Johann Gutenberg, Or Henne, the reputed inventor of printing, born in Mentz, Germany, about 1400, died there, Feb. 24, 1468. His father's name was Gensfleisch or Gansfleisch, Gutenberg being the name of his mother, or that of an estate which belonged to the family. His family was of noble lineage, and he occupied a respectable position in his native city, from which, however, civic dissensions caused him with many others to migrate in 1420. He became a citizen of Strasburg, where he appears to have devoted many years to meehan-ical experiments of various kinds. In 143(5 he entered into a contract with Andrew Dritzehn and others of that city for the purpose of practising in partnership, and for the common benefit, all his secret and wonderful arts. Three years later he was sued by the brother of Dritzehn, who had died in the interval, for money due the latter by the terms of his contract; and in the course of the trial it was shown that among the wonderful arts which Gutenberg was to reveal to his associates was printing, and that as early as 1438 he was in possession of a press, movable types, forms, and other appliances of the art.
As he never affixed his name to the title pages of his books, it is not certain that he produced any printed works at Strasburg. After 1444 all trace of him is lost till 1448, when he was again in Mentz. In August. 1450, he entered into a partnership with Johann Faust of Mentz for the purpose of carrying on the business of printing, the latter undertaking to furnish the funds. The partnership terminated at the end of live years, Faust having in a suit for moneys advanced obtained possession of most of the materials of the business. With such as remained to him Gutenberg established himself in the house zum Gutenberg, belonging to his mother, where he appears to have carried on printing with considerable activity, and to have associated himself with a Doctor Conrad Homery, who afterward came into possession of the stock. In 1405 Gutenberg abandoned printing, and entered the service of the elector Adolphus of Nassau as a gentleman of the court, with a suitable compensation. The number and character of the works printed by him, or with his cooperation, have afforded a fruitful subject of controversy, and by many it has been maintained that his merit was altogether that of an experimenter.
In his own and in modern times he has to a certain extent been obliged to share with Faust and Peter Schoffer the credit of his invention; and so obscure are many passages of his history that his name has almost been considered a myth. Schoffer in several instances publicly claimed the invention for himself, and also for his father-in-law Faust; but in the preface to a German translation of Livy, published in Mentz in 1505, it is distinctly stated by his son Johann Schoffer that the "admirable art of printing was invented in Mentz in 1450 by the ingenious Johann Gutenberg, and was subsequently improved and handed down to posterity by the capital and labor of Johann Faust and Peter Schoffer." The testimony of his contemporaries and the opinion of most modern writers seem to agree, however, that Gutenberg not merely invented the art, but practised it for many years previous to his death, and long before he became associated with Faust. Zell, a contemporary writer, mentions a Catholicon, and one or more editions of the Donatus, possibly printed at Strasburg, of the former of which no copy remains.
Another Catholicon, called the Catholicon Joannis Ja-nuensis, was published by Gutenberg in Mentz in 1460. During the partnership with Faust appeared the "Letters of Indulgence," the "Appeal against the Turks," and the well known Mazarin Bible, their joint production; and of the celebrated Psalter, published by Faust and Schoffer in August. 1457, within 18 months after the separation from Gutenberg, and containing their imprint, much of the work was undoubtedly done by the latter. In addition to these, the "Calendar for 1457," the Hermanni de Saldis Speculum Sacerdotis, published about 1457, and the Celebratio Missa-rum, have been ascribed to him, although Dr. Dibdin thinks very doubtfully of the two latter, as well as of the Donatuses, and is inclined to consider the Catholicon of 1460 and the "Vo-cabularies" of 1467-9 more genuine specimens of his press or of the types used by him. The other works sometimes ascribed to Gutenberg are of very doubtful authenticity. In 1540, a century after the invention of printing, the city of Wittenberg first publicly celebrated the event. The example was followed in the succeeding century by Strasburg, Breslau, and Jena, and many cities of Germany have since held centennial jubilees in honor of Gutenberg and his invention.
In 1837 a statue of him in bronze by Thorwaldsen was erected in his native place, and in 1840 Strasburg, the birthplace of the art, inaugurated with great pomp one by David d'Angers. - The chief authorities on the life of Gutenberg are: Essai d'annales de la vie de Gutenberg, by J. G. Oberlin (Strasburg, 1801); Essai sur les monuments typo-graphiques de Gutenberg (Mentz, 1802), and other works, by M. G. Fischer; Eloge histo-rique de Jean Gutenberg, by Nee de la Rochelle (Paris, 1811); De l'origine et des debuts de l'im-primerie en Europe, by Auguste Bernard (2 vols., Paris, 1853); Essai historique de Gutenberg, by J. P. Gama (Paris, 1857); and Lamar-tine's memoir, Gutenberg l'inventeur de l'im-primerie (12mo, Paris, 1853). See also an article giving a summary of the facts and the arguments which the life and works of Gutenberg have evolved, by Ambroise Firmin-Didot, in the Nouvette biographie generate.