Johann Gutenberg developed the moveable type printing process somewhere around 1450, altering the way information was recorded and distributed for centuries to come. Though Gutenberg’s printing press was not the first way to copy text, at 3600 pages per day, it was by far the fastest. It could reproduce text at an incredibly high rate of speed compared to other methods of the time such as typographic block-printing or painstakingly slow hand copying. The creation of a faster printing process was facilitated by the need for books that came with a rise in learning and literacy that was sweeping across Europe during this time. The press was also used for printing many texts for figures of both religious and political power. Print wasn’t monopolized, however, by people of authority. It was also a key aspect in facilitating change amongst ordinary Europeans who could now distribute their ideas across a very vast landscape.
The advent of the printing press allowed books and information to be easily distrubted across Europe. The spread of both literature and literacy was without borders, meaning that the middle class could grow in areas where the past feudal structure had created long standing divisions between the elite and lower classes. Not only did literacy allow the middle class to combat the control of the elites, it also allowed people to venture into trades that would have never been accessable to the relatively uneducated lower class. The ability to share ideas on a broader spectrum, facilitated by the printing press, made social changes far more accessable than they had been before. Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation, for example, was fueled by the emergence of the printing press; his civilian translation of the bible, and its subsequent distribution, was an integral part of the religious revolution that took place in the 16th century. Like the Protestant Reformation, many revolutions could not have taken place if the printing press had not been created.
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