The enormous state museum of Mainz occupies the old imperial stable buildings of the Kurfürstliche Schloss just up from it on Grosse Bleiche. Its past is symbolised by an outstanding golden statue of a rearing horse on the roof of the entrance. The museum houses a collection of local pieces dating from Roman time onwards, including the original Jupitersäul that can be seen behind St Peter's church diagonally opposite. Some of its other famous artefacts include a Celtic dog made from coloured glass and an ivory Madonna from Trier, in the far west of the state. In addition to the archeology section the museum also includes a gallery, as well as a small Jewish collection.
Not far from the theater is the Gutenberg Museum, documenting the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg around the middle of the fifteenth century. Gutenberg was a native of Mainz and did most of his major work here.
The photo shows a working replica of one of his presses. When I was there the other day I caught part of a demonstration of how it worked. When the type has been set it took quite a bit of muscle power to press the paper down against the type with that wooden handle that looks like a baseball bat.
Upstairs in a vault in glass cases there are several actual books that Gutenberg printed, along with hand-copied books from the same period. Further exhibits show the work of other early printers, and the development of paper, and printing presses from later centuries.
This is a beautiful museum -- comprehensive but not overblown -- about the seminal invention of the second millennium.
The “Man of the Millennium”, Johannes Gutenberg, was from Mainz. Famous for his invention that transformed the book publishing work, the movable type printing press, Gutenberg is honored in a museum dedicated to his work.
There are many, many books and manuscripts dating back many hundreds of years, along with copies of his famous Gutenberg 42-line Bible. The museum is rather extensive, covering three floors, and has a large exhibit of various printing presses throughout history.
The museum has many demonstrations and children’s events as well as an excellent bookshop.
This is a must-see museum for history lovers!
The museum is easily located across from the Dom (cathedral) in the Domplatz. Outside you can find several very large woodcut letters along with a woodcut of the word ‘Gutenberg’ – mirror image, of course, just like the typesetters would use. Click HERE for a Googlemap of where the Gutenberg Museum is located.
Be sure to check out the statue of Gutenberg just on the other side of the market square across from the theater.
FYI - no photos allowed in the museum.
To the average person, Gutenberg is probably Mainz's most famous son. It's no surprise that there's a museum celebrating him and his great innovation, plus a plaza, a statue and a university in his honour. Even so, no one today knows what this great man looked like, as no portraits have survived from his own lifetime.
The prize exhibits of the museum are the 2 (incomplete) 42-line Gutenberg Bibles, located in the strong room on the 3rd floor. There were originally 180 of these Bibles printed, but only 47/48 of them are still in existence today, incomplete or otherwise. These remaining copies are scattered around the Western countries, of which 12 are in Germany, out of which only 3 are complete. The only copy not in a Western country is in Japan. Each of these Bibles was unique, as Gutenberg only printed the text, with flourishes and initials hand-drawn in colour by artists.
There're also plenty of exhibits about the evolution of printing in Europe, which I got a little tired of as English information was limited. A collection of miniature books and German children's books was quite amazing, and copies of miniature books can be bought downstairs in the museum shop. There was also a kute collection of gift items with Gutenberg as the subject, such as a stained-glass window, shot glasses, a teddy bear and even a nutcracker. It would've been nice if such items were available in the museum shop, and I was a little surprised not to find them. On the upper floors there were exhibits about book-binding and the making of paper.
If you wander to the annex on the uppermost floors, you can find exhibits about East Asian (Chinese, Korean, Japanese), Egyptian, Islamic, Mesopotamian script and printing, and also different scripts (fonts) for the Western alphabet. On the wall in the Islamic section I found a wall-hanging exhibit with extremely tiny print (with no English caption) -- I presume this was an example of the entire Koran on a single page.
Perhaps what I found most fascinating was a small section called "book art", where artists have used the book as a form for expressing their artistry. No, I'm not talking about book illustration. The book as a FORM, not a MEDIUM. Do check it out for yourself.
