Five Hundred Years of Printing

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

CHAPTER III
The nineteenth century
1800-1900

The turn of the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries marks a decisive stage in the history of printing. It was not a break but rather a sudden leap forward. It affected the technique of printing, the methods of publication and distribution, and the habit of reading. Compositors and printers, publishers and booksellers, borrowers and buyers of books adopted, or were forced into, new ways of production and consumption. Technical progress, rationalized organization and compulsory education interacted one on another. New inventions lowered the cost of production; mass literacy created further demands, the national and international organization of the trade widened the channels and eased the flow of books from the publishers' stock departments to the retailers' shelves.

The almost complete mechanization of the whole process from letter-founding to bookbinding neither threw out of work the craftsmen nor lowered the quality of their production; nor was the lowering of costs accompanied by diminishing wages or decreasing profits. On the contrary, every section of the trade was nearly all the time expanding in numbers and strengthening its economic security, while the book-buying public was reaping the advantages of greater efficiency, better quality and reduced prices.

The intellectual climate of the age favoured fundamental changes and the printing trade exerted itself to respond to the need. The educational achievements of rationalist thinkers had multiplied the number of literate persons; periodicals, almanacs and newspapers penetrated into classes hitherto altogether lacking contact with literature. The Industrial Revolution had created a new public of great wealth who, in the second generation, were eager to fill the gaps in their intellectual and literary education.The American and French Revolutions mightily stirred interest in controversial matters of politics, economics and society. Locke and Hume, the French Encyclopedists and Kant had taught the public to reason, to question and to discuss the problems and institutions which had hitherto been taken for granted.The rising tide of liberalism and democracy compelled the powers that be, or made it advisable for them, to justify their policies and actions; criticism needed rebutting. In short, public opinion was challenged, and as writers on both sides took up the challenge the printer had to satisfy a demand for publicity unheard-of until that time.

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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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