Gutenberg´s final years


After the separation from Fust, Gutenberg probably continued printing in his own workshop.

The fact that Johannes Gutenberg continued to print in his own workshop can only be deduced indirectly, as the relevant equipment was part of his estate. Unfortunately, none of the prints that we attribute to Gutenberg today contain a name. This is also true for the Catholicon, one of the early prints, whose printing history has probably been the subject of most discussion in research to date. The Catholicon is a Latin grammar that was possibly printed by Gutenberg around 1460.


Adolf II. of Nassau, elector and archbishop of Mainz, appointed Gutenberg as court man in 1465.

This honour brought Johannes Gutenberg several advantages. For example, every year he received the clothing of a courtier, 20 Malter Korn (approx. 2,200 litres) and 2 Fuder Wein (approx. 2,000 litres). With this he probably also supplied the employees of his printing workshop. In addition, Gutenberg was exempt from services to the city, taxes and duties.


Gutenberg lived until his death in the Algesheimer Hof in Mainz.

The Algesheimer Hof in the old town of Mainz is in the immediate vicinity of Johannes Gutenberg's probable baptismal church of St. Christoph and the Hof zum Gutenberg. After Gutenberg's death, the Algesheimer Hof was first incorporated into the university, which was newly founded in 1477, and went to the Jesuits in the 16th century. The building was destroyed in the Second World War. In the late 1970s, the remains of the surviving ruins finally had to make way for a completely new building.


Gutenberg died in early 1468, but we do not know the exact date of his death.

A last document dated 26 February 1468 bears witness to Johannes Gutenberg's death. In it, the Mainz humanist and lawyer Dr. Konrad Humery confirms that a borrowed printing press was returned from his estate. We therefore know that Gutenberg probably died not long before this date, i.e. at the beginning of the year 1468. The frequently mentioned date of death, February 3, was circulated by researchers and may have been invented. An obituary also states that the inventor was probably buried in the Franciscan church in Mainz, which no longer exists today.


We do not know what Gutenberg looked like, because there is no contemporary picture of him.

The earliest image of Johannes Gutenberg is a woodcut in the second volume of the "Prosopographia heroum atque illustrium virorum totius Germaniae" (1565/6), a book of heroes by Heinrich Pantaleon, a physician and humanist from Basel. However, the same woodcut is also used in the book for other persons, such as Bishop Remigius of Reims (c. 436-533) or Saint Columban of Luxeuil (540-615). A copperplate engraving from 1584 became Gutenberg's most famous depiction. It is taken from the nine-volume encyclopaedia "True Portraits and Life Stories of Illustrious Greeks, Latins and Pagans, Taken from Their Old and New Paintings, Books, Medals" by the French polyhistor André Thevet (1502[?]-1590). However, all portraits were painted well after his death, so we do not know what he really looked like.


In 1900 the city of Mainz celebrated Gutenberg's 500th birthday and founded the Gutenberg Museum.

With the opening of the World Museum of the Printing Arts on June 23, 1901, we, the International Gutenberg Society, were founded at the same time. This makes us one of the most traditional scientific societies in the city, which not only supports the Gutenberg Museum, but also promotes research into book and printing. With our work we want to keep Gutenberg's legacy alive and hope that you enjoyed our series of pictures about the life of this great inventor.