Printing Press I believe that everyone has heard the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” This statement I cannot argue, but the point I want to make is that the printing press is the mightiest of them all. The origin of printing itself was only the first stage in the development of books as we know them. To understand the modern book, one should know of its history and realize the gradual process it came from since the pre-written manuscript. THERE WERE FOUR DISTINCT PHASES IN THIS METAMORPHOSIS (Butler xi). 1.
In the beginning, this was just a means for performing a writer’s work more quickly, neatly, and cheaply than was possible by hand labor (Butler xi). 2. Only gradually did the early printers and their clients understand to accept the technical limitations of typography and to exploit its peculiarities (Butler xii). 3. The discovery of true publication (Butler xiii).
4. The printed book entered into the fourth phase of its metamorphosis – it became a major factor in history (Butler xiii). The origin of the mechanical process was the first step in books as we know them today (Butler xi). The earliest scribe, like the public, had learned to read in pen-written volumes and was unaware of anything else (Butler xi). The printer’s problem was to invent a method for producing mass quantities of a standardized product (Butler xi). The printer was not free to produce a new product which might serve the same purpose as the old one (Butler xi). His goal was simply to copy the manuscript but to do this mechanically (Butler xii).
The printer’s task was far more difficult than we imagine (Butler xii). Many parts of the manuscript, which were time-saving and labor-saving tools for the scribe, were only additional hindrances for the printer (Butler xii). As printers and their customers learned to accept the technical limitations, the book they produced took on new forms and developed new cultural potentials (Butler xii). Calligraphic ornaments were replaced by those of typographic style, and all sorts of new facilities were provided for the reader – title pages, illustrations, maps, tables, indexes, etc. (Butler xii).
The discovery of true publication was different than the manuscript economy. Under the manuscript economy, a writer responded to current demands. He copied books to order, or, if he built up a stock in anticipation of sales, it was of the volumes most frequently asked for – school and university textbooks and standard works in theology, law, or medicine, constantly used by professional students and practitioners (Butler xiii). The printer, however, soon went beyond this and realized the potential of publication (Butler xiii). To expand his business, he undertook to create new demands (Butler xiii).
The printer searched through old libraries for whatever books he thought the people might buy, if they were made available (Butler xiii). He also provided new works brought to him by living authors, and, finally, he came to order on his own, undertaking journalistic accounts of recent happenings (Butler xiii). In response to his initiative, the world learned to read books and not merely to study them (Butler xiii). The publishers made people read for its own sake (Butler xiii). This became the habit of educated men – a practice forgotten since the collapse of Roman civilization (Butler xiii).
Books became a major factor in History. Publishers made known that the book could not only inform and entertain the masses but also affect their thoughts and actions (Butler xiv). It was used to spread new beliefs, to sway men’s opinions, to win their support, and to arouse their passions (Butler xiv). During the first century of printing, the press became a potent weapon of public appeal and propaganda (Butler xiv). Modern man makes constant use of printed materials (Butler 1).
People accept their presence in their lives as a matter of course -almost like the air we breathe and the ground we walk on (Butler 1). Unless our attention is drawn to it, we never notice the extent of our obligations to the printer (Butler 1). Yet, there is hardly a thing that we do or a source of delight that we enjoy that does not involve somehow, directly or indirectly, the use of typography (Butler 1). Our familiarity with the work of the printer has thus rendered us almost unconscious of their presence, very few of us have much curiosity about the processes which are used to make them (Butler 4). Indifference here is unfortunate: without an understanding of the mechanics of printing we cannot understand its history, and, lacking an historical understanding, we cannot understand the most distinctive characteristics of our own civilization (Butler 4).
We know that until the fifteenth century all European books were pen-written and that ever since that time most of them have been printed (Butler 9). In that same fifteenth century, Western culture laid off its medieval characteristics and became distinguished from others (Butler 9). But we do not make the connection between the technological and cultural changes except that they happened in the same period (Butler 9). There is, of course, a direct correlation between the two things. To understand what the development of printing has meant, and still means, to our civilization, one must realize what life was like under the manuscript technology and how at each matching point life is different in a period of typography (Butler 10).
It is obvious that copying was a slow and laborious process. Even at best, manuscripts have been comparatively rare and expensive (Butler 12). No civilized society can be sustained without a small amount of records (Butler 12). It is evident that copying with the pen was a painstaking process (Butler 13). If the scribe let his attention falter, or become worn out, he was bound to make textual errors (Butler 13).
In general, manuscripts were always in error and unreliable (Butler 13). Each mistake that once escaped discovery would be copied in every following copy (Butler 13). Scholarship could possess no hard and lasting basis of recorded factual certainties (Butler 13). Not every writer could also be a skilled draftsman (Butler 13). Usually, he could not reproduce, even passably, the maps, diagrams, and illustrations which might occur in the work he was copying (Butler 13).
As a result, there was a strong tendency for the manuscript book to rely on letter text only (Butler 13). The manuscript technique was as destructive to beauty as it was to the scholarly (Butler 15). The beauty, no less than the textual integrity, of any book was totally determined on the skill and taste of the person who copi …