The spread of the printing press across Europe

In the mid-15th century, working in association with Johann Fust and Peter Schöffer, Gutenberg invented moveable metal type. His invention spread quickly throughout Europe. By the time of Gutenberg's death, there were two workshops in his hometown of Mainz. By the end of the 15th century, there were printing presses in more than 250 cities across Europe. The best-equipped countries were Germany and Italy, followed by France, Switzerland, Spain, the countries of Central Europe and, finally, England.

At that time, Europe contained some 100 million inhabitants, for whom 30–35,000 separate editions were printed, or an estimated total of 20 million copies.

By the time of Gutenberg's death in 1468, there were two printing workshops in his hometown of Mainz. By the end of the 15th century, there were printing presses in more than 250 cities across Europe.

In the 16th century, print runs were small and the number of editions much lower: some 60,000 editions were produced in France. At a European level, 200–300,000 editions were printed, for a total of some 200 million individual books.

The Gutenberg Bible was printed in 180 copies. The average production run for incunabula was probably between 400 and 500 copies. In the 16th century, this figure was generally around 1,400 to 1,500 copies.

If the printing press was so successful, it was because all of the physical conditions for its success were present – paper, a Chinese invention, was introduced into Spain by Muslims, and it expanded throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. Paper mills could be found in Sicily in the 12th century, in Fabriano (Italy) in the 13th century, and in both and Germany starting in the 14th century.

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