• In this chapter we will look at development of print, from its beginnings in East Asia to its expansion in Europe and in India. We will understand impact of spread of technology and consider how social lives and cultures changed with coming of print.
The First Printed Books
• The earliest kind of print technology was developed in China, Japan & Korea. This was a system of hand printing. From AD 594 onwards, books in China were printed by rubbing paper – invented there – against inked surface of woodblocks.
• China began holding civil service examinations for its bureaucrats and a large number of textbooks were printed. Scholar-officials were no longer only ones who could read. The print was used by merchants to collect trade information.
• Reading became a popular pastime and wealthy women began to publish their own poetry and plays. This new reading culture sparked development of new technology. Western printing processes and mechanical presses were imported in late 1800s.
Print in Japan
• Buddhist missionaries from China introduced hand-printing technique to Japan in AD 768-770. The Buddhist Diamond Sutra, produced in AD 868 and featuring six sheets of text and woodcut pictures, is earliest Japanese book.
• The printing of visual media resulted in several unusual publishing techniques. Illustrative collections of paintings presented a beautiful urban culture in late nineteenth-century, while libraries and bookstores were brimming with hand-printed material of many types – books on ladies, musical instruments and so on.
Print Comes to Europe
• After studying China, Marco Polo returned to Europe and carried with him knowledge of woodblock printing, which quickly spread throughout Europe. As demand for books grew, bookstores began to export books to various countries.
• Handwritten manuscripts, on other hand, were unable to meet ever-increasing demand for books. Woodblocks were commonly used in Europe to print textiles, playing cards and religious artwork with simple, brief words. In 1430s, Johann Gutenberg invented first printing press.
Gutenberg and Printing Press
• Gutenberg was a master in field of stone polishing and he used this knowledge to create his invention by adapting existing technology. The Bible was first printed book to use new system. The existing art of manufacturing books by hand was not fully supplanted by adoption of new technology.
• On printed page, books printed for wealthy left blank area for embellishment. Between 1450 and 1550, printing presses were established in almost every country in Europe. The print revolution began with transition from manual to mechanical printing.
The Print Revolution and Its Impact
• Print revolution was not only a new way of producing books, but it transformed lives of people, changing their relationship to information and knowledge and with institutions and authorities.
A New Reading Public
• The print revolution brought down price of books. Markets were saturated with publications aimed at an ever-increasing audience. It ushered in a new reading culture.
• Previously, only elites were allowed to read books, while ordinary people had to listen to sacred scriptures being read aloud. Books were prohibitively expensive prior to printing revolution.
• However, transfer was not straightforward because books could only be read by those who were literate. For individuals who could not read, printers began producing popular ballads and folk tales with illustrations. Oral culture made its way into print and printed literature was passed along orally.
Religious Debates and Fear of Print
• Print opened up a whole new realm of debate and discussion. Printed books are not universally embraced and many individuals are concerned about psychological repercussions of increased book circulation.
• There was apprehension about propagation of rebellious and irreligious ideas. Martin Luther, a Christian reformer, penned Ninety-Five Theses in 1517, criticising many of Roman Catholic Church’s practises and ceremonies. His printed textbook caused a schism within Church and ushered in Protestant Reformation.
Print and Dissent
• In sixteenth century, Menocchio began to read books available in his locality. He reinterpreted message of Bible and formulated a view of God and Creation that enraged Roman Catholic Church.
• Menocchio was hauled up twice and ultimately executed. From 1558, Roman Church began to maintain an Index of Prohibited Books.
The Reading Mania
• Throughout seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, literacy rates increased in most parts of Europe. As schools and reading increased throughout Europe, people desired more books to be printed. Other types of reading, primarily for entertainment, came to reach common people.
• Books came in a variety of sizes and served a variety of purposes and interests. Periodical presses emerged in early 18th century, combining current-event knowledge with pleasure. Journals and newspapers reported about battles, trade & events in other parts of world. Scientifically interested readers were impacted by Issac Newton’s discoveries.
‘Tremble, therefore, tyrants of world’
• By mid-eighteenth century, books were seen as a tool of promoting progress and enlightenment. ‘The printing press is most potent engine of development and public opinion is force that will sweep dictatorship away,’ declared Louise-Sebastien Mercier, an eighteenth-century French novelist.
• ‘Tremble, therefore, tyrants of globe’ Mercier exclaimed, certain of power of print in spreading enlightenment and shattering root of oppression. ‘Beware of virtual author’
Print Culture and French Revolution
• Print culture, according to historians, established conditions for French Revolution. Three different types of arguments were presented.
1. Print popularised ideas of enlightenment thinkers. Their writings provided a critical commentary on tradition, superstition and despotism. The writings of Voltaire and Rousseau were read widely; and people saw world through new eyes, eyes that were questioning, critical & rational.
2. Print created a new culture of dialogue and debate. Within this public culture, new ideas of social revolution came into being.
3. By 1780s, there was an outpouring of literature that mocked royalty and criticised their morality.
• Print helped in spreading ideas. They accepted some ideas and rejected others and interpreted things their way.
• Print did not directly shape their minds, but it did open up possibility of thinking differently.
The Nineteenth Century
• Large numbers of new readers among children, women & workers were added to mass literacy in Europe during 19th century.
Children, Women & Workers
• Primary schooling became compulsory in late nineteenth century. In 1857, a children’s press dedicated to children’s literature was established in France. Grimm Brothers gathered traditional folk stories in Germany. Rural folk stories took on a new shape.
