Lesson 2.01 - The Printing Press

While the Renaissance is most noted for its beautiful works of art, this period also intro­duced a more homely invention that soon reshaped the world—the printing press. Monks produced most books, painstakingly copying them by hand. The manuscripts they created were often very handsome, with painted decorations and illustrations, they were also very expensive, and so were used mainly by churches and by wealthy patrons among the nobility. With the rise of universities in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, there was a growing demand for textbooks, Stationers in university towns kept a stock of these, which they copied themselves or lent to students for copying. A library of a hundred books was considered large, and the volumes were chained to shelves because of their value,

Most of the components of printing were known in Europe by the fifteenth century. Paper had been introduced from the East around 1200. Presses were used in making wine and olive oil. Block printing —utilizing a piece of wood with words and pictures carved out of it——was employed for making playing cards and religious posters.

The key invention in printing was movable type: individual letters that could be reassem­bled and used over and over again. This, too came from the East, but was little used there because Chinese characters are too numerous to make it practical. Movable type was in­vented independently in Europe, probably by Johannes Gutenberg some time in the early fifteenth century. Gutenberg lived most of his life in Mainz, Germany. Although exact records are not available, most historians would agree he was probably born around 1400 and died by 1468. He produced a Bible in 1448 and a missal be­tween 1448 and 1452. His greatest achieve­ment was the so-called forty-two-line Bible, or Gutenberg Bible, printed between 1450 and 1455.

Printing spread rapidly to the rest of Europe Italy, France and the Netherlands were noted for their fine printers, who were responsible for a number of innovations, Among them were italic letters type like this). William Caxton, the first English printer, pro­duced an edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in 1478. This book often poked fun at the Catholic Church and contributed to people’s concern that changes needed to be made within the church.

By 1500 there were 40,000 recorded editions of books, printed in fourteen different European countries. Although edi­tions were small in those days averaging fewer than a thousand copies, the total is impressive nonetheless. Most early printed books were copies of older works that had been popular in manuscript form. It was not until the Reformation, the era of religious change and reform, that printing became a powerful communications medium for the spread of new ideas.

Assignment 2.01 - The Printing Press
Read the information above. Copy and paste the questions into a new Word document.

Use each link to respond to the questions that follow.


1. What was the basic idea of Gutenberg's invention?

2. How was printing done before Gutenberg's invention?


3. During what time period did Gutenberg develop his invention?

4. What were the original uses of Gutenberg’s invention?

5. Explain the lasting effects of Gutenberg’s invention in the time period following the Industrial Revolution.


6. Summarize the process of making the Gutenberg Bible.

7. How many copies of the Gutenberg Bible were produced?

Where could you go to view a copy of the Gutenberg Bible today? 9. Which invention developed during the past 50 years compares to Gutenberg’s invention of the 15th century? Write a detailed explanation of your choice including the nature, process, immediate impact, and long term impact of the invention

Once you have completed your responses, save your Word document under the heading Assignment_2.01. Go to the Assignments area and submit your work.

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