The Printing Press: A Milestone for Human Culture

With the introduction of the printing press, the dissemination of both information and entertainment became more commonplace in modern-day society. Although this may seem normal in today’s society, with the dominance of the Internet and forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter, it was a revolutionary concept during its time. Before the advent of printing, all books, pamphlets, manuscripts, and other written materials were all done by hand. Not only was this an obviously painstakingly laborious and time-consuming process, it also proved to be an inefficient process when it came to creating multiple copies of the same text.  Understandably, it was physically impossible for people create more than a few copies of a text at a time by hand. Consequently, books and other texts were considered luxury items that were primarily viewed by those who could afford to buy them. However, this was no longer the case with the introduction of the printing press. Unlike previous forms of written communication, the printing press could create mass copies of books and other written materials that could then be distributed at a relatively cheap price. Furthermore, these texts were printed in the vernacular – spoken dialect – rather than in Latin or Greek. As a result, these texts became widely accessible to all types of people, regardless of their wealth or education. Reading, something that most people take for granted today, became an activity that everybody could partake in.

In addition to making written material more widely available, the printing press also opened up new avenues for visual creativity. Although the press can be seen as a mechanized process that results in the mass production of written materials, it also propelled a new interest in the art of typography and graphic design. Although earlier printers initially copied the same heavy black-faced type that was seen in hand-written texts, they quickly branched off into using other, more easily readable types. This led to the development of a large variety of typefaces, including ones that are still used today like the ever popular Times Roman, Bodoni, and other typefaces. Furthermore, printers were not limited to just typefaces – they could also reproduce detailed ornamentation and other illustrations that rivaled the hand-drawn illustrations of texts created before the advent of the printing press. This was vital for creating not only illustrated books, but also posters, advertisements, playbills, and many other printed media. In short, the printing press paved the way for providing easily accessible information and entertainment, without compromising the aesthetic quality of the printed medium. It marked an important milestone in the history of human culture.

Some interesting links to print studios in Baltimore:


Lead type, Maryland Institute College of Art. Photograph by Gloria You.


Globe Letterpress Posters, Maryland Institute College of Art, Photography by Gloria You.


Lead type, Maryland Institute College of Art, Photography by Gloria You.


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