IMPACT OF THE PRINTING PRESS 1
In 1440, Johannes Gutenberg created theprinting press machine. Earlier, books were written by hand, aprocess that was both conscientious and time-consuming. Additionally,the people tasked with writing the books were prone to makingmistakes. This book writing process ensured few books got publishedand only scholars or monks could gain access to them. Gutenbergutilized block printing, an import from China, and the press to comeup with the printing press. Around 1500, the printing press hadspread all over Europe. In 1620, a philosopher called Francis Baconcommented that printing, gunpowder, and the compass were innovationsthat “have changed the appearance and state of the world” (Rossi,2013). In the late fifteenth and sixteenth century, the Renaissancespread all around Europe and specifically to France, Germany, Spainand England. Eventually, the printing press played a critical role inthe spread of new ideas, political movements, and changing thesociety.
The printing press enabled the faster flow ofinformation which in turn encouraged the spread of new ideas. Manypeople got the opportunity to read books rather than just scholarsand monks. Illiterate people were incentivized to acquire readingskills leading to an educated and speculative world population.Printing had a significant effect on the Catholic Church around theearly 1500s. Sixty-five years after the invention of the printingpress, Martin Luther, a Catholic, questioned the church on itspractice of conducting sermons in Latin. The language was limited toselect members of the society. He proposed shifting to a languagethat everyone could understand in spite of their level of educationand amount of wealth. He wrote and printed ninety-five thesis andnailed them to the door of the Castle Church in Germany (Luther,2013). In just a matter of weeks, pamphlets were copied, printed anddistributed all over Germany. By 1520, the pamphlets had spread toNorway, Italy, Sweden, Spain, France, Denmark, and England.Furthermore, the printing press enabled the spread of religion suchas the popularizing the idea of the Protestant faith leading to thedeath of the Christian unity in Europe.
The invention led to the growth in other fieldslike geography. The better availability of printed books enabled theexposure of geographical facts and theories to the population. In thelate fifteenth century, the developing book market allowed the vitalconnection between the changing views of Renaissance intellects andthe endeavors of European sailors like the renowned ChristopherColumbus. During this period, navigators ventured into bookstores onvarious major port cities such as Seville where they could easilyfind information on the works of ancient and contemporary geographyexperts and scientists. Christopher Columbus’ library containedprinted copies of Geographia by Ptolemy, travel accounts of MarcoPolo, and Imago Mundi by Pierre d’Ailly, a French spiritual leader.These sources provided scholars and sailors with information thatthey used in their discussions regarding the physical magnitude ofthe earth and estimated positions of landmasses.
Since the Gutenberg’s invention becamepopular, many political leaders feared it would encourage rebellions.Sir William Berkeley, a royal governor, thought that printing wouldbring about disobedience and malicious publications printed againstgood government. The printing press was a potent agent in thepropagating revolution, reformation, and challenging rulers. Berkeleyexperienced a massive rebellion when he performed a land survey sansprinters (Mellen, 2016). The invention was treated politically fromthe beginning due to its association with authority and power onknowledge struggles. The printing press also sparked a socialrevolution among the English talking population. Before the inventionof the printing press, there existed five different English dialectswhereby each writer spelled words their way. Consequently, printingenabled the enforcement of standard spelling principles. Also, theintroduction of printing led to the use of East Midland spelling asthe norm since most works were printed using the dialect. Theinvention ensured English gain more prestige and its acceptance intothe higher classes of the society. The improved ease of accessingprinted materials and the growth of the spelling system, in turn,contributed to more people being considered literate. Anotherhistorical milestone impacted by the printing press is the advent ofnewspapers. With a huge number of the population able to read,newspapers became the easiest and fastest way to provide informationto the public. Thus, providing the public with an avenue of stayingupdated on important events. In the sixteenth and seventeenthcenturies, pamphlets became a primary tool for propagation of socialagendas. It promoted the spread of disruptive ideas all over Europe.
On a global scale, printing made it possible toaccess information thus encouraging intellectual curiosity that ledto events like the Protestant Reformation, and industrial andpolitical revolutions. The social revolution is significant since itexerted political and social pressures that led to the systems thatare in place today. The printing press revolutionized the propagationof information and the world’s view on the dispersal of knowledge.
Rossi, P.(2013). FrancisBacon: from magic to science (Vol.26). Routledge.
Luther, M.(2013). Onthe Freedom of a Christian: With Related Texts.Hackett Publishing.
Mellen, R. P.(2016). Representation of Slaves in the Eighteenth-Century VirginiaPress. JournalismHistory, 42(3),142.