I believe that everyone has heard the phrase, "The pen is mightier than the sword." This statement I cannot argue, but the point I want to make is that the printing press is the mightiest of them all.
The origin of printing itself was only the first stage in the development of books as we know them.
To understand the modern book, one should know of its history and realize the gradual process it came from since the pre-written manuscript.
THERE WERE FOUR DISTINCT PHASES IN THIS METAMORPHOSIS (Butler xi).
1. In the beginning, this was just a means for performing a writer's work more quickly, neatly, and cheaply than was possible by hand labor (Butler xi).
2. Only gradually did the early printers and their clients understand to accept the technical limitations of typography and to exploit its peculiarities (Butler xii).
3. The discovery of true publication (Butler xiii).
4. The printed book entered into the fourth phase of its metamorphosis - it became a major factor in history (Butler xiii).
The origin of the mechanical process was the first step in books as we know them today (Butler xi). The earliest scribe, like the public, had learned to read in pen-written volumes and was unaware of anything else (Butler xi). The printer's problem was to invent a method for producing mass quantities of a standardized product (Butler xi). The printer was not free to produce a new product which might serve the same purpose as the old one (Butler xi). His goal was simply to copy the manuscript but to do this mechanically (Butler xii).
The printer's task was far more difficult than we imagine (Butler xii). Many parts of the manuscript, which were time-saving and labor-saving tools for the scribe, were only additional hindrances for the printer (Butler xii).
As printers and their customers learned to accept the technical limitations, the book they produced took on new forms and developed new cultural potentials (Butler xii). Calligraphic ornaments were replaced by those of typographic style, and all sorts of new facilities were provided for the reader - title pages, illustrations, maps, tables, indexes, etc. (Butler xii).
The discovery of true publication was different than the manuscript economy. Under the manuscript economy, a writer responded to current demands. He copied books to order, or, if he built up a stock in anticipation of sales, it was of the volumes most frequently asked for - school and university textbooks and standard works in theology, law, or medicine, constantly used by professional students and practitioners (Butler xiii).
The printer, however, soon went beyond this and realized the potential of publication (Butler xiii). To expand his business, he undertook to create new demands (Butler xiii). The printer searched through old libraries for whatever books he thought the people might buy, if they were made available (Butler xiii). He also provided new works brought to him by living authors, and, finally, he came to order on his own, undertaking journalistic accounts of recent happenings (Butler xiii). In response to his initiative, the world learned to read books and not merely to study them (Butler xiii). The publishers made people read for its own sake (Butler xiii). This became the habit of educated men - a practice forgotten since the collapse of Roman civilization (Butler xiii).
Books became a major factor in History. Publishers made known that the book could not only inform and entertain the masses but also affect their thoughts and actions (Butler xiv). It was used to spread new beliefs, to sway men's opinions, to win their support, and to arouse their passions (Butler xiv). During the first century of printing, the press became a potent weapon of public appeal and propaganda (Butler xiv).
Modern man makes constant use of printed materials (Butler 1). People accept their presence in their lives as a matter of course -almost like the air...
Bibliography: Butler, Pierce. The Origin of Printing in Europe. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.
De Vinne, Theo. L. The Invention of Printing. New York: Francis Hart & Co., 1876. Republished by Gale Research Company Book Tower, Detroit, 1969.
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