What would Johannes Gutenberg think of today’s modern laser printer? Would he even recognize it as an evolution of his invention that changed the world? Most historians believe that the printing press was the single most important invention of the Middle Ages. Gutenberg conceived the idea of a movable type and the first printing press. It should be noted that the printing press is not the result of a single invention, it is the aggregation of three different technologies that were in existence centuries before Gutenberg was born.
• The adaptation for printing of the wine or olive oil screw-type press that had been in use for hundreds of years, throughout Europe and Asia.
• The adaptation of block print technology, known in Europe since the return of Marco Polo from Asia at the end of the 13th century.
• The development of mass production paper making techniques. Paper was brought from China to Italy in the 12th century, but was thought too flimsy for books.
The first few books to be printed and sold at print shops were religious texts and bibles. There was very little to no printing of new ideas taking place. Most people entered the printing business and then quickly left it. The main reason was the distribution of books was not organized. The potential for improvement was there, the market was there, and the demand was definitely there, but the control and transport were poorly organized. To add to this, the literacy rate in Europe was still very low. Most people did not even know how to read. However, this situation was improved by the Frankfort Fair, which was a center for printing and drew hundreds of booksellers, scholars, publishers and collectors from all over the world.
Printing encouraged literacy amongst the population and eventually brought about a deep and lasting impact on many people’s lives. The majority of the first books made by hand were typically the Bible. The print shop on the other hand, responded to demand with medical, travel and practical manuals. Printing also provided a platform for scholars and prevented the corruption of their texts during hand copying. By giving everyone the same texts to work from, the printing press had brought about progress in science and scholarship in a faster and more reliable way.
The main effects of the printing press however, was to multiply the supply and cut down the costs of books. Thus, it made information of all kinds readily available to larger segment of the population. Libraries were then able to store more information, and at a lower cost. The printing press also facilitated the preservation and dissemination of knowledge. This was very important for the advancement of science and technology. The printing press certainly fueled the start of the ‘information revolution’, which is on par with the Internet of today. The printing press allowed the spread of new ideas and information quickly, and with much greater impact.
Initial success with automatic printing was found with the steam printing presses of the early 1800's. This was the next major step for the printing industry. Gutenberg's original design had remained largely unchanged until then. The steam press, constructed of cast iron, allowed double the print size and required 90% less force to print properly. It could produce 250 prints an hour, an amazing feat for the era. Compare that to today's fully automated digital printing presses, which are capable of handling any color, font and print size at a printing rate that makes the steam press look like a snail.
So in the span of five centuries, we have witnessed human expression evolve from the spoken word, to the hand written word, to printed word. Now with today’s electronic mediums, our communication has evolved to what has become the digital information age. The internet’s effect on communication is causing us to rethink text itself. It has almost come full circle and returned to a state much like it was in its infancy of the spoken word. I am confident that if Johannes Gutenberg were alive today and needed toner for his laser printer, he would web-surf over to ClickInks.com. With the purchase of Clickinks remanufactured printer cartridges, you help reduce the amount of cartridges that are disposed of into landfills and save yourself money at the same time!