To finish off, there's a gift shop back on the ground floor selling various souvenirs and practical items, such as miniature books, postcards, stationery (I thought those a little extravagant though), books on related subjects, stamps, keychains etc. There's also an online shop on the museum website, and they can ship worldwide. Purchase price include a donation to the museum.
Admission costs 5 EUR for adults, or 3 EUR for students. In fact, I forgot to bring my student card when I was there, but luckily the museum staff didn't ask for it. If you're below 18, it's even cheaper at 2 EUR. If you don't read German and are particularly interested in understanding the exhibits, it might be a good idea to purchase an English-language guidebook for the museum exhibits for an extra 4.2 EUR.
The museum is open 0900--1700 on Tue-Sat, 1100--1500 on Sun, and closed on Mon and public holidays. I would probably allow at least 2 hours to explore the museum in its entirety, but if you're short on time and don't need to squint at every exhibit then you could probably do it in 1.
There're demonstrations of printing etc in the basement workshop on the hour 1000--1600, but regrettably these seem to be only in German, so I couldn't understand a thing. After trying to appear interested for about 10 mins I decided it wasn't worth wasting my time and moved on. Later on I chanced upon a similar demonstration on the 2nd floor of the museum, where the lady picked out a "helper" from the small audience; they got to "help" work a little press, got a sheet of print (certificate of some sort? It was in German again) and were asked to donate 2 EUR for the privilege, and it didn't seem possible to refuse. After this lady picked out her "helper", she switched to talking in English for some reason... I would've been interested to be her "helper" but not amused about the resultant price tag. 2 EUR might not be much, but it would've stung as there was no mention of it beforehand.
Note that photos are allowed only the in basement workshop area, not in the museum.
Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in a partnership with local merchant Johann Fust, right here in Mainz. He produced the first of his famed Gutenberg Bibles in the 1450s. The new invention made possible, for the first time in history, the rapid, cheap, widespread dissemination of human knowledge. It also made mass literacy possible. Books, once rare and costly, became common. This led to the Protestant Reformation (once the lay people had their own Bibles). Ultimately, it helped to bring out the Scientific, Industrial, and Democratic revolutions. In short, it changed everything.
The museum has one of Gutenberg's original printing presses, and a nice collection of Asian art and calligraphy. There is also an impressive collection of medieval prints, manuscripts, and artwork from Germany and around Europe. This should be on everyone's must-see list.
This is a great musuem. It is small and can be seen in about an hour or hour and a half. It is free, but they do ask that you consider giving a donation after you've seen the museum. I am an American living in Mainz and any time I take guests here they find this museum very interesting and donate something. It is located underground (stairs only) at the Romerpassage, which is Mainz's shopping mall in the new part of town. When they were digging to make the shopping mall (which is a very small 2 floor mall) they came across Roman ruins, thus the museum. The labels are in German, but you can buy a book at the information desk in English. It is a very nice and inexpensive book and definatly worth the money. If you are not interested in the book you can figure out most everything. They have a short film that plays every 20 minutes or so that helps explain some of what is in the museum (there is no dialog). On a side note, the best ice cream in Mainz in located in this mall. You can go upstairs to the restaurant to sit and eat, or stay on the main floor and grab a cone. There is also a public bathroom here - upstairs.
This is an interesting museum with a lot of roman boats that have been found in the area. It will not take a lot of time to go through this museum. If you want to fill an hour before heading out of town then this would be a good option. The museum is located on the south edge of town so it will take you about 10 minutes to walk there from the Dom (maybe 15 - 20 if you stroll). It's a nice walk since you have to head through the old part of town. One of the reasons it won't take long to go through the museum is because the lables are all written in German. I am an American living in Mainz and although I have been learning German, I am not fluent. I've complained that Mainz is enough of a tourist town that the museums should provide English lables, to no avail. I believe it is free.
