Gutenberg was born in Mainz as the son of a merchant named Friele Gensfleisch zu Laden, who adopted the surname "zum Gutenberg" after the name of the neighborhood into which the family had moved.
Though the Chinese and Koreans knew of block printing and even movable metal types at the time, it is unclear whether Gutenberg knew of these techniques or invented them independently. Some also claim Laurens Coster as the first European to invent movable type.
Gutenberg certainly introduced efficient methods into book production, leading to a boom in the production of texts in Europe, in large part due to the popularity of the Gutenberg Bibles, the first mass-produced work, starting on February 23, 1455. The Gutenberg Bibles surviving today are probably the oldest surviving books printed with movable type, though the oldest surviving block printed books come from Korea. As of 2003, the Gutenberg Bible census includes 11 complete copies on vellum, 1 copy of the New Testament only on vellum, 48 substantially complete integral copies on paper, with another divided copy on paper.