How Printing Changed the World

By Adrito Delaso

Reading books was a luxury before printing presses were invented. Then, the only way to obtain a version of the book was to copy it by hand. This made this whole process cumbersome and expensive and copying was exclusively done for books considered worth copying.

It is interesting to know that the Great Library at Alexander was one of the biggest in the medieval world. The authorities impounding all written material found on boats that docked at the city’s port achieved this. These were then copied and subsequently returned to the rightful owners.

The above-mentioned factors ensured that reading was confined to the upper classes. This was the only group of people proficient in reading and writing. The only popular and well-known book in the dark ages in Europe was the Holy Bible. You could understand now why the priests wielded so much power as they were the only ones capable of reading and interpreting it.

When the printing revolution occurred in Europe, the church was the first to suffer. This was due to extensive propaganda launched by its critics and it also contributed to the spread of Protestant reformation.

Literacy rates were still low however and many of the books used illustrations rather than text to tell the tales. One such book was the ‘Whore of Babylon’, in which the Pope was seen as the whore. He was often depicted behaving as though he were greater than Jesus Christ – the Pope letting people wash his feet whereas Christ had washed the feet of the poor, or wearing three golden crowns when Christ had died wearing a Crown of Thorns. They demonstrated clearly how the Catholic Church had become sacrilegious in the eyes of it’s critics.

Printing is not however a Western invention, though the first printing press in Europe, the Gutenberg Press of 1440 AD, is often quoted as the birth of widespread printing. In fact a very similar moveable-type metal printing press was invented in Korea in 1404. And the history of printing in the East dates back the 6th century Before Christ.

By the 9th century, sophisticated printing using wood was commonly used in the East. In the beginning of the 11th century, printing with moveable typefaces was done. It was invented by a Chinese named Pi Sheng. By the 13th century. many Arabic and Chinese libraries were filled with thousands of books.

It can be easily said that the invention of printing brought about major social change. With the advent of printing knowledge could be spread amongst masses effectively and rapidly. With the spread of books the literacy rate amongst the lower classes also increased. Now printing is an inseparable part of our lives.

Adrito Delaso is the administrator and delegate of AP Publishing, your source for all of your publishing needs. Get your story heard at:

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