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October 22, 2010

This Research Project will be based upon factual information from Encyclopaedia Britannica On-Line, The Oxford Companion to British History and various other sources that will be listed in order of use.  All efforts have been made to produce a testimony to printing in a light-hearted fashion and therefore the inclusion of video transcripts, Google pictures and photographs depicting the progression of the printing press will hopefully add interest.

The scientific revolution that would later challenge the entrenched truths supported by the Church was also largely a consequence of print technology.  As readily available books helped expand the collective body of knowledge, indexes and cross-referencing emerged as ways of managing volumes of information and of making creative associations between seemingly unrelated ideas.

Innovations in the accessibility of knowledge and the structure of human thought that attended the rise of print in Europe also influenced art, literature, philosophy and politics.  The explosive innovation that characterized the Renaissance was amplified, if not in part generated by, the printing press.  The rigidly fixed class structure which determined one's status from birth based on family property ownership began to yield to the rise of an intellectual middle class.  The possibility of changing one's status infused the less privileged with ambition and a hunger for education.
The Columbian Press

The Impact of the Printing Press in Europe:

Before the invention of printing, the number of manuscript books in Europe could be counted in thousands.  By 1500, after only 50 years of printing, there were more than 9,000,000 books.  These figures indicate the impact of the press, the rapidity with which it spread, the need for an artificial script, and the vulnerability of written culture up to that time.

Printing has been called the great German contribution to civilization.  After its invention (about 1440–50) by a goldsmith of Mainz, Johannes Gutenberg, printing quickly spread to the other great trading centres, Basel (1466), Nürnberg (1470), and Augsburg (1472).  By 1500 there were presses in some 60 German towns, including Lübeck (1475), the head of the Hanseatic League. From there, printing spread to Denmark, Sweden, Rostock, Danzig, and Russia.

The Gutenberg Press
It may be said that book printing, after its birth in medieval Germany, was carried to maturity in humanistic Italy.  The printing press reached Italy very early (1462–63) and by 1500, Venice had no fewer than 150 presses; and two Venetian printers exercised a decisive influence on the form of the book: Nicolas Jenson, an outstanding typographer who perfected the roman typeface in 1470, and Aldus Manutius, the greatest printer-publisher of his time.

In 1476 William Caxton established a press at Westminster, the first printing press in England.  He printed more than 100 books in his lifetime, books which were known for their craftsmanship and careful editing.  He was also the translator of many of the books he published, using his knowledge of French, Latin and Dutch.

William Caxton
In 1638 in America, Harvard received the first printing press that the colonies had seen.  The very first printing press in the nation was used at the Cambridge Press, founded in 1639.

At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, the mechanics of the hand-operated Gutenberg-style press were still essentially unchanged, although new materials in its construction, amongst other innovations, had gradually improved its printing efficiency.  By 1800, Lord Stanhope had built a press completely from cast iron which reduced the force required by 90%, while doubling the size of the printed area.


Paper first penetrated Europe as a commodity from the 12th century onward through Italian ports that had active commercial relations with the Arab world and also, doubtless, by the overland route from Spain to France. Papermaking techniques apparently were rediscovered by Europeans through an examination of the material from which the imported commodity was made; possibly the secret was brought back in the mid 13th century by returning crusaders or merchants in the Eastern trade. Papermaking centres grew up in Italy after 1275 and by the 14th century a number of paper mills existed in Europe, particularly in Spain, Italy, France, and Germany. The invention of printing in the 1450s brought a vastly increased demand for paper. Through to the 18th century the papermaking process remained essentially unchanged, with linen and cotton rags furnishing the basic raw materials.

In 1800 a book was published that launched development of practical methods for manufacturing paper from wood pulp and other vegetable pulps. Several major pulping processes were gradually developed that relieved the paper industry of dependency upon cotton and linen rags and made modern large-scale production possible. These developments followed two distinct pathways. In one, fibres and fibre fragments were separated from the wood structure by mechanical means; and in the other, the wood was exposed to chemical solutions that dissolved and removed lignin and other wood components, leaving cellulose fibre behind. Made by mechanical methods, ground-wood pulp contains all the components of wood and thus is not suitable for papers in which high whiteness and permanence are required. Chemical wood pulps such as soda and sulphite pulp are used when high brightness, strength, and permanence are required. Ground-wood pulp was first made in Germany in 1840, but the process did not come into extensive use until about 1870. Soda pulp was first manufactured from wood in 1852 in England, and in 1867 a patent was issued in the United States for the sulphite pulping process.

Prior to the invention of the paper machine, paper was made one sheet at a time by dipping a frame or mould with a screened bottom into a vat of stock. Lifting the mould allowed the water to drain, leaving the sheet on the screen. The sheet was then pressed and dried. The size of a single sheet was limited to the size of frame and mould that a man could lift from a vat of stock.

In 1798 Nicolas-Louis Robert in France constructed a moving screen belt that would receive a continuous flow of stock and deliver an unbroken sheet of wet paper to a pair of squeeze rolls.

Although the paper machine symbolizes the mechanization of the paper industry, every step of production, from the felling of trees to the shipment of the finished product, has also seen a dramatic increase in mechanization, thus reducing hand labour. As papermaking operations require the repeated movement of large amounts of material, the design and mechanization of materials-handling equipment has been and continues to be an important aspect of industry development. Although modern inventions and engineering have transformed an ancient craft into a highly technical industry, the basic operations in papermaking remain the same to this day.