In the 1430’s a man named Johann Gutenberg created the predecessor to the modern printing press. The level of importance of the printing press is rivaled by few other inventions, so much so that “the invention of the printing press” is often used as a reference to the social, political, and scientific change experienced by Europe after the press’s introduction. (Wikipedia).
Johannes Gutenberg invented a mechanical way of making books. This was the first example of mass book production. Before the invention of printing, multiple copies of a manuscript had to be made by hand, a laborious task that could take many years. Later books were produced by and for the church using the process of wood engraving. This required the craftsman to cut away the background, leaving the area to be printed raised. This process applied to both text and illustrations was extremely time consuming. When a page was complete, often by joining several blocks together, it would be inked and a sheet of paper was then pressed over it far an imprint. The susceptibility of wood to the elements gave such blocks a limited lifespan.
When Johannes Gutenberg began building his press in 1436, he was unlikely to have realized that he was giving birth to an art form which would take center stage in the social and industrial revolutions which followed. The most important aspect of his invention was that it was the first form of printing to use movable type. His initial efforts enabled him in 1440 to mass-produce indulgences – printed slips of paper sold by the Catholic Church to remit temporal punishments in purgatory for sins committed in this life, for those wealthy enough to afford indulgences.
Gutenberg’s invention spread rapidly after his death in 1468. It met in general with a ready, and as enthusiastic reception in the centers of culture. The names of more than 1000 printers, mostly of German origin, have come down to us from the fifteenth century. In Italy we find well over 100 German...
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