If you do not speak or at least read German, I would highly recommend visiting this museum on a tour of your own language or at least with a friend who speaks German. There are very few exhibits that are translated, so you will be as lost as we were without help. I'm sure it is very interesting, but we could do little other than look at the exhibits and guess what they might be. In a few cases we could figure out a bit of info on what we were looking at, but I didn't learn much.
The display outside of the printing plates was impressive, the gift shop was not. The few nice things that were there were outrageously expensive, and the affordable items were tacky. My souvenirs from the Gutenberg Museum are my ticket stub and a postcard.
Local boy makes good - brings printing to the European scene - unwittingly launches a revolution!
The Gutenberg Museum attempts to tell the whole story of printing, not just the local perspective, but the entire global saga of movable type and the reproducible image.
If you are a bibliophile - like me - or just someone who enjoys knowing "how things work" this museum is a must-see. An additional matter of interest is that the Gutenberg is housed in a beautiful structure that dates from 1664. Although it was heavily damaged in World War II, it was carefully restored to its original appearance.
The museum has two copies of the treasured 42-line Bible produced in Gutenberg's garage just around the corner.
The armored figure who stands above the main entrance is one of the Holy Roman Emperors, although I'm not certain which one.
Since both my husband and I are nuts about books (teacher and editor, hello?), we HAD to stop in here. We spent just over two hours in Mainz, and almost two hours of that was in the museum. There are magnificant displays here, and many are incredibly rare. You can follow the displays chronologically, or you can wander around and treat it more like an art museum than a history tour. The presses, the printings, the illuminated texts...it's gorgeous.
I strongly recommend purchasing the Museum Guide in the shop. It's available in many languages. Definitely worth the three Euro. Entrance during the summer of 2005 was 5 Euro.
Along with the unmissable and original Gutenberg Bible, the collection includes some fascinating works covering hundreds of years of European printing, and in the case of the Asian collection a thousand years. It's amazing to see how quickly the printing press evolved in such a small space of time. The first presses reproduced text in the exact same way as it had been done by hand for a thousand or more years, in a torturously ornate, nearly illegible, manner. Within about a hundred years the books being printed across Europe had developed a typeface not all that different to what you are seeing as you read this paragraph.
The next few hundred years saw an explosion of ideas that led to the development of the written word as we know it today, and you can see this charted in the books and manuscripts on display. Simple things that we take for granted today like periods, commas, italics, and even paragraphs had to be developed to service an increasingly large, diverse and hungry audience. For example some of the early books didn't use periods except at the end of a paragraph, and used no separator (no comma, no colon, no semi-colon) only a /. Even as recently as the 19th century they were still using the a symbol more like an f to represent the modern s, and it is very confusing to see very modern English writing with strange archaic symbols.
The only real downside to the museum is that cameras are expressly forbidden, not even with the flash off, in the upper sections of the museum. That's just where all the interesting exhibits happen to be, so it is really annoying. I can understand them not wanting flash lights going off all the time, but banning cameras completely seems unfair. My camera crazy Italian friend Luciano (pictured) was particularly upset that he couldn't take a picture of the Gutenberg Bible, and after an hour of wandering around I'd lost him, only to find him again down in the basement frantically getting his picture fix taking multiple snaps of the modern printing machinery on display.
Gutenberg was the man who invented printing as we know it. He produced the first printed book (Bible naturally) an removed the need for them to be written out longhand.
The museum is full of printing exhibits old and new, the oldest and original Gutemberg ones are kept in a strong room but are still available to see. Found it interesting to see that really the process had not changed too dramatically until the advent of the computer. Well worth the €3 entrance fee. English (and other languages too) translation booklets are in each room.
Fantastic Museum with Roman military and civilan equipment, originals and copies of important peices from all over the world. The muesum is right on the Main River, and is one of the few buildings in the area not bombed to rubble in WW2.
Gutenburg Printing Museum
More photos in
it's a world-famous museum of script (hope that's the correct word) and print. It was founded in 1900 on the occasion of Johannes Gutenberg's 500th birthday.