Directory of Mark Twain's maxims, quotations, and various opinions:



Mark Twain sent a letter in April 1900 to the celebration of the opening of the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz. The letter was in response to a request from Adolf Goerz for a congratulatory letter. Two versions of Mark Twain's response have been found. One version was published in the German publication titled Gutenberg-fest zu Mainz im jahre 1900 (1901) and is available online from google books. A slightly different version appeared in the Hartford Daily Courant newspaper on Jun 27, 1900, shortly after the museum opened. Both versions are presented below. The original letter has not been recovered; thus the exact wording of the letter has not yet been established. It is possible the original was written in German and this accounts for the two separate versions.

Your request that I also should contribute my mite to the semi-milliennial celebration in honor of Gutenberg gives me great pleasure and I feel highly honored that you have selected me for such a task.

All the world acknowledges that the invention of Gutenberg is the greatest event that secular history has recorded.

Gutenberg's achievement created a new and wonderful earth, but at the same time also a new hell. During the past 500 years Gutenberg's invention has supplied both earth and hell with new occurrences, new wonders and new phases.

It found truth astir on earth and gave it wings; but untruth also was abroad, and it was supplied with a double pair of wings.

Science was found lurking in corners, much prosecuted; Gutenberg's invention gave it freedom on land and sea and brought it within reach of every mortal.

Arts and industries, badly handicapped, received new life. Religion, which, during the Middle Ages, assumed tyrannical sway, was transformed into a friend and benefactor of mankind.

On the other hand, war, which was conducted on a comparatively small scale, became almost universal through this agency. Gutenberg's invention, while having given to some national freedom, brought slavery to others.

It became the founder and protector of human liberty, and yet it made despotism possible where formerly it was impossible.

What the world is to-day, good and bad, it owes to Gutenberg. Everything can be traced to this source, but we are bound to bring him homage, for what he said in dreams to the angered angel has been literally fulfilled, for the bad that his colossal invention has brought about is overshadowed a thousand times by the good with which mankind has been favored. Yours very truly,

Mark Twain

- "The Work of Gutenberg," published in Hartford Daily Courant, June 27, 1900, p. 7.

London, April 7, 1900

In asking me to contribute a mite to the memorial to Gutenberg you give me pleasure and do me honor. The world concedes without hesitation or dispute that Gutenberg's invention is incomparably the mightiest event that has ever happened in profane history. It created a new and wonderful earth, and along with it a new hell. It has added new details, new developments and new marvels to both in every year during five centuries. It found Truth walking, and gave it a pair of wings; it found Falsehood trotting, and gave it two pair. It found Science hiding in corners and hunted; it has given it the freedom of the land, the seas and the skies, and made it the world's welcome quest. It found the arts and occupations few, it multiplies them every year. It found the inventor shunned and despised, it has made him great and given him the globe for his estate. It found religion a master and an oppression, it has made it man's friend and benefactor. It found War comparatively cheap but inefficient, it has made it dear but competent. It has set peoples free, and other peoples it has enslaved; it is the father and protector of human liberty, and it has made despotisms possible where they were not possible before. Whatever the world is, today, good and bad together, that is what Gutenberg's invention has made it: for from that source it has all come. But he has our homage; for what he said to the reproaching angel in his dream has come true, and the evil wrought through his mighty invention is immeasurably outbalanced by the good it has brought to the race of men.

Truly Yours,

Mark Twain

- Gutenberg-fest zu Mainz im jahre 1900 (1901)


Johannes Gutenberg

banner logo

Quotations | Newspaper Articles | Special Features | Links | Search