In the German speaking lands, six cities dominated printing: Cologne, Strasbourg, Leipzig, Basle, Augsburg, and Nuremberg.
In the years following the appearance of Johannes Gutenberg’s Bible around 1455, printing spread through German speaking regions and other parts of Europe. The beginning of printing in Nuremberg is traced to the decade of the 1470s.
Charles’s Golden Bull of 1356 named Nuremberg as the city where newly elected kings of Germany must hold their first Imperial Diet, making Nuremberg one of the three highest cities of the Empire, along with Frankfurt, where kings were elected, and Aachen, where Emperors were crowned and which had been the capital of the old Frankish Empire. The royal and Imperial connection was strengthened when Sigismund of Luxembourg granted the Imperial regalia to be kept permanently in Nuremberg in 1423.
Before Gutenberg, printing was practiced but on a very small scale as each page had to be carved on wood.
Gutenberg developed printing by the use of 25 mobile fonts cast in lead and set in a press with a frame operated by a screw.
While Johannes Gutenberg was born and raised in Mainz, he lived to Strasbourg between 1434 and 1444, where he was an apprentice goldsmith. It was in Strasbourg that he invented the printing press that so changed the world.
The statue, sculpted in 1840, by David d’Angers, is of Johannes Gutenberg holding a piece of parchment on which is inscribed the words “Et la lumière fut” (And behold, there was light) from the Book of Genesis. He was the publisher of the Gutenberg Bible in 1455.
In Frankfurt, the sculptor Edward Schmidt von der Launitz (1797-1869) created a group of three figures using galvano-technology. Depicted are Johannes Gutenberg – with book and letters – and his colleagues and financial backers Johannes Fust – with books on his arm – and Peter Schöffer – with stamping hammer.
The four figures seated symbolize theology, poetry, natural sciences and industry. The upper sandstone pedestal bears 14 portraits of renowned European printers of early modern times. The standing figures shown on the pedestal hold the escutcheons of the centres of the early book printing and book trade: Frankfurt, Venice, Strasbourg and Mainz.
“What the world is today, good and bad, it owes to Gutenberg. Everything can be traced to this source, but we are bound to bring him homage, … for the bad that his colossal invention has brought about is overshadowed a thousand times by the good with which mankind has been favored.” Mark Twain