January 1, 1440 - The Printing Press

By Henry Salinas
The printing press was an invention largely made by Johann Gutenberg in 1440. Fifteen years later in 1455, he printed the Gutenberg Bible, the first of its kind. His movable type printing press far surpassed the handwritten standard of the time, as books could be made much faster than manuscripts. In fact, “…the first print run of the Bible in Latin… took three years to print around 200 copies, a miraculously speedy achievement in the day of hand-copied manuscripts”[1], which is around 67 Bibles a year. This is compared to manuscripts which usually took 15 months[2].

A result of the sheer efficiency of the printing press was the opening of books to the commoner. Because you could print so many books in a short amount of time, it made books less rare, and therefore, less costly. World History: Patterns of Interaction says, “The printing press enabled a printer to produce hundreds of copies of a single work. For the first time, books were cheap enough that many people could buy them”[3]. Gutenberg’s design was able to make the Bible and other literature go to almost anyone. Now, the ideas of thinkers and scientists once obscured by the Church, could make their works widespread and influence people’s understanding. As Encyclopædia Britannica puts it, “The development of the printing press has been credited with helping to usher in the modern era by enabling the spread of information across all levels of society”[4].

This also led to the dismantling of the Catholic Church as the dominant force in Europe. With the Bible in the hands of everyone and because literacy was increasing, policies that the Church justified could be quickly dismantled. For example, the Church claimed there were seven sacraments when only two of them were in the Bible. Only 62 years after the printing of the Gutenberg Bible, Martin Luther published his 95 Theses. Due to the amount of learning it produced and the spread of ideas only possible due to it, the printing press is one of if not the single most important invention in world history.

Works Cited

“Discover How Johannes Gutenberg’s Printing Press Increased the Literacy and Education of the

Public.” n.d. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Accessed May 25, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/video/171689/history-printing-press-work-discussion-Johannes-Gutenberg.

Beck, Roger B., Linda Black, Larry Krieger, Phillip Chiviges Naylor, and Dahia Ibo Shabaka.

  1. World History: Patterns of Interaction. Orlando, FL: Holt McDougal/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Chodowiecki, Daniel, and Max von Boehn. 1922. Daniel Chodowiecki; 62 Bisher

unveröffentlichte Handzeichnungen Zu Dem Elementarwerk Von Johann Bernhard Basedow. Frankfurt am Main: Voigtländer-Tetzner.

Heidelbach, Willi. 2004. Note: the Plate Says – “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps over the Lazy Dog

and Feels as If He Were in the Seventh Heaven of Typography Together with Hermann Zapf, the Most Famous Artist of the”. Wikimedia Commons. Willi Heidelbach. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Metal_movable_type.jpg.

Johannes Gensfleisch Zur Laden Zum Gutenberg Made after His Death.2004.

Https://Commons.wikimedia.org/Wiki/File:Gutenberg.jpg. Wikimedia Commons. Wikimedia Commons.

Lyons, Martyn. 2011. Books: a Living History. London: Thames & Hudson.

Roos, Dave. 2019. “7 Ways the Printing Press Changed the World.” History.com. A&E

Television Networks. August 28, 2019. http://www.history.com/news/printing-press-renaissance.

Endnotes

[1] Roos, Dave. 2019. “7 Ways the Printing Press Changed the World.” History.com. A&E

Television Networks. August 28, 2019. http://www.history.com/news/printing-press-renaissance.

[2] Lyons, Martyn. 2011. Books: a Living History. London: Thames & Hudson.

[3] Beck, Roger B., Linda Black, Larry Krieger, Phillip Chiviges Naylor, and Dahia Ibo Shabaka.

  1. World History: Patterns of Interaction. Orlando, FL: Holt McDougal/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

[4] “Discover How Johannes Gutenberg’s Printing Press Increased the Literacy and Education of the

Public.” n.d. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. Accessed May 25, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/video/171689/history-printing-press-work-discussion-Johannes-Gutenberg.