History (NTSE/Olympiad)  

4. Print Culture and The Modern World

Gutenberg and the Printing Press

Gutenberg and the Printing Press
The breakthrough in print technology occurred at Strasbourg, Germany, where Johann Gutenberg developed the first-known printing press in the 1430s. Gutenberg had learnt the art of polishing stones, became a master goldsmith, and also acquired the expertise to create lead moulds used for making trinkets. Drawing on this knowledge, Gutenberg adapted existing technology to design his innovation. The olive press provided the model for printing press and moulds were used for casting the metal types for the letters of the alphabet. By 1448, Gutenberg perfected the system. The first book he printed was the Bible.
The new technology didn't entirely displace the existing art of producing books by hands. Printed books at first closely resemble the written manuscripts in appearance and layout. The metal letters imitated the ornamental handwritten styles. Borders were illuminated by hand with foilage and other patterns and illustrations were painted.
Between 1450 and 1550, printing presses were set up in most countries of Europe. As the number of printing press grew, book production boomed. The second half of the fifteenth century saw 20 million copies of printed books flooding the markets in Europe. The number went up in the sixteenth century to about 200 million copies. This shift from hand printing to mechanical printing led to the print revolution.


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