Johannes Gutenberg. Source: OpenClipArt

An Open Letter from Johannes Gutenberg (as reimagined were he speaking to us today, via the internet, from heaven). The ghost of Gutenberg comes in conjunction with the launch of Eye on Design magazine issue 1, themed “Invisible.”

Well Blimey, here we go. Having been dead more than 500 years I’m a bit rusty on all the old chitchat. But I’ve gotta say, I think I’ve really got a grip on emojis, if I may toot my own 🎺 briefly. 😂

Much as I do have huge admiration for this World Wide Web, I have to say it’s bummed me out a bit; all that bloody effort I poured into make the first moveable type, the first printing press. IT’S NOT LIKE I STARTED THE PRINTING REVOLUTION OR ANYTHING. I basically *am* the Age of Enlightenment. All that learning I spread. I suppose I still do. Jeez, I sound like an arrogant shit don’t it? Never mind eh, keep on Googling. Who needs dusty old books now anyway? 😪

I was gonna be all “rant over!” But it’s not. You know what’s really got my goat, more than this information superhighway we’re all so into? The cheek of a few CERTAIN PEOPLE who’ve taken it upon themselves to use MY typeface—it’s called Gutenberg for a reason—and bastardize it for what can only be termed, very politely, as “nefarious” reasons. I’m a religious man, of course. I made it to print the Bible, FFS. Having been dead—and a ghost—for a hell of a long time, I’ve been privy to what it’s been used for since. And I am NOT HAPPY with Hitler.

“Who is?” you may ask, and you have a point. But I mean, for him to take my beautiful Blackletter font, and take it upon himself to commandeer it for all his downright evil hate-spreading? No words (ironically). No words. Don’t get me wrong, I’m bloody proud of my German heritage. And without sounding too conceited, it’s my type that pretty much “ushered in the modern period of human history.” (Stole that from my own Wikipedia page, LOL!) But being German and being a fascist wanker are two very different things. Let’s hope no other murderous psycho takes my type and uses it like that again, ever.

Let’s stop talking about that prick for now. It makes me furious just thinking about it.

Look, how my Blackletter’s been used since I made it all those years ago ain’t all bad. Heck, I might’ve been dead since 1468, but I’m a (relatively) modern man with an open mind. Back in the 1970s, up on my cloud in heaven, I’d like to think of myself as having been a bit of a rock kinda guy. Hard to believe, I know, but I liked the long hair, bellbottoms, the lot. It was around then I started noticing some of the dudes that were into heavier shit—you know, Black Sabbath, all that sort of stuff—were using my typeface. Well, that did make me chuckle. When I think about making those letters for the Bible… let’s just say I’m not sure those heavy metal guys were so big on The Man Upstairs, if you get my drift. Still, harmless enough isn’t it? The music’s not quite my bag—especially that ’80s stuff like Mötorhead (TBF, though, Ace of Spades is a belter), but I don’t mind that they used letters by little old me. Good luck to ‘em. I don’t half wish that those goths that love my letterforms so much would cheer up a bit though. Give us a smile, eh, it might never happen!

What really has made me, an old man, very happy, though, is seeing it all come bang up to date on all these hip hop records! I know what you’re thinking, this old geezer likes hip hop? I bloody well do. Sure enough I was baffled at first when I saw all these trendy designers using my font for all that rapping; those “sick beats,” if you will. Shout out to my pal Hassan Rahim for using it all over the blummin’ shop, too! Yeah, it’s not God’s Big Book, sure, it’s not the, ahem, gravitas of what I originally intended when I (let me remind you) basically invented modern print distribution—but it really does get an old man’s toes tapping. Hip hop, don’t stop. Use my letters as long as you lads (and ladies) like.

Yours, mildly amusedly,

Johannes Gutenberg