The printing press is a substantial piece of technology that continues as part of conversations today, almost 570 years after its invention. While the original style of press was succeeded by faster, more efficient equipment, all printed works (e.g., textbooks, manuals, religious texts, etc.) involve large printers derived, over many technological generations, from the original press in order for information to reach the masses. The printing press has affected education through providing the layperson access to material; therefore, information became a common, rather than rare, commodity. This paper studies five articles relating to the history of the printing press, its impact on education, and other innovations, by addressing commonalities in the literature along with acknowledging unique ideas on the topic.
It is widely accepted in the literature that Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in approximately 1450 in Mainz, Germany. Until this time, the only way to share information and knowledge, in non-verbal and non-pictorial form, was for, typically religious, men to copy documents by hand. These documents took considerable time to produce, severely limiting material available to disseminate to the masses. Dittmar (2009, p. 7) and Rubin (2014, p. 274) agree that the introduction of the printing press encouraged growth, initially within its city of creation and subsequently in cities across Europe, then to the western world, as individuals were trained in the trade and established printing shops. However, Eisenstein (1970, p. 729) argues that the history of the printing press is intertwined with that of other innovations, the repercussion being that there is limited data specifically about the press’ effect on growth. These authors each acknowledge that the success and impact of the printing press is evident today; nevertheless, they disagree on how the data became known regarding that impact. While, as Eisenstein points out, there is little independent history documented on the printing press, history does credit the invention with progress in many fields. The printing press played a role in areas such as the spread of literacy (Dittmar, 2009, p, 8; Mellen, 2015. p. 24; Rubin, 2014, p. 270), urban expansion (Dittmar, 2009, p, 39; Rubin, 2014, p. 274), and record keeping (Dittmar, 2009, p, 39; Eisenstein, 1970, p. 734). As literacy developed, it contributed to an environment in which formal education for the common-person could flourish (Dittmar, 2009, p. 11). Each of these fields have their own history, but they all contribute to education in some way, while connecting to the printing press. Without advances in areas such as these, education would not have progressed the same way. The pure history of the printing press would be an invaluable contribution to the history of technology and education; however, given that absence, the available data still shows the impact of the invention. In order for education to thrive, information must be made available to the public, not limited to a select few.
Information becomes education when it is shared. Until the printing press’ invention, monks transcribed writings that were predominantly controlled by the Church. Scriptoriums are locations where monks would work to create transcripts of, primarily, religious texts (“Scriptorium”, 2019, para. 1) that were only to be seen by those holding high-standing positions within the Church. Since the scribes were religious men, the documents remained in the control of the Church as owners of the information as well as the finished products (Mellen, 2015, p. 26; Rubin, 2014, p. 272). Due to the nature and effort required to create these documents, they were precious and virtually irreplaceable, making them sacred; therefore, the public was not generally able to have access. Dittmar (2009, p. 22) and Rubin (2014, p. 272) indicate that the Church was, in fact, an early adopter of the printing press, utilizing it to get information out to the pubic regarding issues of the time (i.e., the anti-Turkish crusade), while acknowledging the reduction in control over publications due to the lack of standards in the discipline. The first examination of these concepts may look contradictory; however, they work together to form a strong position for the Church. Mellen (2015, p. 26) and Rubin (2014, p. 272) maintain that by accepting the new technology, which was immeasurably different from the norm, the Church saw the benefit of using the printing press to share documents with their target audiences. It saw that the benefits of doing so exceeded the detriments. While the history books predominantly agree with Mellen and Rubin, Eisenstein (1970, p. 731) points out that history relies on the printed word to share the stories of the past; thereby, not permitting the scribal stories the same emphasis. This puts into question how full an overview is accessible on the history of information dispersal, its influence on events, and innovations since the majority of the available documentation is printed, not written.
As information moved from being held by those in power to the hands of the layperson, knowledge began to spread across society. Dittmar (2009, p. 6) and Mellen (2015, p. 25) argue that with information being available for the masses, education, and knowledge creation, was a natural outcome. The Protestant Reformation (Rubin, 2014, p. 274) was one of the results of having material easily accessed by the common people. Rubin’s point connects to what Dittmar and Mellen say regarding education since, without the printing press, the Protestant beliefs would not have been published on easily held documents (e.g., brochures and posters), written in a style and language that was easily read by those who had limited literacy and shared verbally with those who were illiterate (Rubin, 2014, p. 274). Theses authors all acknowledge the printing press’ involvement in the Reformation; however, Rubin also posits that cities that accepted the printed press and the Reformation may have been pre-disposed to the idea of advancements and change (Rubin, 2014, p. 270). This idea introduces an interesting suggestion into the history. If advancement and accepting new technology already intrigued the culture of a city, it would have been easier for the new technology to gain a foothold from which it could grow, leading to having more information available, which in turn may have helped the Reformation. Smith (2017, p. 57) similarly postulates that the printing press contributes to learning and technological advances throughout history by connecting the invention from 1450 to artificial intelligence in 2017. While this idea creates a contrast to the others sources discussed in this paper, it does work in conjunction by bringing forward the advancements in technology to current times. Without the invention of the printing press, books would not have been widely introduced to the general population; therefore, education would not have been available to the masses, potentially depriving society of future innovations (i.e., artificial intelligence), making Smith’s work relate to that of Dittmar, Eisenstein, Mellen, and Rubin.
The five articles reviewed in the paper offer a variety of insights to the history of the printing press and its impact on society as a whole. While there is limited data on the connection between the printing press and education, it is clear that the impact is present. The printing press introduced the printed word, readily allowing material to move to shared ownership. Having the ability to share information allowed the development of many industries, growth in others, and a continued and more rapid societal progress. Had this technical contribution not come to fruition, education would not be what it is today. The authors discussed in this paper emphasized the role of the printing press in history, either directly or indirectly indicating its contribution to various fields, including education.
Dittmar, J. (2009, September). Ideas, Technology, and Economic Change: The Impact of the Printing Press. American University, Department of Economics. Retrieved from http://economics. yale. edu/sites/default/files/files/Workshops-Seminars/EconomicHistory/dittmar-090928. pdf (дата обращения: 13.08. 2017).
Eisenstein, E. (1970). The advent of printing in current historical literature: Notes and comments on an elusive transformation. The American Historical Review, 75(3), 727-743.
Mellen, R. (2015). The press, paper shortages, and revolution in early america. Media History, 21(1), 23-41. doi:10.1080/13688804.2014.983058
Rubin, J. (2014). Printing and protestants: An empirical test of the role of printing in the reformation. The Review of Economics and Statistics, 96(2), 270-286.
Scriptorium. (2019). In Merriam-Webster dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scriptorium
Smith, R. (2017). The 21st-century printing press. Research Technology Management, 60(1), 57-59. doi:10.1080/08956308.2017.1255061