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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Excellent museum, I might even say that this is the one you have to visit in Mainz. Of course, it is about Gutenberg's invention of printing with movable letters. But all the single exhibitions tell the history of printing. The sections about printing in the far east and the Islamic world are really good and explain why printing established itself later there than in Europe. Other parts show the evolution of printing machines, the first newspapers, the influence of the invention on history (e.g. protestant reformation) and of course two original Gutenberg bibles.
A 20 min. film about the man and his invention is shown regularly, every hour (except 1 pm), a replica of Gutenberg's printing press is demonstrated. If you want to have a facsimile from a Gutenberg bible page for free, volunteer to operate the press when you are asked (The same page is sold for around five EUR in the museum shop). Unfortunately, there is only one volunteer per demonstration and therefore only one free facsimile. Both things are in German only.
Description of the exhibits in German and in some cases also in English. Audioguides however are available in German, English, French. It has five tours which cover different parts of the building. Take tour 1 only if you are in hurry (20 – 25 min.) - it covers the highlights. Add all other tours (around 10 minutes each) if you have more time. Entry fee is 5,00 EUR for adults (2014), discounts available for groups and concessions. Photos are not permitted at all.
The state museum of Rheinland-Pfalz has a large collection reflecting the history of Mainz and its surrounding areas west to the Rhine. As many of the German state museums, it has high quality exhibits and is surely worth a visit.
The ground floor is usually home to temporary exhibitions as well as the Roman exhibition. Though the latter consists mostly of tombstones, it also has a Roman city gate, a Jupiter column and the remains of a once huge Nero bronze sculpture. The first floor has the middle age exhibition, including a small tribute to the Jewish community in form of medieval Judaica. There is also a collection of 16th century Dutch paintings. Though the big names like Rembrandt are missing, the works are still good and the special features of Dutch Golden Age painting are well explained. Close to it, as part of the medieval exhibition, are the remains of a market hall. It includes the depiction of the seven electors (a popular motif in medieval Germany) in two metre high sandstone plates. Finally, this floor has also a collection of Mainz Baroque items, including furniture and porcelain. The upper floor has 19th and 20th century art.
The building is located in the former arsenal. With the collection dating back to Napoleonic times, it is one of the oldest museums in Germany. The entry fee is 6,00 EUR for adults (2013, half price for concessions) and often includes the temporary exhibitions. Plan around 3 hours for a visit, add more or plan less depending on your interest in the mentioned topics. Pictures allowed, but only hand held cameras, not flash and only for private purposes. Information in English is rather limited. However, there are English audioguides as well as audioguides in German, French, Spanish and Italian.
As a Roman foundation and the former capital of a Roman province, there has to be a Roman museum in Mainz. This one is not only a museum, but a scientific institution which also has a focus on research and publications. Unfortunately, this also means that the presentation of the exhibits looks a little old-fashioned and is not as easily accessible as those of other museums (e.g.: Landesmuseum). Don't get me wrong, the exhibitions are quite good. But if you are not very interested in the topic or have kids with you, this might not be the most entertaining place.
The first floor has the exhibition about the Romans in Mainz and Roman life in general, but also includes the tribes which lived at the borders of the Roman empire and influenced Roman culture in the one or other way. The second floor focuses on the demise of the Roman empire and the early middle ages in Europe. I liked this one a lot as this is a time which is not often well-covered in other museums. Plan around an hour to 1 ½ hours for each floor – depending on your interest in the topic. The museum is located in the former Electoral Palace, close to the Rhine. Entry is free!
This museum – usually left aside by tourists - exceeded my expectations. Unlike similar museums, it is not focused only on the church treasury but has a large collection of religious art dating from late Roman times to the 20th century. Many of the exhibits are salvaged items from churches destroyed during WWII. Don't forget to have a look on the four models of the Cathedral in the ground floor and the model of the old Cathedral entrance with the mysterious medieval boss figure in the basement.
There is always a temporary exhibition in the ground floor. Judging from the quality of the one I saw, they can be highly recommended. At the time of my visit, drawings from Heinz Leitermann were presented. Leitermann was a local artist and chronicler. His works include drawings from Mainz' damaged churches in the post WWII-years. Many were from the years 1946 and 1947 and included details like vegetation growing out of the ruins. The drawings are beautiful and great as documents of post-WWII Mainz.
Entrance fee is 5,00 EUR, concessions 3,50 EUR. As a nice treat you have free entrance on the day of your namesake saint (all information as of early 2014). 1 to 1 ½ hours should be fine. The only drawback is that all information is in German.
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.
Gutenburg Printing Museum
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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.
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.