Handwriting to Letterpress: The Communication Revolution

Try to imagine what today’s world would look like if every book, document, and paper had to be hand-written instead of printed. This is the exactly how the world existed prior to 1452, the year the printing press was invented by Gutenberg. Today, the original process of printing via the printing press seems time consuming and labor-intensive. However, the printing press completely revolutionized communication and information exchange, and the world today would be a completely different place were it never created.

 

Before the invention of the printing press, books and documents were made by hand. This meant that every page of every copy of every “printed” object had to be physically hand-written, ink on paper. This process was incredibly time consuming and, because of that, lead to the production of very few written documents. Not only was the hand-written process of printing time consuming, it was also very expensive and was hence a luxury that only the very wealthy could afford.

 

The printing press involved individual letters that were hand set into a plate, forming the body of the text. After a page was completed, the page could be printed an infinite number of times. While the initial hand-setting was slower than handwriting, the ability to copy the page over and over again led to the printing of far more documents than before. The printing press made the reproduction of texts and images extremely easy and sparked an explosion of written text.

 

The rapid expansion of printed documents meant that more people could get their hands on text and written work. This, then, lowered the price of those documents so less wealthy people were able to afford them as well. Literacy rates rose as people suddenly had the potential to own their own copies of text. Ideas could be shared more rapidly and with more people than ever before. The printing press was a remarkable invention that truly revolutionized communication and literacy rates.

 

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