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Printing Press Invention

February 10, 2012 by staff 

Printing Press Invention, A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium (such as paper or cloth), thereby transferring the ink. Typically used for texts, the invention and spread of the printing press are widely regarded as the most influential events in the second millennium AD, revolutionizing the way people conceive and describe the world they live in, and ushering in the period of modernity.

The printing press was invented in the Holy Roman Empire by the German Johannes Gutenberg in around 1440, based on existing screw presses. Gutenberg, a goldsmith by profession, developed a complete printing system, which perfected the printing process through all of its stages by adapting existing technologies to printing purposes, as well as making groundbreaking inventions of his own. His newly devised hand mould made for the first time possible the precise and rapid creation of metal movable type in large quantities, a key element in the profitability of the whole printing enterprise.

The mechanization of bookmaking led to the first mass production of books in history in assembly line-style. A single Renaissance printing press could produce 3,600 pages per workday, compared to forty by typographic hand-printing and a few by hand-copying. Books of bestselling authors like Luther or Erasmus were sold by the hundreds of thousands in their lifetime.

From a single point of origin, Mainz, Germany, printing spread within several decades to over 200 cities in a dozen European countries. By 1500, printing presses in operation throughout Western Europe had already produced more than twenty million volumes. In the 16th century, with presses spreading further afield, their output rose tenfold to an estimated 150 to 200 million copies. The operation of a press became so synonymous with the enterprise of printing that it lent its name to an entire new branch of media, the press. As early as 1620, the English statesman and philosopher Francis Bacon could write that typographical printing has “changed the whole face and state of things throughout the world”.

From its beginnings, printing was practiced also as a true art form, setting a high aesthetic and artistic standard, such as in the famous 42-line Bible. Today, incunables are among the most prized possessions of modern libraries.

The unprecedented impact of Gutenberg-style printing on the long-term development of modern European and then world history is difficult to capture in its entirety. Attempts atanlysing its manifold effects include the notion of a proper Printing Revolution and the creation of the Gutenberg Galaxy. The ready availability and affordability of the printed word to the general public boosted the democratization of knowledge and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy.

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