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Slips of Salvation and Other Printed Miracles



Slips of Salvation and Other Printed Miracles
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 9 to 12
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   8.01

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    antimony, gem-polisher, hand-decorated, jujube, page-size, printing, absolve, transcribe, scribes, solidify, revolutionary, varnish, hand-copied, manuscript, linseed, salvation
     content words:    Johannes Gutenberg, Maybe Johannes, Catholic Church, Gutenberg Bible, Middle Ages


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Slips of Salvation and Other Printed Miracles
By Colleen Messina
  

1     For centuries, everyone copied books by hand, which was tedious and tiring. The poor, cold monks had sore backs and headaches, and they couldn't keep up with the demand for their beautiful manuscripts. After all, it took one monk twenty years to transcribe a single Bible! The monks sometimes encased the precious books in metal covers and chained them to church walls to keep them safe. Everyone wanted more books, but no one could figure out how to do it. Then a creative German named Johannes Gutenberg said to himself, "There has to be a better way," and invented the printing press.
 
2     Before Gutenberg invented his press, Chinese scribes printed books with wooden blocks that had whole pages of characters carved into them. Scribes made the blocks out of pear or jujube wood and wrote the text by hand on the top of the block. They carved out the characters, carefully spread black ink all over the block, and gently pressed a sheet of paper on the top. This process left an impression of the characters on the paper. The Japanese also refined block printing, and often used a mallet and chisel to carve their characters into the wood. However, slow, messy, block printing had its problems.
 
3     Gutenberg's invention brilliantly solved those problems, but he had to work hard to figure out the printing process. He was a goldsmith and gem-polisher by trade, and he had an innovative mind. His original family name was Gansfleisch, which was German for "goose flesh." Maybe Johannes knew he would someday be famous, but in any case, he decided to take the name Gutenberg because the word meant "good mountain." Gutenberg was certainly a better choice for the history books.

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