Books - The Printing Press

Updated on September 7, 2017
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

It was in 1450 that the world of printing changed forever. In fact, politics, religion, and education turned upside down. Civilization was shaken up and turned on its ear. The entire Western world was changed forever.

Johannes Gutenberg, a German, took ideas the Chinese had been using for several hundred years and developed a machine that could mass produce books, pamphlets, and notices at an unheard of rate. Instead of taking weeks or months or even years that it traditionally took to reprint works, material could be made in hours or minutes. It came at a perfect time as unrest was spreading throughout Europe. His invention would revolutionize the world and send it hurtling forward into the future.

Religious Explosion

Typically, only Church leaders, those of the only branch of Christianity - the Catholic Church - had access to the printed works of the Church. Those who attended services never saw the written word of their Lord. They listened to sermons and quoted what was said to them. The Word of the Lord was never within their grasp, only within earshot. Complete trust was given to the ones presenting the message as the masses could not see the words for themselves. That meant the power was in the hands of the church leaders.

Martin Luther’s German translation of the Christian Bible was printed using the press invented by Gutenberg. This made the Bible available for the first time in history to all mankind and even in their own native tongue. The Words of God were available to anyone who was literate. The power shifted from the Church to the written Word.

This played a major role in helping the Protestant Reformation grow. More people began to question traditional practices of the Catholic Church and sought more practices that could be traced to the traditional Biblical works.

Literacy Explosion

The printing press would be the exploding turn in the history of books that would change the world forever. For the first time, a book could be printed in hours and days instead of decades. A book could be printed more than once in a few days instead of one copy in a lifetime. That meant several things.

1. More books were available than ever before. In the past, books could take years to make. That meant few books were reprinted for public use. In fact, very few of the public could access these books as they were priceless and usually belongs to the Church or the wealthy.

2. The public had reason to learn to read. Typically, the average person could not read or could only read the basics that helped them survive in the world they lived in. People did not have to know how to read labels, signs, or much else unless it was something that helped them in their profession or in their travels. They didn't have to read as they were uneducated and even their religious works were read to them by the Church. Now they had reason to learn to read. More people began to become literate. While it wasn't a massive explosion, it was a significant increase that only grew as the years passed by.

3. Books became more public. They were no longer held behind protective doors and touched only by the elite. They could be touched by everyone which expanded their influence. Mindless control could not be had by the supreme powers of the time.

Political Change

Political propaganda could be quickly spread throughout a land in such a way that politics became more open and public. The printing press allowed parties to get the word out quicker and to more people about their stances on topics. Most of the time, they used the printing press to share all sorts of horrid info on their opponents whether it was true or not.

Previously, politics was conducted with speeches and spreading the word verbally. The printing press allowed it to gain momentum by allowing printed matter to be passed from hand to hand.

Overall Impact

Religious works were mass produced including sermons and commentary. The common people had access to them like never before. Books of poetry became more numerous. They were not repeated verbally in the courts. They were there for all to read.

The printing press shaped the world we live in today. Without it, history would be so different. How far would religious thought have spread? How much influence would governments have had over the people? How fast would minds be inspired to create the light bulb, automobile, or new surgical techniques?

Through the wonder of the printing press, ideas, romance, imagination, religion, and even freedom was discovered. The mass printing of Uncle Tom's Cabin was able to influence many people during the American Civil War in regard to slavery. Aristotle’s works went beyond dusty libraries and were available for the common man to obtain. The written word has drastically influenced history.

Books have come from clay tablets that were available only to the government or the rich to easy to carry paperbacks that fit in a pocket that everyone can have. Ideas flow from country to country. Discoveries are revealed and expounded on through the various books that can be found in coffee shops, libraries, and even our book shelves.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • jo miller profile image

      Jo Miller 

      2 years ago from Tennessee

      Very interesting article. I'm sure the people of that day did not realize what an impact this invention would have on our history. I sometimes think the internet is today's printing press and may someday be looked back upon as a very significant factor in the history of the world.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)