Chapter : 4. Print Culture and The Modern World

The Reading Media

The Reading Media
(i) Increase in Literacy rate : By the end of the eighteenth century, in some parts of Europe literacy rate was as high as 60 to 80 percent. As literacy and schools spread in European countries, there was a virtual reading mania.
(ii) New forms of literature : New forms of popular literature was printed which targeted new audiences. Booksellers employed sales persons who went around villages, carrying little books for sale. There were almanacs or ritual calendars, along with ballads and folktales. All forms of reading matter, largely for entertainment, began to reach ordinary readers as well. In England, penny chapbooks were sold by petty peddlers known as chapmen, for a penny, so that even the poor people could buy them easily. In France, 'Biliotheque Bleue' were printed which were low priced small books printed on poor quality paper and bound in cheap blue covers. Then there were the romances, printed on four to six pages and the more substantial 'histories' which were stories about the past. Books were of various sizes, serving various purposes and interests.
(iii) Periodicals : The periodical press developed from the early eighteenth century, combining information about current affairs with entertainment, about wars and trade, as well as news of developments in other places.
Ideas of scientists and philosophers (Issac Newton, Thomas Pain, Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau etc.) now became more accessible to the common people. Ancient and medieval scientific texts were compiled and published, and maps and scientific diagrams were widely printed. Thus their ideas about science, reason and rationality found their way into popular literature.
(a) Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world!"
(b) Print Culture and the French Revolution :

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