Printed Words: Watch Them Grow

By: Lillian Lawrence


Oscar Wilde, a novelist famous for his paradoxes, used to say that big words mean little. Well, we beg to disagree. But let’s be honest: words really mean a lot. That’s quite explainable: spreading the information is exactly what today’s society is oriented on. Is there any better way to inform and influence people than a word, printed or said? Let’s take a closer look at the roots of the printing and get an acquaintance with the most significant stages of its development.

The history of printed word is dated back to the outset of times. According to the historical recordings, the first printed texts date back to the IV century. Printing has undergone serious changes though: techniques and materials became more advanced, but the importance of its coming to light is a thing that no one would dare gainsay.
Depending on geographical specifics of the region, people used paper, wooden or stone blocks, fabrics, etc. to “print”. The specific features of printing in different regions was determined by various factors, including geographical conditions, climate, political, social and cultural characteristics. Thus, Chinese people used ink and silk or some other type of cloth to print their patterns; Indians used clay tablets; Europeans preferred paper or wooden blocks. Of course, not each book was worth printing. In the majority of cases the most-printed books had religious content and kept in the temples. It was necessary to multiply these books, so printing was a good way to save time and efforts. Anyways, printing still wasn’t very popular and people re-wrote texts by themselves. As you know, the technical progress wasn’t very quick back those days. There were the so-called copyists who were in charge for copying the books, and this profession was considered to be very difficult and important. Manual copying of the book could take a copyist up to several months (if not years), depending on the volume and the difficulty. Oftentimes, these copyists made serious mistakes not only in terms of grammar, but also in terms of authenticity. Thus, the importance of the invention of more sophisticated tools can scarcely be overestimated.

Right after the wheel, the invention of printing press can be called the most important thing created by the human being. Mechanical movable type printing was invented by Johannes Guttenberg, a famous German craftsman, in IV century. Born in small German town of Mainz, he had never even dreamt that one day he’d invent a machine that will give a start to the most important processes in history, such as Renaissance, reformations, Enlightenment, the development of scientific thought, and other phenomena. He was a simple blacksmith, goldsmith, and just a talented man with the idea of revolutionizing the world and making it easier to share and spread the books. So he did.
The point is, printing, as well as any other automated manipulation, cost a fortune. Guttenberg’s machine was cheap and easy to use and appeared to be ergonomically justified. It used oil-based ink that was also easily accessible and pretty cheap. Publishers highly appreciated this invention and decided on mass production. That’s how Printing Revolution began.
There was no longer need to write and re-write the texts manually, and that’s what we call a boom. Let’s dare to suggest that this invention split the whole course of history in half. Printing houses have mushroomed here and there, and showcasing the word in front of interested eyeballs turned into a much easier process. Schools, Universities, libraries, archives and other social institutions started growing and blossoming. Not to be overly modest, Guttenberg’s printing had changed the course of history.

A long time had passed since that morning when Mr. Guttenberg woke up with his brilliant idea though. Development is an ongoing process, and the methods of typing and publishing have undergone significant changes. Printing houses were substituted by better equipped typographies; chromolithography has metamorphosed into color printing; the simplest printers have evolved into more advanced ones, etc. More and more sophisticated techniques are introduced to the public literally every now and then, and each one is really outstanding. And this is doubtlessly not the end!

So, Mr. Wilde, you have to admit that words do mean big. Anyone whose professional activity is connected with media and information will agree with the fact that words matter as nothing else do. If you are one of them, you would definitely appreciate this article and the information we’ve shared with you. Hopefully, you enjoyed the article and had quality time reading it.

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