Intro: How the Printing Press Changed The World, was my first college essay and it tells the tale about how Johan Gutenberg’s printing press influenced media and the globe at the time and the future. I think beginning the portfolio with this essay is important as it will help show the progression of my growth as a writer.
How The Printing Press Changed The World
In today’s world we often take for granite the things of print that we read and the ability to read such things. If not for the creation of the moveable printing press by the Chinese printer Bi Sheng, and the improvement and popularization of printing by German printer Johannes Gutenberg, we wouldn’t have either of these things. The Printing Press gave the world books, newspapers, and gave the common rabble the ability to read such things, thus making it one of the must life altering inventions in all of human history.
To look at the impact that the printing press has had on the world we must first look at the literacy rates before and after Johannes Gutenberg’s improvements to the printing press in 1440. In the year’s preceding Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, only about 30% of European adults were literate and before that literacy was almost at a standstill across the globe. In just over 200 years after Gutenberg’s improvements to the printing press the literacy rate climbed to about 47%, and in another 200 years the literacy rate reached 62% (Peck). Since the Europeans had such a broad spanning impact to the rest of the world in these times, literacy rates not only soared in Europe but all across the world. In the present day the average literacy rate of men and women across the world is around 84%, and is expected to rise gradually as education sweeps the globe (Adult and Youth Literacy).
The printing press not only effected literacy across the world, but also education and how information was spread. For a moment try to imagine a modern classroom with almost no books, and paper with funny looking symbols on them. What you just imagined was a world without the printing press. Only the teacher would be able to read and write, there would be no books to read anyway, and you couldn’t use the computer because you couldn’t read it. So now you see how much the printing press effected education, without it, education would hardly exist as we know it today. The printing press also had a profound effect on how quickly and how accurately information spread throughout the world. Before the printing press the only way to know what was going on in the world was by word of mouth (The Invention). It took weeks or even months to find out even the most common information in today’s standards, like Wendy got married or John’s brother was arrested. Just think of how life would be if it took 2 weeks for you to find out if the Redskins won their last game, or if a new law was passed. Without the printing press modern day novels, newspapers, or even the internet would not exist, limiting how we are educated and how information is spread.
The change from illiteracy and literacy, and how information is gathered and passed on, with the creation of the printing press is such a significant part of our history for several reasons. First, once the printing press was popularized, the common people could now get access to books, giving them the ability to read for the first time. Before the printing press only scribes and scholars could read and write, influencing the majority of the population in more ways than they could ever have realized (The Invention). Second, now that everyone can read, everyone now has the ability to learn and to better themselves through knowledge. Before the printing press only the privileged few had the capacity and capability to go to school (Peck). Third, everyone can receive information and news much more quickly then they could before the printing press. Before the printing press it would take weeks for the common people to receive news and information because it would take a scribe that long to write and post it in the town hall (Peck). The before and after effects of the printing press are worlds apart and has thusly created a global society of literate, and capable knowledge seekers.
In conclusion, we as people of this earth have never fully appreciated the printed things and the skill of reading them in our world, as I’m sure our forefathers would have. For if not for the creation and popularization of the movable type printing press we would not be able to have mass printed books and have no knowledge to read them. The printing press has done much more then print a few books, it has given us a new way of life in which we can communicate and learn in a way that before, only a privileged few could have done. We thank thy printing press, for all that you have done for mankind, and though we may not realize it, we have witnessed and created one of the most influential devices in all of mankind’s illustrious history.
Peck, Josh. “The State of Publishing: Literacy Rates.” McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. McSweeney, 5 July 2011. Web. 28 Aug. 2014.
“Adult And Youth Literacy.” Http://www.uis.unesco.org/. 1 Sept. 2012. Web. 28 Aug. 2014.
“The Flow of History.” FC74: The Invention of the Printing Press and Its Effects –. 1 Jan. 2007. Web. 28 Aug. 2014.