It was something to have a lucky thought come into one’s mind, but it is quite another thing to have patience and industry and perseverance enough to put that thought into action as it were, and make it turn to profit and use. Luckily for Hans and for the world, he had these good qualities even when thus a little boy, and from that time he made it the business of his life to turn the thought to good account. We do not say that the little boy Hans Gensfleisch could at that time foresee any but a very small part of the good which might arise out of the invention of printing. He could not possibly tell before-hand, how through its means, knowledge would be spread all over the face of the earth, nor that that book which was then only to be found in convents and monasteries—locked up and rarely opened—read by a few learned monks, and seldom or ever read to the people;—that this book, or the Bible, would through the invention of Printing, be distributed all over the world, and that rich and poor, wise and simple, young and old, would be able to possess it, and read it, and learn from it the Word of God:—he did not foresee this; but he saw that there might be an easier and a quicker way of making books, and this he felt would be a good and useful thing to bring about, and he resolved that he would do it. He saw that instead of spending so much time in shaping over and over again the same letters, that it would be a great saving of trouble, if letters were to be carved out of wood or any other hard substance, and then blackened with ink and pressed or imprinted on the parchment, for then the same letters could be used many times in making different words in different books.
Hans saw this plainly. He was sure of it, and he was almost sure that no one had ever thought of it before. With a very natural feeling, and certainly not a wrong one, he determined that it should be himself who should bring about this new method of writing. He would keep it secret from every one until he could prove that it was a great and useful discovery.
In the meantime, however, he had much to do. First, he must learn to read and spell, and then he must also be able to write well, so as to shape all the letters correctly when he carved them. From that time Hans lost no more time in play. His cross-bow was laid aside, and he seldom or never joined the other boys of the village in their games of running and wrestling, nor did he follow the hunters to the chase on the hills as he had been accustomed to do, or spend time in loitering with his net along the river side. Instead of all this, he would go on every possible pretext into the town and to the monastery to visit his uncle and get all the knowledge he could. And after some time he told his uncle of his great wish to learn to read and to become a scribe, and begged him to persuade his mother to let him follow out his wish.