Introduction | The Protestant Reformation | Literature | Bibliography


Printing is a process which reproduces text or images on paper. Originally, it was done on cloth and this was in fairly wide usage by the year 1300. When paper became commonplace and literacy evermore widespread, a new invention came about which revolutionized learning and the spread of information. This was the printing press. Invented by Johann Gutenberg (left) in Germany in 1439, it was probably not the first printing press, and it was certainly not the first method of reproducing images, it became the most successful. Gutenberg printed some small books or manuscripts originally, but those remain unsigned. The first important document printed this way was, unsurprisingly, the Bible. The Gutenberg Bible (right) was the true begining of the Age of the Printed Book. Now, hypothetically, everyone could own a Bible. Books were still expensive, but only a fraction of the price they would have been when they were copied out by hand. Though there is no doubt that this invention and subsequent pubications changed history, Kenneth Clark argues that printing is not essential for civilization. Ancient socities, such as Egypt and Greece did not have printing and their civilizations were hugely sucessful and their legacy lives on today. Likewise, earlier European cultures like twelfth-century Chartres and fifteenth- century Florence were just as civilized, he says, as later civilzations were. These societies were all still capable of spoken word, written word, and word of mouth. Not to mention art, be it painting or sculpture, and architecture. Printing is simply one other method of transfering information.