Gutenberg was originally a goldsmith from the city of Mainz in what is now the state of Rhineland Palatinate (at the time, it was an independent Archbishop Electorate within the Holy Roman Empire). He was born to a patrician merchant who probably dealt in cloth. A good smith and smart businessman, Gutenberg’s famous invention almost never happened: he had gotten into a scheme to fleece pilgrims expected to come to the holy city of Aachen for the city’s anniversary in 1439 by selling them polished mirrors to capture “holy light,” but his partners got the date wrong a whole year besides Aachen was struck by a flood that kept any festivities from happening there for quite a while. Desperate to pay back his partners, he said, in effect, “I have another idea. I’ve kept it a secret, but now I’ll share it with you, and you’ll make your fortune another way. Just give me a little while to perfect it, and you’ll see.” The secret, of course, was his movable type printing press yes, he and his partners did get very rich anyway.
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