Printing and its influence on the intellectual life

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 8 November 2016

Printing and its influence on the intellectual life

The history of printing dated back as early as 868 AD when the Chinese used it to produce the earliest dated printed book known as the “Diamond Sutra. ” However, it is believed that book printing may have occurred even before that. Around 1041, the movable clay type printing system was first invented by Bi Sheng in China. Later on, the metal movable type was invented in Korea in 1230. At around 1450, a goldsmith named Johannes Gutenberg assembled a printing system from which the modern printing system was developed. At present, all movable type printing systems have been derived from the Gutenberg design.

Thereafter, the invention of the printing system hastened the production of many books. As more books were produced, the production of manuscripts also declined. During that time, manuscript was the official form of publication for all printed communications on the scientific and literary sphere. Political and religious communications are slowly catching up to the printing trend. Concurrently, publishing entities soon emerged. Printing and publishing materialized as a profitable livelihood. It even became an essential tool for the dissemination of information.

Clandestine manuscript production containing unconventional ideas were easily produced and circulated due to the ease of its production. Evidently, printing and publishing had a profound impact on intellectual life. Impact of Printing on Intellectual Life Prior to the advent of printing, everything had to be done by hand. Think of it as diaries or journals, religious and medieval manuscripts are prepared by monks by copying the text. Biblical manuscripts and other books were handwritten and copied from a portion of the text source. These handwritten copies of books consist of attempts to reconstruct the original text.

During that era, manuscripts were used as the means of storing and disseminating information, and the manuscript culture was basically dominated by monks until its transition to the market in the cities, along with the rise of universities. When Gutenberg introduced his printing system, it marked an improvement, at first, on the production of manuscripts, then on the production of books. His system revolutionized Europe’s book-making process that the technology expanded throughout the continent. Books were produced faster than before. Faster production of books means one thing: an increase of literacy.

With this widespread increase in literacy rate, intellectual quests took off. The people have become thirsty for more knowledge, and printing became an essential tool to advance the academic pursuits. Gutenberg’s printing system, regarded as the most important invention of the second millennium, has been a key factor in the European Renaissance. With his printing system, the cultural movement easily spread throughout Europe. It allowed the people easy access to books. In addition, the invention of the printing system helped in the assimilation of Greek and Arabic knowledge.

Classical and ancient ideas, which were lost through time have been revived and disseminated. The rebirth of these ideas fuelled the quest for rediscovery of ancient knowledge that had been long forgotten. While these old ideas were revived, novel thought were also spawned and disseminated. Combined with the technology of printing, intellectual pursuits were easily advanced. The printing technology also facilitated the social and political upheavals at that time through the dissemination of clandestine printed articles containing unorthodox views that challenged mainstream thought.

Thus, printing afforded wide latitude of political freedom. It made the political atmosphere conducive for the advancement of revolutionary ideas. Printing and publishing also contributed to the transformation of scientific thought. Fundamentals in physics, astronomy and biology were easily propagated with the use of printed materials. Ancient science has been easily superseded with the dissemination of these new ideas. Thus, the scientific revolution ensued. The scientific revolution paved the way for modern science as we know today.

Galilei, Copernicus, Kepler, Newton and the others questioned the foundation of the old science. Their ideas contradicted the prevailing ideas at that time. Theoretical developments, thus, emerged. The printing system facilitated the propagation of Copernicus’ work on the heliocentric model of the solar system. In the 16th century, Copernicus contended that the sun is the center of the solar system. This was received with opposition from the church. The church firmly adhered to geocentrism, which placed the earth as the center of the universe.

With the help of the printing system, information regarding Heliocentrism was easily dispersed. With printing and publishing, these brilliant minds were able to easily communicate their knowledge through scholarly journals. It resulted to a greater awareness of things, which were previously hidden from the general public. Dissemination of information gave an understanding of the information dispersed. With printing, the process was rapidly spread across Europe. Printed articles of classical thought were reprinted and widely spread.

A curiosity on all things were intellectual was aroused. People have begun to engage in intellectual discussions; hence, books have become a commodity. Book production evolved into a commercial enterprise. Accordingly, copyright laws were passed to protect these artistic and literary creations. This legal notion was conceptualized as a reaction to the advent of printing. Charles II of England was apprehensive about the unregulated production and copying of books. Moreover, printing helped established the standards of spelling and syntax.

The English language also emerged as the language commonly used in most published works; thus, the use of Latin declined. On the religious end, printing also facilitated the Protestant Reformation. The movement was started an attempt to reform the Catholic Church. At that time, the Church’s hierarchy was plagued with corruption. Many Catholics observed that false doctrines and malpractices were carried out. This corruption was seen as even reaching the position of the Pope. With the printing press, the reform movement advanced the culture of Biblical literacy.

By the translating the Bible and making it available to the masses, the message was dispersed and made it more accessible for the public. Moreover, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, also raised his protests against the Catholic Church. He discussed his discontent of the Church’s sale of indulgences. Because of the printing system, the swift dissemination of discontent was facilitated. Information relating to Luther’s theological teachings was dispersed in the form of broadsheets, to the poor sector of society. These broadsheets evolved into newspapers.

Presently, newspapers are the most accessible tools for public information and written journalism. Information relating to political events, business and the society, among others, are disseminated. The wide circulation of newspapers as a means of communication was largely due to the advances of printing. Printing presses accelerated the process of making newspapers. With printing, intellectual innovations have progressed into something that we have today. The printing system has been a valuable tool in the dissemination of knowledge and information.

Human advancements in the field of science, artistic and literary domain have been realized. The rapid dispersal of information is attributable to the fast production of books and other scholarly articles. These would not have been realized were it not for printing. The invention of printing assisted in the proliferation of new thought. Ideas, both old and new, were unearthed. Ancient knowledge was rediscovered. Dissemination thereof was necessary in order to inform the general public thereof. The innovation of printing and publishing helped pushed these ideas to the open, making it accessible for the public to see.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 8 November 2016

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