Hand casting instrument

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The hand casting instrument forms the core of Johannes Gutenberg's invention of printing with movable type ; It is an apparatus in which a die is clamped and the alloy for the letters (consisting of lead , tin , bismuth and antimony ) is poured into it. With Gutenberg's hand-held device, precise, identical individual letters and characters could be produced in large numbers.

Cast and finished print letter
The Schrifftgiesser ( woodcut ; in: Ständebuch , 1568)

Manufacture of the die

The matrix of the letter was based on a stamp . What was needed was a metal stamp of the letter, which the tailor made as a reverse relief . This punch, the patrix , was struck with a hammer into a softer piece of metal, such as copper. The imprint, as a reversed negative, resulted in the multiple usable actual mold, the die , for the reversed letter.

Cast by hand

Gutenberg invented a two-part, precisely fitting casting mold made of metal ( iron or brass ) that accommodated the die and enabled the liquid metal alloy to be fed through a channel. The two halves of the device lay in a wooden frame so that the mold, which heated up when the hot alloy was poured in, could be held in the hand.

In addition, the matrices could be exchanged; The different letters did not need their own casting molds and could still be produced repeatedly with the same sizes and in any number. For the following centuries, type foundries and the craft of type foundry and typesetter were decisive for the production of books.


The printing workshops could now produce the letters in the size and typographical shape they needed . This made higher editions possible in a shorter time. Book printing in this form established itself at the end of the 15th century as a new technique for disseminating ideas and thoughts.

The printed works that were produced between Gutenberg's Bible printing in the mid-1450s and the end of 1500 are listed as incunabula . With the rapid development of book printing, printers migrated. Comparisons between the products of individual workshops show both re-cuts and transfers of Type records , so the Lettern-, ligatures - and signs ensembles of the printer. This allows the ways of printing in Europe to be shown and understood.

Individual evidence

  1. Photo series: stamp and die; Hand casting instrument, hand casting ( Memento from November 29, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  2. Old hand casting instrument


  • Oliver Duntze: A publisher is looking for an audience. The Strasbourg office of Matthias Hupfuff (1497 / 98-1520) . Munich 2007; P. 21 ff.
  • Stephan Füssel : Johannes Gutenberg . 3. Edition. Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbek 2003, ISBN 3-499-50610-6 .
  • Albert Kapr : Johannes Gutenberg. Personality and performance . Urania, Leipzig 1986, ISBN 3-332-00015-2 .

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