When you hold a book in your hands, you do not stop and think of the journey it took to arrive there. Centuries ago books were rare and highly valued as they had to be copied by hand which could take years for each book. The idea of being able to print books faster by the use of movable type was actually invented in China in the early 11th century.
Due to the fact that there was not a lot of communication between East and West, Europe was unaware of this wonderful process. It wasn’t until the 15th century the Johannes Gutenberg developed the first printing press known to the Western world. This one invention has been described by many as the greatest invention the world has ever known.
So Many Doors Opened
To be able to have a book created in a matter of days compared to years was a huge achievement. This opened the door politically, religiously, and educationally and changed all of Europe. For the first time politicians could quickly get their propaganda out to the masses.
Literacy could increase throughout Europe. The availability of books would be in volumes like no one had ever seen before. In fact, one of the biggest results that came from the Gutenberg press was the availability to the masses of religious texts.
By creating a press in which each letter was pre-formed, a page of a book could be created as fast as the letter tiles could be set into place and be rolled upon them. All it took then was the set of tiles with the desired words to be pressed down on the paper. This coincided with the Reformation and the translation of the Christian Bible by Martin Luther into the German binoculars. To have a Bible in the words of the common man was amazing enough.
Access to Knowledge
The ability to actually have a Bible in every home was miraculous. Never had a person seen a Bible. It was something only a priest could touch much less read. They had to rely on someone else’s direction of what God had said in the holy book. Now they could read it themselves. Power began to shift from the church.
Ignorance is a great way to control the masses. A priest could say an act was sinful, and the people wouldn’t know they had twisted the words of God. A king could write what he had planned to do to groups of people, and few could read it to protect themselves.
As the years progressed, more and more material became available to anyone. The written word could be sent far and wide to inform others, spread news, and even entertain. What would have taken years to print took days and now hours to print.
The printing press was a revolutionary invention that has brought books as close as the local bookstore and even closer to our very homes. It is to the printing press that we can thank for easily bringing us practically every work from as far back as Homer’s The Iliad to the book that was published yesterday. We owe our thanks to the Chinese who are constantly looking for better ways to learn and to Johannes Gutenberg for bringing that same idea to the West in transforming every culture in Europe and even the Middle East.
The next time you pick up a book, think of how blessed we are in this world today to so easily have the printed word to open the gateway to far-off lands, for us to experience young romance, to join in the adventures of pirates and soldiers, to read the stories of those that lived long ago, or to even read a book on how to build furniture.