Johann Gutenberg is credited for the invention of the printing press, a monumental advancement in technology that changed the world forever. It has been regarded as, “one of the most important inventions in the history of humankind.” What was once a tedious process, became a fast, easy, and cheap way to produce great quantities of books. It granted public access to a wealth of knowledge never seen before. Rapid spread of ideas was the catalyst of social and cultural revolutions, the consequences of which are still apparent today. The printing press can be thought of as the internet of the 15th century, a facilitative mechanism of social, economic, scientific, and religious. Hypothetically speaking, if the printing press was never invented, it is possible that there would be no Renaissance, religious reformation, or scientific and intellectual revolution, and thus there wouldn’t be a modern world as we know it.
Before the implications of the printing press can be understood, it is important to consider what life was like before the printing revolution. All writing and illustrations were the work of an individual slaving over the text to write it by hand. Not just any old peasant could do the tedious work of a scribe, most of them lived and worked in monasteries, where they would silently and diligently copy the text with utmost precision. Since transcribing was such a cumbersome task, books were generally owned by monasteries, educational institutions, and well-to-do aristocrats. If a family was lucky enough to have owned a book, it would have most likely been a bible, for religious texts were most commonly transcribed.
Although transcription of texts by scribes was the mode...
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...arena. 500 years ago there was a shift from transcription of texts by hand to a much more efficient process of duplication. The internet has made strides in making the printed book obsolete in the same way. More and more people are retiring their old encyclopedias in exchange for the internet’s fast and broader database of information. The comparison between the printing press and the internet highlights the pattern in which history unfolds. Rufus Historie is famously quoted for saying, “History follows a pattern of events that recur in different eras.” It is true. New inventions evolve and replace the old, the new inventions too become dated and are replaced by something newer. The pattern present in the evolution of handwritten texts to the printing press to the internet represents the cycle of human technological advancement; out with the old, in with the new.
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