Faust and Gutenberg

According to Czech legend, John Faust was a Bohemian necromancer, whose name was St’astný, the Czech word for happy, the Latin word for which is Faustus, and thence Faust. During the Hussite Wars, he moved to Germany, changed his name to Faust von Kuttenberg, after the town of his birth, Kutná Hora, and invented the printing press, entering history as Johann Gutenberg.

Jan Erazim Vocel, in his poem The Labyrinth of Flory, tells of how after the defeat of the Taborites in 1434 at the Battle of Lipany, Jan Kutenský, yet another name for Johann Kuttenberg/Gutenberg, devoted himself to alchemy, and in pursuit of knowledge, sold his soul to the devil Duchamor.  Ludmila, his beloved, sacrificed herself to free him from Duchamor’s clutches, and thereafter, Faust settled in Mainz and built the printing press.


Ptolemy’s Library

The Library of Alexandria was the most famous in the ancient world.  Sponsored by the Ptolemaic dynasty, descended from a general of Alexander the Great, Ptolemy I Soter (the savior), the library had the official support of the dynasty and became a center of learning and literature.  Ptolemy’s grandson, Ptolemy III, sent couriers throughout the world, asking for books to copy.  Officials borrowed books from all passing ships, had them copied, and then returned the copies to the ships, storing the originals in the great library.  This practice made collectors wary of loaning out valuable manuscripts.  When, after much negotiation, Athens relented to Ptolemy, and agreed to send to Egypt its authoritative texts of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripedes, the bond was fifteen talents of gold, an amount sufficient to pay 135 skilled workers for a year, with a corresponding purchasing power.    Ptolemy was so desirous to possess the originals that he kept them and sent back the copies, forfeiting the money in exchange for an even grander prize in his eyes.