During the fifteenth century, Johannes Gutenberg converted a wooden wine press into a printing press. Arguably the most important invention in human history, this press was like daybreak after millennia of darkness. It is said that Gutenberg’s idea of a press with movable type came to him “like a ray of light.” (1) Gutenberg eventually prepared the Bible for widespread circulation, so that common citizens could study the word of God.
Years later, William Tyndale used Gutenberg’s press to produce an English translation of the Bible to be had among all people—an act that led to his execution, but not before famously stating to a clergyman, “If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!” (2)
Benjamin Franklin used the same press hundreds of years later to produce such documents as the Federalist Papers. The world owes much to Gutenberg and his press—but like all inventions his was eventually upgraded. In 1804, Lord Charles Stanhope devised an all-metal press that required less physical strength to operate, which increased printing speed and reduced cost.
The press was continually upgraded until some were small enough for owners of small printing shops to buy. One such owner was a man named Egbert B. Grandin, who was hired by Joseph Smith to print the first copies of The Book of Mormon.
The permanent exhibition at the Education in Zion Gallery features a beautiful room dedicated solely to printing, and the miracle that it has been for the world, especially for the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From the fifteenth century until now, printing has truly been a crucial instrument of the Restoration.
1. Burke, James (1985). The Day the Universe Changed. Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown and Company.
2. Foxe, John (1563). Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Days, touching Matters of the Church (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs). England: John Day