or whatevery,
but you had the sixth sense to like pop up
exactly right as you were trying to leave for the day, right,
and he would and he would ask about your stapler,

(41:08):
and he would say my red stapler. Yeah, that was
that was one of the press the press men. It's
just kind of kept in the basement. It was a
weird time for printing. It was another weird time is
going to be right now when I ask you if
you understand this gobbledygook about folios, Yeah, so what right?

(41:34):
So it's way easier to print. Yes, a logistical nightmare
is another way to put it. But if you take, um,
you know, one large page that's actually two pages of
a book wide, and fold it, you have a folio.
And supposedly Guttenberg printed these things in folios of five,

(41:56):
so that each each little I guess the thing that
they did was, um was like twenty pages. They would
do twenty pages at a time for remember something like
eighties six pages. They were doing this total per bible
UM and and I mean that was that The key
was this I know. To answer your question, No, I

(42:16):
didn't fully understand the folios. I think there was a
lot made of folios when there didn't necessarily need to
be a lot made of folios. The point was that
when you printed this stuff, this is very very tricky,
you had to dampen the paper because if you didn't,
did you like that was leaping ahead? Yeah? When when

(42:38):
you print UM on paper using the kind of ink
that he's he created another thing you created, which we'll
talk about um. The paper can stick very easily unless
you dampen the paper. The problem is that you gotta
print on the back side too, But you can't dampen
the paper again, my friend, or else you're gonna smear
the ink on the other side, or it's gonna run
or whatever. So they would print, They would dampen the paper,

(43:00):
print one side, and then have to print the other side,
like after the ink on the one side was dried,
before the paper had dried fully, right, Which is that's
gotta be tricky. You talk about nerv nous and high stress,
I mean especially when you're on like a if it's
a hundred and eighty bibles in a ten million dollar project,

(43:21):
I mean each page is rather expensive and valuable, so
you don't want to screw up any of them, you know.
So if you want to look at a press again,
I would go to YouTube and see the video but
actually being done. But the press has two sections. You've
got this frame uh that allows the plates in the
paper to align themselves, um, the carriage and then the

(43:43):
actual press part of the press. And you set these
plates onto the carriage and they're facing up and then
you apply inc using these uh and when you see
it on the video that it kind of looks like
it kind of looks like these big giant gourds there.
They have a handle and then this big round sort
of drumhead looking um body and you and you stamp,

(44:07):
you know, you roll this thing all around in the
ink and then roll them around on each other to
make sure that all all the INCA is really really
even and it's actually goose skin, uh, these pads are.
And then you, uh, you just go around and stamp
these four plates. And you know, from the looks the
way this guy did it, it took about maybe a
minute and a half to fully ink them for a

(44:30):
good page. And these things look kind of heavy. You know,
he's he's kind of. He doesn't roll them because if
you roll them you end up smearing, So he's just
sort of pounding them on there. And it's a lot
of work. And and all of this looks like a
lot of work, even the pressing part is it takes like,
you know, a lot of manual strength. Well yeah, I
mean again two years to just print bibles. Yeah, so

(44:53):
I mean it's a physical workout. Um, he uses this
inc you mentioned it's an oil based varnish previ lee.
For many, many hundreds of years they use water based
which is just no good. Water based ink is is
not what you want to do when you're printing a book. No,
And that was actually another reason why it didn't catch on.
Printing didn't catch on in in China and Korea two

(45:14):
as they were using water based inks exclusively and it runs,
its smears, it doesn't stay in place. It's just a
bad jam. And that was another innovation of Guttenberg's um,
which was to to use oil based ink. There was somebody,
I can't remember, we've talked about it in a podcast before,
but they were they were talking about how some inventor

(45:36):
just knocked something out of the park. His first time out,
and they said that it was akin to invent like
it had the right brothers invented their airplane complete with
UM airline miles and food trades that that came down
off the back of the sea in front. It was
just like this complete thing. And that's that's kind of
what Gutenberg did with the printing press. He he solved

(45:57):
all the problems all at once in his his initial invention,
like he figured it all out, and as we'll see,
it stayed the same for hundreds of years as a result. Yeah,
So to hold the paper in place, because you know
this frame is upright, and then you end up folding
it down. It's held in by these pins. He's a
little looked like little nail heads sticking or not nail heads,
but nail pointy parts the opposite of the head. And

(46:21):
that way, when you flip it over because you're gonna
have to print that other side, it's exactly in the
same spot that it was before. Another nice little, very
rudimentary way of making something perfect. Uh. And then you
mentioned earlier he made certain parts read this rubrication UM.
And I'm not sure what they did for the Guttenberg Bible,
but in the King James version. If I'm not mistaken,

(46:43):
Jesus's words are all in red. If i'm I think
I remember that being the case, But I think he
just used it here for certain parts and maybe flourishes
of art, and there was some hand drawn art and
stuff like that as well. Well, yeah, they you went
to hand drawn because they they he had so much
trouble with the the red um, like going back and

(47:05):
printing after the black was printed, printing on the same
page with just the red text. It's pretty advanced, right,
But they said, yeah, we'll just go do the hand
lettering like like traditional least, and nobody will be mad
at us for it, right, Like what do you call
it when the first letter is big drop cap? Yeah,
drop cap. They did those in red for sure. Uh.
And then you've got your screw Uh the screw press

