~ Gutenberg ~

The play describes how Gutenberg invented the new technology of printing with movable types, an invention with far-reaching implications. His particular motivation to develop this new method was to produce the Holy Bible, the word of God, impeccably and most beautifully. 




Four narrators come on stage (if appropriate, in front of the curtain)

Narrator 1:    Dear audience. Today we want to show you how letterpress printing was invented.

Narrator 2:     It was one of the most important inventions of mankind.

Narrator 3:     It came at a time when many other important inventions and innovations were introduced in Europe as well.

Narrator 4:     For instance the mechanical clock, the compass, ships’ rudders and the production of paper.

Narrator 1:     It was also a time of discovery. The sea route to India was found and Columbus discovered America

Narrator 2:     Coperincus found out that the Earth revolves around the sun.

Narrator 3:      At the time crusaders and merchants also brought home many books that were previously unknown in Europe - on geography, astronomy and philosophy for instance.

Narrator 4:     The people in Europe had become eager for knowledge and wanted to read these new books.

Narrator 1:     But there were only a few of them.

Narrator 2:    That’s why they began to copy these books, again and again. But this took a long time and there were still not enough books.

Narrator 3:    As the books were written by hand, many of them contained errors and they didn’t look very nice either.

Narrator 4:    The most important book at the time was the Bible.

Narrator 1:    Gutenberg was a man who lived in this time.

Narrator 2:    He was of the opinion that a Bible had to be written perfectly and without error, as it contained the words of God.

Narrator 3:    That’s why he wanted to find a way in which the Bible could be produced as nicely and error-free as possible.

Narrator 4:    He got down to work and invented a method by which this was made possible. It was letterpress printing. By this method it was not only possible to produce books nicely but very importantly quickly, as well. How this happened will be shown in our play now.

They go off stage

End of the prologue


Scene Two

In the scriptorium

The stage set is divided into three parts again. The left and the right side remain the same as in the first scenet. The central section now shows the scriptorium of a monastery: tall, arched windows and crucifixes on the walls. In front of them a three writing-desks are set up. To the right three large booksare placed (Bibles) on a table. A sign  is carried across the stage : the scriptorium of the Benedictine Abbey. An ecclesiastic chorus song plays. When it stops, four monks, including Brother Hilarious, appear on stage. Three of the monks place themselves in front of the writing-desks and begin to write or draw. Another monk appears and says to Brother Hilarius.

Monk:    Brother Hilarius, at the gate there are two students. They say they have an appointment with you.

Brother Hilarius:    That’s right. Let them in and bring them here.

The monk disappears and returns straight away with Gutenberg and Nikolaus.

Nikolaus:    Hello, Brother Hilarius.

Gutenberg:    Hello, Brother Hilarius.

Brother Hilarius:    I salute you in the name of God. Here you are in our scriptorium. Come with me, I’ll show you how we copy books.

He moves towards one of the writing monks, beckons Gutenberg and Nikolaus, and says.

Brother Hilarius:    This is Brother Markus. He is a writer.

Nikolaus und Gutenberg look at the book that Brother Markus is copying.

Gutenberg:    It’s going to be a Bible, isn’t it?

Brother Hilarius:    Yes, but but it will take at least another two years to finish it.

Gutenberg:    The script is very nice.

Markus:    The Bible which I am copying it from is very nice as well.

He lifts  the bible.

Brother Hilarius:    Come (he now beckons Nikolaus and Gutenberg to the desk of the next monk). So, this is Brother Petrus. He is a draughtsman. Look, he’s drawing these large first letters and titles of the chapters.

Gutenberg and Nikolaus are looking with interest inside the book on the desk.

Nikolaus:    I can’t draw such nice letters.


Characters, scene by scene

  Major role Medium role Small role

Prologue   Narrator 1
Narrator 2
Narrator 3
Narrator 4
1st Scene
In Erfurt
Nikolaus Funke
Johannes Gutenberg
Brother Hilarius maid
some residents
a band
a professor
2nd Scene
In the scriptorium
Brother Hilarius
Nikolaus Funke
Johannes Gutenberg
Brother Markus
Brother Petrus
Brother Paulus
3rd Scene
In Gutenberg`s
Johannes Gutenberg
Father Heinrich
Peter Drach
Narrator 1
Berthold Ruppel
Narrator 2
Narrator 3
Narrator 4
Johannes Fust
Hans von Speyer
Heinrich Keffer
Clas Wolf
some men
some women
Epilogue   Narrator 1
Narrator 4
Narrator 2
Narrator 3

Proposals for sceneries:

Gutenberg´s workshop with printing press (scene 3, middle part)

Photos of a production:


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