Five Hundred Years of Printing

By S. H. Steinberg; John Trevitt | Go to book overview

Introduction

Discourse was deemed man's noblest attribute,
And written words the glory of his hand.
Then followed printing with enlarged command
For thought — dominion vast and absolute
For spreading truth and making love expand.

— Wordsworth

The history of printing is an integral part of the general history of civilization. The principal vehicle for the conveyance of ideas during the past five hundred years, printing touches on, and often penetrates, almost every sphere of human activity. Neither political, constitutional, ecclesiastical and economic events, nor sociological, philosophical and literary movements can be fully understood without taking into account the influence which the printing press has exerted on them. As a business proposition the printing trade has its share in the economic development of all other branches of industry and commerce. Being based on a technical process, it is closely linked with the growth of the applied sciences. The history of printing types is but a side-issue. That is to say, the change of typefaces must be traced back to new needs necessitated, or new possibilities opened, by technical improvements; to commercial considerations on the part of printers or publishers; or, lastly, to sociological changes, including those of taste and fashion, on the part of the reading public.

As 'adventure and art' Gutenberg described his epoch-making invention in 1439; and 'adventure and art' have ever since remained the characteristic features of the printed book, from its inception in the mind of the author to the finished product in the bookseller's shop and on the book-lover's shelves.

The history of printing from movable types can roughly be divided into the following periods: (I) 1450-1550, the creative century, which witnessed the invention and beginnings of practically every single feature that characterizes the modern printing piece; (2) 1550-1800, the era of consolidation which developed and refined the achievements of the preceding period in a predominantly conservative spirit; (3) the nineteenth century, the era of mechanization which began with the invention of lithography and ended with Morris's rediscovery of the Middle Ages; (4) 1900-1950, the heyday of the private presses and the inception of paperbacks; and (5) the post‐ war world, which has seen typesetting, printing and publishing turned upside down, and reading surviving the onslaught of television.

SHS

-i-

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Five Hundred Years of Printing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Five Hundred Years of Printing *
  • Contents v
  • Reviser''s Preface vii
  • Introduction i
  • Chapter I- The First Century of Printing 1450-1550 3
  • Chapter II- The Era of Consolidation 1550-1800 74
  • Chapter III- The Nineteenth Century 1800-1900 136
  • Chapter IV- 1900-1955 170
  • Chapter V- The Postwar World 218
  • Conclusion 250
  • Select Bibliography 251
  • Index 255
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