book review

From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World

**The posts I write might contain affiliate links or be written in collaboration with businesses or brands. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.**

good mountain

From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World by James Rumford came into our lives as many books do, by trying to find an answer to a couple of questions asked by one of my children.

When did books start being printed and who was the first to do it ?

For the answer we traveled back in time to the 15th century to a time when books were written and made by hand. Johannes Gutenberg invented both something known as moveable type and a way to print books on a printing press.

Written as a series of riddles and illustrated in the style of illuminated texts, From the Good Mountain simply and elegantly shares the mysteries and craftsmanship of what we hold in our hands and how it came to be.

From the Good Mountain

After reading From the Good Mountain we learned that the value of a good book is more than what’s written on its pages but the artistry of getting it into our hands in the first place.

Author/Illustrator James Rumford took over two years to complete this book. Every detail is tended to and lends itself to many new discoveries each time we read it. James Rumford himself is a paper make, letterpress printer, and book binder brining a vast knowledge of this topic to this artistic read.

Something to Do:

Letterpress printing and hand book-binding along with paper making are becoming a lost art. A fun way to explore this book and to keep that from happening is to experience what it takes to make a book.


TinkerLab had a wonderful post recently on paper-making with children.

Also this video easily shows you the process.

Letterpress Printing:

1568 printing press

Want to see how it’s done? Let’s meet Megan Boling of Brown Parcel Press. She absolutely LOVES letterpress printing and shares it with us here.


Inks were originally made from the natural pigments in living materials such as berries, nuts, and leaves. The pigments in a green leaf, for example, absorb all the color wavelengths of light except for green. Therefore the green color is the only one reflected back to our eyes and the only color we see. (Just remember ROY G BIV. A beam of light contains the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Under normal circumstances, though, we don’t see all of those colors because some or all of them are absorbed by the material they shine on.) Through chemical processes, these pigments can be extracted and turned into dye or ink. Here is an easy recipe for ink you can make at home.

Berry Ink. Use 1/2 cup fresh berries or thawed frozen berries; push them through a strainer so that you get pulp-free juice. Add 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar (to hold color) and 1/2 teaspoon salt (as a preservative) and mix well. You can use a glass baby food jar as your “inkwell”, if you have one.


Before Guttenberg and the printing press, books were hand-written in Latin and then illuminated by a learned craftsman. Illuminated manuscripts are books written by hand and painted with the most gorgeous paintings using vividly rich pigments and gold. The word manuscript is derived from the word manus(hand) and scripts (the verb to write in latin.) The word illumination comes from the laying verb illuminate ( to light up ) which is exactly what happens when beautiful design and paintings are added to handwritten text.

Let’s look at a few:

Alchandreus presents his work

two men before a king

Both images are from the Getty Museum

If you’re interested in learning more about the parts of an illuminated manuscript have a look here.

Many illuminated texts would take the first letter of the text , enlarge it and paint it with very intricate designs. For our brief adventure into illuminated text we took the first letter in our name and decorated it beautifully. There is also the modern version of Illuminated Letters. Whichever you choose I know you’ll have a great time.

Book Binding:

As a family we love to make books. For this book jump we made a little book of sayings but spent much time at this site learning to make all sorts of different books.

book with sayings           book in a box           book with sayings 2


Johannes Gutenberg wanted to keep his invention of the printing press a secret but like most secrets it didn’t stay quiet for long. Within 50 years of this invention, over 15 million books were printed in over 2500 print shops throughout Europe. The first book he printed was the Holy Bible of which there are still 22 complete copies of his print run and 44 partial copies. It use to take an abbey 20 years to transcribe and decorate the bible. Gutenberg could produce them quickly and though the cost was 3 years of a tradesman’s wages it was worth it because of the time saved. People use to travel for miles just to see a library with 20 handwritten books. Gutenberg’s invention quickly added thousands of books to the population’s reading selection. Instead of just the “learned”  being able to read, the print press was the catalyst of literacy of the whole population.



Want to know more about Johannes Gutenberg ?

I’ve just discovered that author/illustrator James Rumford wanted to share more about Gutenberg too and has created a wonderful companion book called

From the Good Mountain a companion Guide for Adults and children. We are so looking forward to this book as well.

Wishing you many happy moments inside the world of Johannes Gutenberg !!!

10 thoughts on “From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World

  1. I was able to see some early books at the rare book collection of Library of Congress, and it was quite an experience. Books were so precious to be exclusive, and Gutenberg began to change that. Now here we are, awash in text.

    1. I love rare book collections. I haven’t sent he one at the LOC but I was at the Library of London where I just wandered around for days. It’s really something to see the bard and others up close and personal.

    1. Printing opened the doors for people to think for themselves and learn to read and write. It was a huge leap in progress. James Rumford really told this story simply and well.

  2. Aloha, I am so glad that my book was a help. Books are a fascinating subject all by themselves. I can tell, by your posting, that you think so, too. Please let me know what you think of my companion guide. I hope that will prove useful as well. Aloha, James Rumford

  3. What a terrific post Valarie! I sooo want a peek inside that book to see the illustrations – I’ll have to go check it out on Amazon. That is a really long time to get it just right so I’m really curious. I love how your post also includes the video and links to resources to make paper. I’m going to check those out and try it with my kids. Thanks so much for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop! 🙂

Comments are closed.