How Wine Helped Change the History of the Printed Book

It wasn’t imbibing authors, but rather wine technology that helped create the Gutenberg Bible—the first major European book printed via moveable metal type.
A historical wine press (left) and a replica Gutenberg press (right), showing similar mechanisms / Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons

It was recently the 561st birthday of the Gutenberg Bible, Europe’s first mechanically printed book, which many scholars believe came into existence around August 24, 1456. Phaidon has the story of the origins of this landmark achievement in mass media.

Surprisingly, it involves wine, but not in the way you might think.

One of Gutenberg’s challenges was finding a way to transfer his newly-invented ink, designed to stick to the metal type but still adhere to paper on contact, in a clean manner. According to Graphic: 500 Designs that Matter, the answer was found in technology being used in European winemaking. “This process was accomplished using a screw press, possibly adapted from wine presses.”

So the next time you curl up with a book and a glass of wine, toast to how much shared history they have.

Speaking of history, ever wonder where wine really comes from?

Published on August 25, 2017
Topics: Wine History


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