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Movable type

Origins: 1500s - 1600s

Related: Gutenberg - printing - books

Gutenberg's invention of movable type in the 1450s not only heralds the start of print culture but of modernity itself.

Effects of movable type printing on culture

The discovery and establishment of the printing of books with moveable type marks a paradigm shift in the way information was transferred in Europe. The impact of printing is comparable to the development of language, the invention of the alphabet, and the invention of the computer as far as its effects on the society. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press#Effects_of_printing_on_culture [Jan 2005]

Gutenberg's findings not only allowed a much broader audience to read Martin Luther's German translation of Bible, it also helped spread Luther's other writings, greatly accelerating the pace of Protestant Reformation. They also led to the establishment of a community of scientists (previously scientists were mostly isolated) that could easily communicate their discoveries, bringing on the scientific revolution. Also, although early texts were printed in Latin, books were soon produced in common European vernacular, leading to the decline of the Latin language. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press#Effects_of_printing_on_culture [Jan 2005]

Printing in the industrial age

The Gutenberg press was much more efficient than manual copying, as testament to its effectiveness, it was essentially unchanged from the time of its invention until the Industrial Revolution, some three hundred years later.

The invention of the steam powered press is credited to Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Friedrich Bauer in 1812 made it possible to print tens of thousands of copies of a page in a day.

Koenig and Bauer sold two of their first models to The Times in London in 1814, capable of 1,100 impressions per hour. The first edition so printed was on November 28, 1814. Koenig and Bauer went on to perfect the early model so that it could print on both sides of a sheet at once. This began to make newspapers available to a mass audience, and from the 1820s changed the nature of book production, forcing a greater standardization in titles and other metadata.

Later on in the middle of the 19th century the rotary press (invented in 1843 in the United States by Richard M. Hoe) allowed millions of copies of a page in a single day. Mass production of printed works flourished after the transition to rolled paper, as continuous feed allowed the presses to run at a much faster pace. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Printing_press#Printing_in_the_industrial_age [Oct 2005]

See also: printing - industrial revolution

Print culture

‘So much that we think of as characteristic of the modern world economic, social, religious, political is built on the foundation provided by print as a medium of communication’ (Finnegan 1978, page 96). From the sixteenth century it became impossible for the illiterate to obtain either wealth or influence, and this has largely occurred due to the invention of print as a medium of communication in the fifteenth century. This had widespread consequences, allowing large numbers of copies of a work to be made rapidly. This further availability of information provided enabled greater scientific advancement as it meant that other people’s ideas were more readily available. Similarly the development of the printing press encouraged religious reform, as it was a major factor in allowing the writings of Erasmus, Luther and later Calvin to achieve high levels of circulation. --Daniela Lesley Evans, 1998, A Critical Examination of Claims Concerning the ‘Impact’ of Print via http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Students/dle9701.html [Sept 2005] [Sept 2005]

Neil Postman, another major authority on communications, agreed with McLuhan that the “growth of a print culture” gave way for the Age of Reason (Postman 1986, 52). The Age of Reason, also known as the Enlightenment, was characterized by belief in man’s ability to reason. German philosopher Immanuel Kant said the motto of that age should be “Dare to know” (Encarta). The works of scientists and philosophers thrived under the Enlightenment, and this was largely due to the ability to print manuscripts rapidly and make them available to all. To sum up, Gutenberg’s press was a stepping stone towards creating a larger system of communication where knowledge was available to all Westerners. --http://home.utm.utoronto.ca/~lana_als/main5.htm [Sept 2005]

See also: culture

Mass readership in the Victorian era

For the first time, pornography was produced in a volume capable of satisfying a mass readership.

Oddly, the industry was founded by a gang of political radicals who used sales of erotica to subsidise their campaigning and pamphleteering: when, in the 1840s, the widely-anticipated British revolution failed to materialise, these booksellers and printers found that their former sideline had become too profitable to relinquish. Lubricious stories such as Lady Pokingham, or, They All Do it (1881), and hardcore daguerreotypes, photographs and magic lantern slides, demonstrate the omnivorous nature of Victorian sexuality.

Don't imagine that this material comprised tame pictures of gartered ladies standing in front of cheese plants; any permutation or peccadillo you can conceive is represented in the work that has survived from the period. And it was produced in huge quantities: in 1874, the Pimlico studio of Henry Hayler, one of the most prominent producers of such material was loaded up with 130,248 obscene photographs and five thousand magic lantern slides - which gives some idea of the extent of its appeal. --Matthew Sweet, Sex, Drugs and Music Hall, 01-08-2001, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/society_culture/society/pleasure_03.shtml [Jun 2004]

Print revolution

During the Restoration period in England, the print revolution began to change every aspect of society. It became possible for anyone to spend a small amount of money and have his or her opinions published as a broadsheet. It also became possible for nearly anyone to gain access to the latest discoveries in science, literature, and political theory, as books became less expensive and digests and "indexes" of the sciences grew more numerous. The change in British society brought about by the print revolution was roughly analogous to our own experiences with the Internet. Just as now a silly person may spend a small amount of money and publish silly opinions, so it was then. Just as now we are confronted with a staggering array of conspiracy theories, "secret" histories, signs of the apocalypse, "secrets" of politicians, "revelations" of prophets, alarms about household products, hoaxes, and outright fraud, so it was then. The problem for them, as for us, was telling true from false, credible from impossible. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Tale_of_a_Tub#Cultural_setting [Sept 2005]

See also: print - publishing - revolution

Neil Postman [...]

Anyone who has studied the history of technology knows that technological change is always a Faustian bargain: Technology giveth and technology taketh away, and not always in equal measure. A new technology sometimes creates more than it destroys. Sometimes, it destroys more than it creates. But it is never one-sided. The invention of the printing press is an excellent example. Printing fostered the modern idea of individuality but it destroyed the medieval sense of community and social integration. Printing created prose but made poetry into an exotic and elitist form of expression. Printing made modern science possible but transformed religious sensibility into an exercise in superstition. Printing assisted in the growth of the nation-state but, in so doing, made patriotism into a sordid if not a murderous emotion. Another way of saying this is that a new technology tends to favor some groups of people and harms other groups. School teachers, for example, will, in the long run, probably be made obsolete by television, as blacksmiths were made obsolete by the automobile, as balladeers were made obsolete by the printing press. Technological change, in other words, always results in winners and losers. [2]

The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (1993) - Elizabeth L. Eisenstein

The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (1993) - Elizabeth L. Eisenstein [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
Although the importance of the advent of printing for Western civilisation has long been recognised, it was Professor Eisenstein, in her monumental, two-volume work, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, who provided the first full-scale treatment of the subject. This illustrated and abridged edition of Professor Eisenstein's study gives a stimulating survey of the communications revolution of the fifteenth century. It begins with a discussion of the general implications of the introduction of printing, and then explores how the shift from script to print entered into the three major movements of early modern times: the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the rise of modern science.

The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) - Herbert Marshall McLuhan

The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) - Herbert Marshall McLuhan [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

See also: reproduction - 1962 - literacy - modernity - Gutenberg - Marshall McLuhan

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