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					              LING 270
Language, Technology and Society

                   Unit 5

             Roxana Girju

      Short History of Printing
• Invention of printing: printing press
• How printing affects writing, literacy, and
       Development of Printing
• Mid 15th c. (~1440), Johannes Gutenberg
  – Profession: goldsmith
  – Aggregation of known technologies

• Invention thought to have been developed
  simultaneously in Holland and Prague..
      Economic Conditions and
         Intellectual Climate
• Late medieval society:
  – Rapid economic and socio-cultural
    development 
     • modes of production
     • Economic thinking
     • Efficiency of traditional work-processes
        – Revival of towns and trade  mining boom  better
          techniques for working w/ metals (gold, copper)
    Gutenberg‟s Printing Press
1) Wine press (squeezing/screw press):
  – Known for thousand years in Europe: introduced in
    the 1st. c. AD by the Romans
     • Agricultural production: wine grapes and olive oil seeds
     • Cloth press for printing patterns
     • Printing engravings on paper

• Adaptation of screw press:
  – Introduction of a movable undertable with a plane
    surface (to change the sheets easily): even
    application of power
      Gutenberg‟s Printing Press
2) Block print technology
    – Due to Marco Polo: end of 13th c.
    – Introduced in China and Korea, 11th c.
        • Use wood/ceramic blocks (e.g., for Buddhist texts)
        • Inexpensive printing blocks widely available (960 – 1279 Song dynasty)
        • 1st mention of printing: 593 AD – imperial decree
             – 1 block: about 1000 sheets/day
        • By 9th c. – common all over China
             –   Confucius classics
             –   Buddhist scriptures
             –   Dictionaries
             –   Math, etc.
        • Chinese/Korean printing did not advance
             – Reason: writing system too complex

    – For centuries after its introduction in Europe:
        • Little use (wooden blocks: short life time and time consuming)
     Gutenberg‟s Printing Press
3) Concept of “movable type”
   – Idea of creating text by reusing individual characters
   – Well understood and used since 12th c. (Ch‟ing-Li period: 1041 –
       • Chinese characters were too specific (difficult to recognize in molds)
       • But.. Various techniques employed( imprinting, punching,
         assembling individual letters) not refined enough for large usage
   – True mass printing: thrive in a culture w/ less sophisticated
     writing system: e.g., alphabet

• Gutenberg‟s adaptation:
   – Created a durable and interchangeable metal type that allowed
     to print many different pages w/ same letters over and over.
   Gutenberg‟s Printing Press
4) Development of mass production paper-making
  – Paper brought from China through Italy in 12th c.
     • But.. Too flimsy for books
     • Made of vellum (calf/lamb skin)  too expensive

  – Intro. Of water-powered paper mills( ~1282) 
     • massive expansion of production
     • Replaced laborious handcraft characteristics of Chinese and
       Muslim papapermaking

  – Paper making centers multiply (13th c.) in Italy 
    reduction of price of paper; Germany later
   Gutenberg‟s Printing Press
5) Codex
  – Originated in the Roman period
  – Completely replaced the ancient scroll (onset
    of Middle Ages: ~500 AD)
    • Practical advantages: convenient to read (turn
      pages), more compact, less costly, uses both sides
      of a paper sheet
   Gutenberg‟s Printing Press
6) Development of oil-based inks
  – Before: water-based ink (soaked the paper)
  – More durable
  – Introduced by Renaissance artists in their
    search for more durable paint
  Gutenberg‟s key contribution
• Treated typesetting and printing as two
  separates steps in the process:
  – Created his type pieces from lead-based alloy
    (still used today)
  – Created a special hand mould, the matrix
     • Latin alphabet – v. advantageous (allowed the
       type-setter to represent any text w/ a min. of ~2
       dozen different letters)
     • His type case: ~290 separate letter boxes
    Mass production and spread of
           printing books
• Advent of printing press did not bring about a major shift in social
  organization of learning in Europe

• 1st books in print:
    – Bibles, religious tracts
    – Humanist texts from Byzantium by Crusades and other texts of antiquity
    – But.. Little / no printing of new ideas

• Distribution of books: poorly organized

• Low literacy rate:
    – Traveling raconteurs:
        • In the market & read
  Mass production and spread of
         printing books
• Situation improved:
  – Introduction of Frankfurt Book Fair
     • Attracted publishers, booksellers, collectors,
     • Catalog of works shown
     • Wider variation of non-religious topics:
        – Grammars, etiquette, geology books for professional
          members of middle class
   Mass production and spread of
          printing books
• Early printed books:
   – Conservative in content
   – Filled w/ medieval ideas
   – Lot of artifacts of printing (for illiterate audiences)

• By early 1482: ~100 printing presses in W. Europe

• By 1500s:
   – shops in 77 cities and towns (Italy)
   – W. Europe: > 20 mil. Volumes
   – A Venetian printer: „pocket books‟ (affordable; translation of
     Greek classics  spread of knowledge)
  Mass production and spread of
         printing books
• Textile industry: most developed in W.
  – Closes wear out  rags (plenty by 14th c.) 
    rag paper = cheaper than parchment
    (sheepskin) and vellum (calfskin)

  – By 1300s:
     • Paper: 1/6 of cost of parchment (170 calfskins or
       300 sheepskin for 1 copy of Bible)
Circulation of information and ideas
• Dramatic effect on European civilization:
    – Some: most important invention between writing itself and the

• Spread quickly and accurately  increased literacy

• Type of information and opinions: 2 new directions in printing:
    – More books of secular nature  profound impact on science 
      advancement of knowledge and understanding
    – By 1600s: scientific revolution (how Europeans viewed the world and
      the universe)
    – But also trouble:
        • Took book copying out of hands of church
        • Harder for the church to control/censor what was written
        • Protestant Reformation (Martin Luther)