Just a 20-minute drive from Clay Kaserne in Germany, in the heart of Mainz’s old town sits the Gutenberg Museum, dedicated to Johannes Gutenberg and the movable type printing press that he invented around 1440.
Gutenberg’s printing press wasn’t the first — Korean bookmakers were printing with movable metal type a century before him — but by allowing books to be mass produced inexpensively, it gave people access to new ideas and knowledge, which dragged Europe out of the Dark Ages and ushered in the information era, historians say.
Admission to the museum is 5 euros and for another 3.50 euros, you can rent an easy-to-use audio guide, available in English, French or German. The guide offers six tours that, combined, last an hour and provide a detailed explanation of everything in the museum.
Once I’d finished all six tours and knew just about everything I will ever need to know about Gutenberg and printing across the centuries, in different cultures and around the world, I took time to browse the museum displays, including the famed Gutenberg Bible, the first thing he printed on his press. Two sets of ancient Chinese printing wheels that have more than 600 movable clay stencils caught my eye in the East Asia section of the museum before I moved on to the Islam section, where I was awed by a burial cloth with Arabic prayers woven into it, the words so small that they were hard to see.
In the Druckladen, which is part of the museum but has a separate entrance, visitors big and small can try their hand at ages-old artisanry like bookbinding or lino printing.
The museum is tucked away behind some shops and an apartment building, but if you look for Mainz’s 1,000-year-old St. Martin’s Cathedral, it’s immediately opposite.
DIRECTIONS: Address: Gutenberg Museum, Liebfrauenplatz 5, 55116 Mainz The address for the Druckladen is the same, but the entrance is on Seilergasse 1. There’s free parking about a two-minute walk from the museum.
TIMES: Gutenberg Museum: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and German holidays. Druckladen: Same as the museum from Tuesday to Saturday, but 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sunday.
COSTS: Gutenberg Museum admission: 5 euros for adults, 3.50 euros for kids 8-18. Group discounts available. Druckladen: Workshops cost around 100 euros. A schedule is available on the museum website under Einrichtungen and then Druckladen.
INFORMATION: Gutenberg Museum: Phone: +49 (0)6131 12-2640; Online: gutenberg-museum.de Druckladen: For more information and to book a spot at a workshop, call +49 (0)6131-122686 or email firstname.lastname@example.org