• Women gained prominence as readers and writers. Women’s magazine, as well as guides emphasising correct behaviour and housekeeping were issued just for them. Lending libraries in England became vehicles for educating white-collar employees, artisans & lower-middle-class individuals in nineteenth-century.
• By late eighteenth-century, printing technology had seen a succession of advancements and metal presses became commonplace.
• Richard M perfected power-driven cylindrical press during century, which was mostly used for printing newspapers. The offset printer was created and it was capable of printing six colours at once. Electrically operated presses accelerated printing processes by twentieth-century, followed by a number of further developments.
1. Methods of feeding paper improved.
2. The quality of plates became better.
3. Automatic paper reels and photoelectric controls of colour register were introduced.
India and World of Print
• Let us see when printing began in India and how ideas and informations were written before age of print.
Manuscripts Before Age of Print
• India has a long legacy of handwritten manuscripts in Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian & a variety of vernacular languages. On palm leaves or homemade paper, these handwritten documents were copied.
• The manuscript was still being produced after invention of print. It is regarded to be both pricey and delicate. Because pupils in Bengal were only taught to write, many became literate without ever reading any form of literature.
Print Comes to India
• The first printing press arrived in Goa with Portuguese missionaries in mid-sixteenth century. In 1579, Catholic priests in Cochin printed first Tamil book and in 1713, they printed first Malayalam book.
• Despite fact that English East India Company began importing presses in late seventeenthcentury, English press flourished slowly in India.
• James Augustus Hickey edited Bengal Gazette, a weekly publication. Hickey published advertisements, as well as a lot of gossip about Company’s senior personnel in India. A number of newspapers and journals were published by end of eighteenth century.
Religious Reform and Public Debates
• From early nineteenth-century forward, religious debates were increasingly heated. People began to criticise established methods and fight for reform, while others argued against reformers’ claims. Printed tracts and newspapers disseminated new ideas and changed debate’s tone.
• Over issues such as widow immolation, monotheism, Brahmanical priesthood and idolatry, fierce debates erupted between social and religious reformers and Hindu orthodoxy. Rammohun Roy published Sambad Kaumudi in 1821. Jam-i-Jahan Nama and Shamsul Akhbar, two Persian newspapers, were published in 1822.
• The Bombay Samachar, a Gujarati daily, was founded same year. Thousands upon thousands of fatwas were produced by Deoband Seminary, which was formed in 1867, instructing Muslim readers on how to conduct oneself in everyday life and explaining meanings of Islamic principles.
• Print encouraged reading of religious texts, among Hindus, especially in vernacular languages. Religious texts reached a very wide circle of people, encouraging discussions, debates & controversies within and among different religions. Newspapers conveyed news from one place to another, creating pan-Indian identities.
New Forms of Publication
• New kinds of writing were introduced as more and more people got interested in reading. In Europe, novel, a literary form, was developed to cater to needs of people who acquired Indian forms and styles.
• Lyrics, short stories and essays about social and political issues are examples of new literary forms that have entered world of reading. By end of nineteenth-century, a new visual culture had emerged.
• Cheap calendars were available in market and even impoverished might purchase them to decorate walls of their houses or workplaces. These prints influenced common perceptions of modernity and tradition, religion & politics, as well as society and culture.
• By 1870s, caricatures and cartoons had begun to appear in journals and newspapers, commenting on social and political topics.
Women and Print
• In middle-class houses, women’s reading increased dramatically. Women’s schools were established in cities. Women’s works began to appear in journals, along with explanations of why women should be educated. Conservative Hindus, on other hand, believed that a literate girl would be widowed and Muslims feared that reading Urdu romances would corrupt educated women.
• Women’s lives and emotions sparked a tremendous deal of attention as a result of social changes and books. Women’s journals, authored & published by women, became immensely popular in early twentieth century.
• In Bengal, an entire area in central Calcutta – Battala – was devoted to printing of popular books. By late nineteenth-century, a lot of these books were profusely illustrated with woodcuts and coloured lithographs. Pedlars took Battala publications to homes, enabling women to read them in their leisure time.
Print and Poor People
• At markets, low-cost books were purchased. The majority of public libraries were built in cities and towns. Caste discrimination began to appear in many literary tracts and essays in late nineteenth century.
• Factory employees lacked educational background to write extensively about their experiences.
• To demonstrate links between caste and class exploitation, Kashibaba authored and published’ Chhote Aur Bade Ka Sawal in 1938. Bangalore cotton mill workers established libraries to educate themselves in 1930s.
Print and Censorship
• Under East India Company, censorship was not an issue. In 1835, Governor-General Bentinck agreed to amend press rules after Calcutta Supreme Court imposed several regulations to control press freedom.
• Thomas Macaulay devised new rules that restored previous level of liberty. After 1857 insurrection, there was a shift in press freedom. The Vernacular Press Act, modelled after Irish Press Laws, was passed in 1878, giving government broad powers to censor reporting and editorials in vernacular press.
• The government began keeping track of local media. Nationalist newspapers proliferated across India. When Punjab revolutionaries were deported in 1907, Bal Gangadhar Tilak wrote about them in his Kesari with tremendous affection, which resulted to his imprisonment in 1908.
• Despite repressive measures, nationalist newspapers grew in numbers in all parts of India. They reported on colonial misrule and encouraged nationalist activities. Attempts to throttle nationalist criticism provoked militant protest.