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that mantled on his brow, when, after having engraved a few continuous sentences, or sets of alphabets, with spaces between each line and letter; and after having sawn each line asunder, and separated each letter from the one adjoining, and trimmed and squared the whole to his mind, Gutenberg recomposed the letters into words, and other words, which differed from the original, and saw his cherished thought worked out complete before him.
But, while thus on the very threshold of success, obstacles and difficulties began to present themselves, which taxed his ingenuity and tried his perseverance to an extent which it was scarcely possible for him to have foreseen. In the first place, whatever plan he may have adopted to produce impressions in his earliest experiments, he could not fail to find out in a very short time that the Chinese method, adopted by the block-book printers, would not answer for his separable types; and moreover, that the fine strokes and edges of his wooden letters were liable to damage and destruction from other causes besides those arising from the amount of pressure it was necessary to subject them to in order to ensure a clear readable impression. It was necessary therefore to resort to metal. This was, in itself, a serious matter to begin with, for engraving on metal is a much more difficult, tedious, and expensive process, than engraving on wood. With separable types, and direct perpendicular pressure to produce impressions, a different kind of ink or pigment to that hitherto used by scribes, or stencillers, or block-book printers, also became necessary, as well as a different method of applying it to the face of the types; and many an experiment must have been made, and much time and money lost, before these difficulties were overcome, and success attained in these as in the preceding step.
* Linseed oil, rosins, shellac, pitch, mundick, varnishes, The chief difficulty—the greatest obstacle in the way of putting to a practical use the Types as now designed, and thus bringing the TYPOGRAPHIC ART before the world, was the want of the LETTER Press. To overcome this obstacle, to conquer this difficulty, was Gutenberg's great task. There was, in point of fact, no particular ingenuity or inventive faculty required in making separable letters. The keen perception which saw the advantages to be gained from such separation, was, no doubt, a sure indication that Gutenberg was a man of mark,one whose mental gifts transcended those ordinarily possessed by his fellow-men. But the realization of
nutgalls, turpentine, and vitriol, were made use of by the early printers in manufacturing their ink. In applying it, a small quantity was first taken up on a pair of balls or dabbers made of sheepskins padded with wool; these were then well beaten together until finely and evenly covered, after which they were beaten on the types until the pages were considered sufficiently inked.
the idea of separating the letters was a task which mainly depended on the amount of manual and mechanical dexterity brought to bear upon its execution. The higher efforts of genius, and the development of the inventive faculties were displayed in the subsequent steps, and in none more notably than in the invention of the PRESS.
The question — Who invented the Printing Press ? — has never yet, it is believed, been thoroughly considered or satisfactorily answered. A writer in the Encyclopædia Britannica says, “It is probable that one of the difficulties which Gutenberg found insuperable at Strasburg was the construction of a machine of sufficient power to take impressions of the type or blocks then employed. Nor is it at all wonderful that even the many years during which he resided at that city should have been insufficient to produce the requisite means; for what with cutting his type, forming his screws, inventing and compounding his ink, and constructing the means for applying the ink when made, his time in the Alsatian capital must have been fully occupied.” And he goes on to argue that the Press was probably the joint production of Gutenberg, Faust and Schæffer, during the time of their association in Mentz. But for such a belief there is no real ground whatever.
Mr. Hansard, although he devotes 166 pages of his voluminous work * to an account of Presses and Printing machines, strangely enough heads his first chapter on the subject “Construction of the Original Printing Press by Blaew of Amsterdam.” But Blaew lived two centuries after the original invention, and was only an improver of certain of its parts. Of the original inventor he says not a word.
* Typographia: An Historical sketch of the Origin and Progress of the Art of Printing. By T. C. HANSARD, 1825. 8vo. 1000 PP.