The Printing Press It is argued that the printing press is one of the most significant inventions of all time ranked alongside the wheel and the plow (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009).
The man credited with its invention is Johannes Gutenberg, born of Mainz, Germany around 1400 (Childress, 2008). Johannes began his work with the printing press around 1430 and developed his first prototype somewhere around the mid-15th century.
As with most inventions, Gutenberg’s press had precedents in history, especially in Asia where the Chinese had carved texts into wooden blocks (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009). In the Netherlands, a man by the name of Laurens Janszoon produced a predecessor by using carved blocks of type that could be cut into letters (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009). Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press was a result of combining three different technologies already in existence; paper, the winepress, and oil-based ink into a single moveable type (Bantwal, 2011).
Rather than using wooden letters, Gutenberg used his metal working background and replaced them with letters made of brass or bronze, he then adapted a version of a wine press where the top was used to align and press the letters against the paper that was then lined up and locked into a frame below (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009). The first samples of paper arrived from China, and at the time paper was not durable enough for hand copied versions of books, instead vellum a much thicker medium was used (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009). However, Gutenberg soon found out that the thinner less expensive paper worked very well in his press.
Finally, Gutenberg found that the use of oil based ink did not smear like the commonly used egg-based tempera. Merging these technologies into one, Gutenberg made modern printing possible and economical. The invention of the printing press propelled the world into literacy and thus revolutionized how the world communicated then and now: During the 14th century the process to reproduce a book was slow and daunting, with the invention of the printing press came the ability to mass produce information and knowledge, and much of humanity today reaps many technological benefits as a result of the original printing press.
The invention of the printing press coincided with the Renaissance movement, where humanist’s believed in man’s ability to learn, and there are several events that led to its advancement. To begin with, the original process to replicate the written word was a long and tedious procedure where books were arduously copied by hand by monks or clerks (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009). This method took a long time to complete, making books extremely rare and expensive. As a result, most people felt that there was no need to learn to read.
With so few books available, most people were dependent for information on the few people who could read primarily priests, aristocrats, and merchants (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009). As mentioned earlier Gutenberg’s invention combined several different technologies into one. Gutenberg’s printing press was not an invention that lingered unnoticed for years, instead its potential was recognized instantly and the number of printing presses based on his design multiplied rapidly as did the number of books in circulation (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009).
Gutenberg’s press could produce about 30 pages an hour and some of the first books printed included the Bible, Latin grammar book of Aelius Donatus, and anthologies of the classical authors (Fussel, 2001). For the first time, access to books and knowledge became widely available and affordable, forever changing how society learned and acquired information. This change in media sparked intellectual, cultural, and political changes (Fussel, 2001).
According to James Dewar, the biggest change was how people learned; it went from an oral culture to one of “book learning” (2001). Society no longer had to depend on oral representation of subjects but could instead obtain the written knowledge. The public literacy rate increased and people had a new found sense of freedom. From its inception, there was a fight for control over the printing press and its use. Professional scribes who made their living making books were among the first to reject the technology (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009).
In addition, religious and civil authorities saw the printing press as a threat to their control over the people (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009). Book copying was now out of the hands of the Church and the Church found it impossible to censor what was being written (Butler, 2007). Books knew no boundaries; it was very easy to carry a book across one border or another spreading ideas and opinions all over the world. Many argue that Martin Luther’s success was a result of the printing press and his ability to use it for his benefit (Butler, 2007).
The printing press was able to mass produce not only books, but public opinion as well through the circulation small newspapers, broadsheets, and pamphlets (Fussel, 2001). To some degree, the printing press gave birth to public opinion. The collapse of Europe’s religious unity during the Protestant Reformation correlated with the spread of printing, people were given knowledge that had been denied to them before and they now had a choice thanks to their new found enlightenment (Butler, 2007).
From this point on, public opinion had much more power than ever before. The printing press was not only instrumental in how information was spread but influenced what type of information was circulated. The printing press was the primary means of producing media until the introduction of the internet in the 20th century (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009). So, this means that Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press endured with little alteration for some 350 years (Fussel, 2001).
The impact of Gutenberg’s printing press ultimately produced a media revolution with far reaching and long lasting effects on the intelligence of society. The printing press is often paralleled with the effects of network computers of today and the impact that they both had/have on society (Dewar, n. d. ). The printing press of the mid-15th century spread knowledge and information quickly and accurately, this is very similar to networked computers, main difference being that the communication between computers is virtually instantaneous.
Nevertheless, Gutenberg’s printing press helped pave the way for today’s modern communications. It was not until the introduction of television and radio in the 20th century that the printing press was rivaled in its capacity to spread information and public opinions (Butler, 2007). The printing press of the 15th century provided information to the masses much like the internet of today does. It brought the world closer together and made the exchange of ideas faster and more standardized.
The printing press changed forever how the world would share ideas and transformed the manner in which societies were educated. No longer did it takes months or years to replicate a book, now books were duplicated in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. As a result, literacy became more significant in societies and more available to the common people. Thus, sparking a movement in humanity that perpetually changed how people thought and viewed the world in regards to religious, scientific, academic, and entertainment perspectives (Johannes Gutenberg and, 2009).
The printing press began an information revolution facilitating the preservation and dissemination of unvarying knowledge for the progression of academics, sciences, and technologies impacting the world for centuries (Bantwal, 2011). The printing press gave power to the people through the written word and made the exchange of ideas less restricted. References Bantwal, N. (2011). History of the Printing Press. Retrieved from http://www. buzzle. com/articles/history-of-the-printing-press. html Butler, C. (2007). The flow of history. Retrieved from http://www. lowofhistory. com/units/west/11/FC74 Childress, D. (2008). Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press. Twenty-First Century Books Dewar, James A. “The Information Age and the Printing Press: Looking Backward to See Ahead | RAND. ” RAND Corporation Provides Objective Research Services and Public Policy Analysis. N. p. , n. d. Web. 16 Sept. 2012. Fussel, S. (2001). Gutenberg and Today’s Media Change. Publishing Research Quarterly, 16(4), 3. Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press. (2009). Gutenberg & the Early History of Printing, 1.
Cite this The Printing Press
The Printing Press. (2016, Oct 27). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-printing-press/