From Badges to Moveable Type: How Gutenberg Came to Bring Mass Production Technology to the Production of Books

By T. Craig Christy.

Published by The International Journal of the Book

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

It is highly probable that Gutenberg came to the idea of mass producing books via his involvement with another mass production enterprise - the production of wildly popular, and affordable, pilgrim badges. Little notice has, however, been given to this important component of Gutenberg’s expertise and career trajectory. Similar, to a certain extent, to modern-day souvenirs, these late medieval mementos of pilgrimages were, in addition, coveted tokens of piety, devotion, and belief, not unlike manuscripts and books, which, both before and after Gutenberg’s revolution, were prized and revered objects. In the course of examining the relevance, to the development of moveable type, of Gutenberg’s involvement with the manufacture and marketing of mirror pilgrim badges, consideration will also be given to the expertise in metalworking he brought to both tasks, as well as to the ways in which beliefs about mirrors and their imagined magical powers relate to printing and reading. Gutenberg’s achievement will be presented accordingly not as an isolated invention, but rather as an achievement reflecting his having been influenced by, and having capitalized on, the convergence of several technologies and manufacturing enterprises.

Keywords: Gutenberg, Printing Press, Moveable Type, Pilgrim Badges, Mirror Badges, Religious, Iconography, Renaissance Art, Camera Obscura, Hockney-Falco Thesis, Projected Images, Artistic, Realism, Optical Aids-Painting, Stigmatization, Kurt Köster

International Journal of the Book, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.1-26. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.470MB).

Dr. T. Craig Christy

Professor of German, Linguistics, & International Studies; Chair, Department of Foreign Languages, Department of Foreign Languages, University of North Alabama, Florence, Alabama, USA

My principal area of research is in linguistic theory and historiography, with associated interest in semiotics, philosophy and the history of ideas. I studied linguistics and linguistic historiography under William G. Moulton and Hans Aarsleff at Princeton University (PhD 1980: Germanic Languages and Literatures).

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