(47:27):
he used. He kind of ganked from wine and great presses.
And you know, once you have this think inked up,
you move it over to the press and it's just
a big, big armed lever. It's not like something that
moves in a circle. You just kind of pull it
really tough, uh, kind of one or maybe two times

(47:47):
and then boom, you've got your printed page, you do,
and and Ed points out something that I think is overlooked.
But you know, and one of the other problems with
Chinese and Korean printing or any kind of printing using
like blocks or something like that is you're gonna get
uneven pressure, so you're gonna get an uneven transfer of
One of the genius things about the press about it

(48:08):
using basically a wine press for printing, is that it
applies even slow pressure at you know, increasing pressure and
then decreasing pressure as you unscrew the screw, so the
at the same rate, like over the whole plate, right,
So there was a nice even amount of pressure that
was increasingly introduced and decreasingly reduced. Um that that really

(48:32):
kind of made this this beautiful outcome for the on
the printed page. Yeah, you get when this guy in
this video holds up the little printed page at the
end there, you know, there's a little moment of you
and going on in that room, right and like a
little trickle of blood comes out of his ears. He's
just gazing into the king Man. I was worried about
that guy from I gotta go see that. You should

(48:52):
check him out. So um, that's I mean, that's the
printing press we we we should say, after Guttenberg into
those bibles, Foost got his hands on those presses almost
immediately and in very short order, I think, like less
than two years released Assaulter, which is also considered a masterpiece,

(49:13):
but Foost put his name on it. Even though Gutenberg
had basically created the whole thing. He also made a
business for himself creating these bibles using Gutenberg's old plates
because he got his hands on all those through the court.
But again, Guttenberg was certainly not lost to history. Everybody
knew what he did and very quickly, you know, revered

(49:34):
him as a hero extraordinary. But we were talking about
what the Gutenberg press did for the world, and it's
really tough to overstate the impact that it had on things. Yeah,
I mean just think about, like you said, the first
information Age, getting out information on on government and politics

(49:55):
and democracy, and I mean just little things like how
tos and you know, how to how to that there
might have been a how to on how to make
those nails that we talked about in the Blacksmithing episode,
although I think a lot of that has passed down,
but all of a sudden, you can get this out
on mass and and that's the whole thing. It's like,
all of a sudden, hundreds and thousands and hundreds of

(50:17):
thousands of people could read information right, and they could
learn to read too, because books were now way more
affordable than they have been before. And actually, ironically enough,
I ran across the history dot com article called seven
ways the Printing Press changed the World by our own
Dave Rubs. He went to um he he points out this,

(50:38):
and I thought this was really important. With the printing press,
that made it way easier to make way more copies
of something than ever before, which also made it harder
to stamp out new ideas. Whereas before, if you had
some heretic who had this new idea about, you know,
the earth revolving around the sun rather than the other
way around, all you do is kill that person, burn

(51:00):
about the steak, and then burn their copies of their
notes along with them. In idea gone right now, that
person could make a bunch of copies and disseminate them,
and so this idea would be out there. You could
kill that person, but their idea was going to survive
because there were too many copies for you to get
your hands on and stamp out. And that led to
things like the Enlightenment, like the revolution in America and

(51:21):
in France, and the birth of democracy in the West,
like like all of this stuff came from that, the
ability to disseminate things like never before in the legal system.
It allowed judges to throw the book at people. Yeah
before one book. Yeah, they wouldn't throw that one thing.
They might not get it back, that's right. So wow,
that's a good one. I think on that one. We

(51:43):
should end u this episode on the Guttenberg Printing Press.
Don't you Well? Since I said don't you, everybody's time
for listener, ma'am alright, I'm gonna call this sweep Steaks Winner.
This is from Devin John's Hey guys, just listen to
the sweep Steak podcast. I wanted to share one of
my wins as a sweeper and I saw a sweepstakes

(52:05):
for from Interstate Battery and Firestone where they were giving
away two trucks and a bunch of gift cards. All
you had to do is get a free battery check
at any Firestone and enter with your invoice. I thought,
I need an oil chain so I might as well
get that battery checked and enter. Less than three months later,
I was contacted by a third party company who facilitates
the sweep Steaks. Almost didn't answer. They told me I

(52:28):
didn't win and he won a gift card. No, he
won a truck. He won one of those two trucks,
uh seventeen Chevy Silverado. He said, I loved having a truck,
but as you guys said, you gotta pay taxes on winnings,
which counts his income, so ended up selling it, buying
a nice use car and paying off debt. I've won
a bunch of stuff and have learned how to spot

(52:51):
reel and fake giveaways, but they do exist, so keep entering.
And that is Devin John's and he included a picture
of himself with his latkar. It's great, it looks good still,
Thanks Devin, congratulations and that is a fantastic story. That's
a perfect listener. Male response to the sweep Stakes episode.

(53:11):
If you ask me, yeah, and in a smart, responsible
thing you did by getting a cheaper thing and then
paying off debt. Good for you. Yeah. Uh, Well, if
you want us to give you a pat on the
head for something you did. Email to us. You can
send it off to stuff podcast at iHeart radio dot com.
Stuff you Should Know is a production of iHeart Radios.

(53:33):
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