The Purloined Printing Press

In 1997, Time–Life magazine picked Gutenberg’s invention as the most important of the second millennium. Albeit Gutenberg himself has been a subject of some historical intrigue. He has ben depicted as everything from a brilliant inventor (Christie) to a conman (Stevens). However, if the importance of the printing press itself is true, which I believe it to be, where is the storytelling that features the machine in its glory? Should the machine not eclipse the smith who pulled it technically together at the right time in our collective history? Is the printing machine itself under represented?

While searching for something to give the invention, and its importance, some dramatic emphasis, I ran across Episode 13 of the 1953 TV Series I Led 3 Lives. I found this episode, The Purloined Printing Press, to be highly entertaining both because the narrative style is quaint, and the because the naive, political skew is so absurd that it is impossible to take seriously. However, the machine doesn’t make an appearance till a poorly lit scene under a trap door at 20:30, and although the pressman does actually expose a plate and mount it on the offset printing unit (while the narrator’s thoughts audibly describe the process), the footage of the press itself does not feature the mechanics which, whether old or new, are stunning and cinema worthy.

Perhaps it is fitting that, in order to learn about the true impact of the printing machine and appreciate the impossible technical complexity that permits it to work, a person needs to read a book about it.

Christie A (2012) Gutenberg's Apprentice, Headline Review  

Stevens G (2013) Was Johannes Gutenberg a 15th-century con man? Retrieved from…/johannes-gutenberg-15thcentury-con-man

I Led Three Lives, Episode 13 (1953) The Purloined Printing Press, Retrieved from