Printing revolution  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

(Redirected from Printing Revolution)
Jump to: navigation, search

Related e

Google
Wikipedia
Wiktionary
Wiki Commons
Wikisource
YouTube
Shop


Featured:
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Enlarge
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
the reading revolution

The phenomenon of the Printing Revolution refers to the social effects of the printing press. It can be approached from a quantitative perspective which has its focus on the printing output and the spread of the related technology. It can also be analysed in terms of how the wide circulation of information and ideas acted as an "agent of change" with regards to the democratization of knowledge and the scientific revolution in Europe and global society in general.

Contents

Mass production and spread of printed books

mass production

The invention of mechanical movable type printing led to an explosion of printing activities in Europe within only a few decades. From a single print shop in Mainz, Germany, printing had spread to no less than 236 cities in twelve European countries by the end of the 15th century. As early as 1480, there were printers active in 110 different places in Germany, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, England, Bohemia and Poland.

In Italy, a center of early printing, print shops had been established in 77 cities and towns by 1500. At the end of the following century, 151 locations in Italy had seen at one time printing activities, with a total of nearly three thousand printers known to be active. Despite this proliferation, printing centres soon emerged; thus, one third of the Italian printers published in Venice.

By 1500, the printing presses in operation throughout Western Europe had already produced more than twenty million volumes. In the following century, their output rose tenfold to an estimated 150 to 200 million copies.

European printing presses of around 1600 were capable of producing 3,600 impressions per workday. By comparison, Far Eastern printing, which did not use presses and was solely done by manually rubbing the back of the paper to the page, did not exceed an output of forty pages per day.

The vast printing capacities meant that individual authors could now become true bestsellers: Of Erasmus's work, about 300,000 of the Novum Instrumentum omne and 750,000 copies of his other work was sold during his lifetime alone (1469−1536) (A history of Christianity, Paul Johnson). In the early days of the Reformation, the revolutionary potential of bulk printing took princes and papacy alike by surprise. In the period from 1518 to 1524, the publication of books in Germany alone skyrocketed sevenfold; between 1518 and 1520, Luther's tracts were distributed in 300,000 printed copies.

The rapidity of typographical text production, as well as the sharp fall in unit costs, led to the issuing of the first newspapers (see Relation) which opened up an entirely new field for conveying up-to-date information to the public.

A lasting legacy are the prized incunable, surviving pre-16th century print works which are collected by many of the most prestigious libraries in Europe and North America.

Circulation of information and ideas

The printing press was also a factor in the establishment of a community of scientists who could easily communicate their discoveries through the establishment of widely disseminated scholarly journals, helping to bring on the scientific revolution. Because of the printing press, authorship became more meaningful and profitable. It was suddenly important who had said or written what, and what the precise formulation and time of composition was. This allowed the exact citing of references, producing the rule, "One Author, one work (title), one piece of information" (Giesecke, 1989; 325). Before, the author was less important, since a copy of Aristotle made in Paris would not be exactly identical to one made in Bologna. For many works prior to the printing press, the name of the author has been entirely lost.

Because the printing process ensured that the same information fell on the same pages, page numbering, tables of contents, and indices became common, though they previously had not been unknown. The process of reading also changed, gradually moving over several centuries from oral readings to silent, private reading. The wider availability of printed materials also led to a drastic rise in the adult literacy rate throughout Europe.

The printing press was an important step towards the democratization of knowledge. Within fifty or sixty years of the invention of the printing press, the entire classical canon had been reprinted and widely promulgated throughout Europe (Eisenstein, 1969; 52). Now that more people had access to knowledge both new and old, more people could discuss these works. Furthermore, now that book production was a more commercial enterprise, the first copyright laws were passed to protect what we now would call intellectual property rights. A second outgrowth of this popularization of knowledge was the decline of Latin as the language of most published works, to be replaced by the vernacular language of each area, increasing the variety of published works. The printed word also helped to unify and standardize the spelling and syntax of these vernaculars, in effect 'decreasing' their variability. This rise in importance of national languages as opposed to pan-European Latin is cited as one of the causes of the rise of nationalism in Europe.

Bibliography

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Printing revolution" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools