In 2000 the city of Mainz celebrated the 600th birthday of Johannes Gutenberg who was born here in c. 1400. Today Gutenberg is often referred to as the Man of the Millennium – rightly so, for his pioneering invention – that of printing with moveable type – has changed the world. Gutenberg developed his ideas in both Strasbourg and Mainz. He wasn't just a skilled craftsman and inventor; he was also a daring entrepreneur who was bold enough to exploit a gap in the medieval market.
In Gutenberg's day and age the economic situation was anything but favourable. The city of Mainz had run up huge debts, leaving the guilds, patricians and archbishop locked in bitter conflict. In the mid 15th century the archbishop finally managed to assert himself as city ruler, catapulting him to a position of great power.
Gutenberg died in Mainz in 1468. He wasn't particularly poor – nor particularly well off, for his inventions had failed to reap great financial rewards. His life and work can be studied at length at the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz. His pièce de résistance is the Bible he printed 180 copies of in Mainz between 1452 and 1455. One of the original volumes printed in his workshop is now on display at the Gutenberg Museum.
Although Gutenberg enjoyed modest acclaim during his lifetime, his great legacy only really began to be fully appreciated during the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1837 the people of Mainz erected a statue in his honour on the aptly named Gutenbergplatz, designed by sculptor Bertel Thorwaldsen from Denmark.
In 1900 the citizens of Mainz opened the Gutenberg Museum to coincide with the 500th anniversary of Gutenberg's birth.