Printing Press

.. ed it (Butler 15). In scribal practice there was always a tendency to sacrifice legibility and beauty to gain speed and to economize the effort (Butler 15). A characteristic of the manuscript economy was the way in which it made the future survival of any book depend upon its present popularity (Butler 16). Generally, no text could exist for long in that period, unless each generation cared enough about it to make new copies (Butler 16).

The mortality rate of books has always been high (Butler 16). Unless books were constantly replenished, they soon faced an inevitable extinction (Butler 16). Many books lack contemporary appreciation, but become acclaimed and revived (Butler 17). At every point typographical book production is different from that of the manuscript (Butler 21). While the scribal process was slow and laborious, printing is easy and fast (Butler 21).

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The accomplishment of the earliest printers is significant to make this point (Butler 21). During the first half century of the press, over eight million books were printed, most likely far more than all Europe had produced during the whole medieval period (Butler 21). The scribe’s effort demands constant attention, while that of the printer is greatly diminished (Butler 21). If the set type is free of errors at the start, a thousand copies may be struck off without further thought of textual accuracy, with the knowledge that the last copy will be the same as the first one (Butler 22). The legibility and design of our printed works do not depend on the skill and taste of the craftsman who handles the reproduction (Butler 22).

Furthermore, the future existence of our knowledge and literature is no longer dependent upon the willingness of the next generation to reproduce them (Butler 23). Lastly, nowadays books are not rare and expensive. They are very cheap and so numerous that we tend to underestimate rather than overvalue their content (Butler 23). We often reject the printed word merely because it is printed (Butler 23). By habit, we are more impressed by the statement of any second-rate notable whom we have heard in person than we are by the written opinions of those who are shown to be superior in intelligence and character (Butler 28).

We trust our own judgment against all printed knowledge to the contrary. The Spread of Printing When two rival printing offices had been established at Mentz it was impossible to keep the secret the process (De Vinne 492). Printers who handled the types must have felt a weakening of the obligation of secrecy (De Vinne 492). The sad part is that not one of these printers has told us when and how he began to print on his own account (De Vinne 492). What is known about the introduction of printing in many of the large cities has been collected from dates of books and the indirect references of early chronicles (De Vinne 492).

The activity of the early printers is remarkable. The huge task of preserving the literature of the world was adequately done at a very early date (De Vinne 511). There were not many books that appeared to be salable and profitable, and some were hard to get, and copies were obtained with much hardship – but almost every important book was found and printed (De Vinne 511). The attention of the literary world was taken by storm, not by the possibilities of future usefulness in printing, but by the growing inexpensiveness of books (De Vinne 511). The early printers offered their books at lower than the market prices of manuscripts, but in a few years they were compelled to cut prices lower (De Vinne 511).

The market was quickly glutted, and the prices fell sharply and irretrievably (De Vinne 511). At the close of the 15th century the price of many books had been reduced by 80% (De Vinne 511). Many early printers failed to make their business profitable. The failure was caused by the printers’ selection of bulky theological writings which cost a great amount of money, and were salable to a small class (De Vinne 512). It was mistakenly thought that printing would receive its great support from clergymen (De Vinne 512).

The first printers printed almost exclusively in Latin, and the books could be read only by the learned, and purchased only by the wealthy (De Vinne 512). It was soon realized that printing could not be supported by the clergy (De Vinne 511). Nearly all books were printed in Latin (De Vinne 512). In Italy the revival of classical literature opened a new door for the publisher, but the demand for Latin authors was limited (De Vinne 513). In this country and in others, eagerness for books in the native language was made clear; for books that plain people could read; books that represented the life and thoughts of the living and not of the dead [no offense, Jerry Garcia] (De Vinne 513).

The world was getting prepared for new teachers and for a new literature – for Luther and Bacon, for Galileo and Shakespeare (De Vinne 513). Modern Technology As inaccurate as early printed books may have been, they were more correct than those of the copyists. The mistakes of a faulty first edition were soon made known and the faulty editions were made perfect (De Vinne 541). One of the benefits of printing is that it has prevented the accidental or intentional debasement of texts (De Vinne 541). The inferiority of the tools of the early printing office is glaring when comparing them with those of our time. The improvements that have been made are ones that have been mostly made in this century (De Vinne 541). There has been no change in the theory, and there have been but few changes in the elementary processes of printing (De Vinne 541).

Printing is done quicker, cheaper, with more neatness and accuracy, with more consideration for the convenience of the reader, with new features of artistic merit, and in varieties and quantities so great that there is no comparison between early and modern productions – but the fact remains that this is the same kind of work it was in the beginning (De Vinne 541). It has not been made obsolete by lithography, or other inventions of our era (De Vinne 541). The method still keeps its place in history at the head of the graphic arts (De Vinne 541). From buying concert tickets to paying a couple of hundred dollars each semester for books, printing impacts our lives greatly. It is hard to name an activity in which we do not use some item that is printed.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Butler, Pierce. The Origin of Printing in Europe. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press. De Vinne, Theo. L.

The Invention of Printing. New York: Francis Hart & Co., 1876. Republished by Gale Research Company Book Tower, Detroit, 1969.