The Gutenberg Printing Press

Credit Pixabay – License CC0

Here is another excerpt from a work in progress- I’d love some feedback on it to help me with developing the next stages. I have have quite a bit more in scribbled notebooks, but everything is at first draft stage, so lots could change. If you want to read the previous excerpts that I have posted they are Word Count, The King James Bible, Brave New World, and The Spoken Word

There have been over one hundred and thirty million books published in modern history. Every year that number grows by an average of two and a half million. 

Patrick has taken me to La Tasca tonight. He doesn’t often come with me. I have to be there longer than twenty minutes when he comes with me.  Patrick is not only a distraction to my work, he also distracts Enzo from his work.

It would take ninety-six thousand years for me to read every book. But every year another one thousand eight hundred and forty-nine years worth of books gets written. 

Sometimes I wonder if I need to hire another member of staff. 

Patrick has opinions on how I should run my shop. I tell him how many books there and that it would take me ninety-six thousand years to read them. But I don’t tell him that I’d like to hire someone to help me read them.

I will have lasagne. Patrick orders spaghetti bolognaise. He reads the menu first.

The menu has four hundred and thirty words. It used to have five hundred, but Enzo wrote a new one last year. I don’t know why Patrick reads the menu. He has been here one hundred and sixteen times. He has ordered spaghetti bolognaise on eighty-two occasions. 

He has been here one hundred and sixteen times and he always reads the menu.

Patrick asks me how much I have taken this week. The answer is forty-three pounds twenty-nine. I sold 1 one hundred and twenty thousand two hundred and ninety word science fiction novel. 1 thirty-three thousand four hundred and three word children’s book. A teaching textbook of two hundred and seventy three thousand, four hundred and nine words. I also sold a short children’s poetry book with one thousand four hundred and ninety-seven words. 

Patrick does not seem pleased, but I tell him this is more than I usually sell. Patrick tells me that he is concerned because I do not have an infinite supply of money. 

I tell him that it would be impossible to have an infinite supply of money. 

He says he wants to help me in the shop sometimes.

Patrick has a degree in Geography. He works as a primary school teacher. The average amount of words he reads per minute is two hundred and forty.

He can help a little. But I know Patrick will speak more words than he will read. 

It is long after 5:55 p.m.

‘Just think about it’, Patrick tells me. ‘I can help out with the customers and maybe look at ways to make more money’.

‘Just on Saturdays and during school holidays’ 

The first printing press using movable type was invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1439.

If Patrick helps too much there will be too many people in the shop. Too many people touching and moving the books. 

It is 5:59 p.m. and I have not eaten. I have not read in over fifteen minutes since Patrick arrived at the shop. 

Patrick does not like me to bring books to La Tasca when he visits. 

Patrick visits once a fortnight, but we do not always go to La Tasca. Sometimes Patrick comes after I return from eating. 

It is 6:02 p.m. and I have still not eaten. I do not blame Enzo or the chef. 

‘What do you think?’ Patrick asks me. 

‘It is 6:03 p.m.’ I say. 

Patrick looks at his watch, but I have just told him the time. 

‘So it is’ he says. ‘So what do you think, can I help?’

‘It will take ninety-six thousand years to read the one hundred and thirty million books.You can help read then’.

‘We need to get you making more money’ Patrick says. 

‘It’s 6:04 p.m.’ I say. 

Patrick says my name and looks directly at me. 

Patrick is thirty-one now. But I have known him since he was two days, four hours and ten minutes old. 

In approximately twenty seconds, I would ordinarily have finished eating.

‘There on average two million, five hundred thousand books published annually around the world.’ 

Patrick says he just wants to help. He claims that he has a duty of care towards me. 

It is 6:07 p.m. I still have not eaten. I do not blame Enzo. I do not blame the chef. Neither Enzo nor the chef felt the need to read the menu before ordering the same they always eat. Unless Patrick was counting the words. 

‘It has four hundred and thirty words’ I say. 


  1. I enjoyed this a lot As a print kind of guy I date the invention of movable type a little earlier say 1513. According to my pal Alton Brown it’s Raghu Boulenese & the pasta is served separately.

    I think the estimate of books published is low. Another writer claims 2.5 million in 2017 (Poets&Writers Sept 2019)!

    Look for an update of my home printing white paper. Best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your kind words Pete. It was my intention. Hopefully the structured world of the main character comes through. Thank you for taking the time to read it. Be sure and pop back and read any updates when I post them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The story has a great ending, though the style is rather ‘formal’. Not a bad thing, and even better if that was your intention of course.
    Many thanks for the much-appreciated follow of my blog.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

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