What Tyndale Owed Gutenberg
As much as English-speaking and reading Christians should consider themselves indebted to Tyndale, they should consider themselves equally indebted to Johannes Gutenberg—without him, Tyndale’s “revolution” might well have been almost inconsequential.
Of course Gutenberg was not the first man ever to have thought of or used movable, mechanical type for duplicating documents; Chinese and Korean printers had developed and begun using some forms of movable type as early as 1060 A.D.
But if Gutenberg—or someone like him—hadn’t designed and built the first commercially effective printing facility ever, in Mainz, Germany in 1450, then Tyndale would have had to publish his translation of the New Testament into English by means of hiring scribes to copy it by hand. And even the fastest of scribes could not have produced in one year the number of copies of the New Testament that a Gutenberg-like press could produce in just a few weeks.
Without Gutenberg, production and distribution of Tyndale’s translation would have been severely slowed down by merely technical problems, not to mention all the resistance Tyndale received from official Roman Catholic and government sources.
But because Gutenberg devised the means to print a Latin version of the Bible with movable type in an original edition of 150 copies on heavy paper, plus 30 on fine vellum, Tyndale was able to print thousands of copies of an English version of the Bible on regular paper, and get them distributed all across his native England. And while we are certainly indebted to Tyndale for his steadfastness against the official resistance, both we and Tyndale are indebted to Gutenberg for his steadfastness against resistance of a different ...