The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, should rank among the greatest events in the history of the world.

Culture and knowledge, until then considered a privilege available only to certain classes, were brought into the mainstream by typography.

By 1450, German inventor Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press process, with refinements and increased mechanisation, remained the principal means of printing until the late 20th century.

The new printing presses had spread like wildfire through Europe.

By 1499 print-houses had become established in more than 2500 cities in Europe. Fifteen million books had been flung into a world where scholars would travel miles to visit a library stocked with twenty hand-written volumes.

Academics, as you would expect, continue to argue about the true number.

It could’ve been as few as eight million or as many as twenty four, but the output of new books had been staggering by any reasonable estimate.

The population had suddenly come into possession of some thirty thousand new book titles.

The inventor’s method of printing, from movable type, including the use of metal molds and alloys, a special press, and oil-based inks, allowed for the first time the mass production of printed books.

Books produced in this period, between the first work of Johann Gutenberg in 1450 and the year 1500, are collectively referred to as incunabula.

The success of printing meant that books soon became cheaper, and a much larger part of the population could afford them. More than ever before, it enabled people to follow debates and take part in discussions about matters that concerned them.

So not only is Gutenberg’s art inseparable from the progress of modern science, but it has also been an indispensable factor in the education of the people at large.

Thus, intellectual life soon was no longer the exclusive domain of church and court, and literacy became a necessity of urban existence.

The printing press stoked intellectual fires at the end of the Middle Ages, helping usher in an era of enlightenment.

This great cultural rebirth was inspired by widespread access to and appreciation for classical art and literature, and these translated into a renewed passion for artistic expression.

Without inexpensive printing to make books available to a large portion of society,the Renaissance may never have happened.

What civilisation gained from Gutenberg’s invention is incalculable.


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