Skip to Main Content
Harry Ransom Center homepage

News Release — September 13, 2005

Introduction of "Teaching Gutenberg," Online Materials for K-12 Educators

The Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at The University of Texas at Austin has introduced "Teaching Gutenberg," an online educational Web site designed specifically for K-12 educators.

The first book printed with movable type, the Gutenberg Bible is a landmark in the history of printing and one of the most important artifacts owned by the university. It was printed by Johann Gutenberg (ca. 1399?1468), the inventor of the mechanical printing process that changed the course of western civilization.

They represent the first online materials about the Gutenberg Bible designed for American classrooms. The text, images and exercises focus on themes such as "The Invention" and "Books before and after the Gutenberg Bible," cover multiple disciplines and can be used for classes ranging from language arts and English to world cultures.

Listed by subject and grade level, the learning activities are designed to help students think critically through visual analysis of artifacts and focused inquiry.

Each activity can be printed and includes instructional materials, suggested procedures, worksheets, applicable educational standards and facsimiles of documents and artifacts that can be downloaded for classroom and student use.

"This project gives educators from around the country the opportunity to integrate the study of rare cultural materials into their curricula," said Thomas F. Staley, director of the Ransom Center. "Sharing a major research library's collections in this fashion is a unique opportunity, and one that complements our mission of making collections more accessible to the public."

Students can investigate how Gutenberg developed movable metal type, adapted a press for printing and selected a Bible for his first major printing project. They can explore the role of the printing press in the scientific revolution, the Protestant Reformation and the Renaissance.

"Many teachers are interested in Gutenberg, his invention and the historical influences and consequences of the first book printed with movable type, but they don't have a vehicle for their students to explore these subjects," said Oliver Franklin, executive curator of public programs. "The value of providing these online primary source materials is that teachers do not have to leave their classrooms to share this knowledge with their students."

In 2003 the Ransom Center joined a handful of international institutions in digitizing its copy of the Gutenberg Bible and making it available online.

There are 48 surviving copies of the Bible in the world and five complete copies in the United States. Each one is unique because artisans were employed by the owners of each copy to add decorative illuminations and a suitable binding.

In addition to being viewable online, the Ransom Center's Gutenberg Bible is on permanent display in the Center's lobby.

The "Teaching Gutenberg" project was made possible with funding from the university's UTOPIA program, an initiative designed to share the university's knowledge and resources with the public.

Press Room Press Releases


Alyssa Morris
Communications & Marketing Manager