The First Printed Books

  • The print culture developed in the East Asia and then expanded in Europe and India.
  • China, Japan and Korea had the premier print technology which was the hand printing system.
  • The wood block printing was developed in China. In this technology, the books were printed by rubbing the paper against the surface of the woodblocks.
  • The traditional ‘accordion book’ of China was folded and stitiched at the side because both the sides of the thin, porous sheets could not be printed.
  • Calligraphy is the art of beautiful and stylish writing done by the skilled craftsmen.
  • The volume of the print increased in China due to the increase in the number of candidates in the civil services exam through which the people of China were recruited in the huge bureaucratic system.
  • 17th century urbanization in China also diversified the use of print in China. The scholar officials, merchants, rich women, wives and courtesans started the use of print.
  • The western printing techniques and mechanical presses reached the outpost of China and thus Shanghai became the hub of this new print culture.

Print in Japan

  • The hand printing technology was introduced to Japan by the Buddhist missionaries of China around AD 768-770.
  • In 868 AD, the Buddhist Diamond Sutra was printed which is considered the oldest Japanese book. It contains 6 sheets of text and woodcut illustrations.
  • Books in Japan were published regularly and were cheap and abundant.
  • Textiles, playing cards and paper money were used for printing pictures.
  • Tokyo was earlier known as Edo.

Print Comes to Europe

  • Earlier the Silk Route was used by China to export silk and spices to Europe and in the 17th century through the same route Chinese paper reached Europe.
  • Marco Polo returned to Italy from China in the year 1295 and brought the technolgy of woodblock printing.
  • Vellum was a parchment made from the skin of animals and was very expensive. It was used for luxury handwritten editions.
  • To meet the expanded demand for books the export of books increased, book fairs were held, organised the production of handwritten manuscripts and woodblock printing became more popular.
  • The higher demand and the quicker and cheaper book produciton was fulfilled when Johann Gutenberg developed the first known printing press in 1430s at Strasbourg, Germany.

Gutenberg and The Printing Press

  • Bible was the first book printed by Gutenberg. It took 3 years to print 180 copies whcih was the fastest production of that time.
  • Initially the printed books resembled the written manuscripts in appearance and layout as the metal letters imitated the ornamental handwritten styles and the borders were illuminated by hand.
  • There was blank space for decoration in the books printed for the rich and the design was chosen by the buyer.

The Print Revolution and its impact

  • Print revolution was a development in terms of producing the books in a newer and faster way which transformed the lives of the people, their relationshis with information and knowledge and oepened ways for newer perception in the world.

A New Reading Public

  • The introduction of printing press brought the following changes – a new culture of reading emerged, cost of the books came down, reduced the time and labour engaged in publishing, produced multiple copies and the market got flooded with books.
  • Earlier the society was divided into the oral culture and reading culture.
  • The common people had the oral culture while only the rich people had the reading culture.
  • The common people heard the texts collectively which were read out or recited or narrated to them.
  • The reading culture was only limited to the elites and they only read the books individually and silently.
  • The reasons behind this culture may be the books were expensive, produced less in numbers and also the literacy rate was very low in most of the European countries.
  • To solve problems of illiteracy as a barrier in the wider reach of the printed books, the popular ballads and folk tales beautifully illustrated wtih pictures were published which were sung and recited in the village gatherings and the taverns in towns.
  • Hence the line separating the oral culture and the reading culture started becoming blurred.

Religious Debates and the Fear of Print

  • The print culture helped in the circulation of ideas , debates and discussions. It was used by the rebellions to let the people know the truth and take action against the established authorities.
  • The printed books were welcomed and also people had fear due to the rebellious and irreligious thoughts.
  • Martin Luther was a religious reformer. He wrote 95 theses in the year 1517 against the practices and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • This action of Martin Luther led to the division within the church and marked the beginning of the Protestants reformers.
  • Luther said that the ‘printing is the ultimate gift of god and the greatest one’ because 5000 copies of his translated New Testametn were sold within few weeks and also the 2nd edition came in the market in three months only.

Print Dissent

  • Menocchio was a miller in Italy who interpreted the message of Bible. The Roman Chatholic Church was enraged due to his view of god and creation.
  • The Roman Catholic Church started identifying such ideas, beliefs and persons who wrote against the church and thus Menocchio was hauled up twice and finally executed.
  • Several restrictions were put over the publishers and the booksellers by the church and also the church ordered them to follow the Index of prohibited books from 1558.

The Reading Mania

  • In the 17th and 18th centuries number of schools were opened by the churches to spread literacy in the villages and to the peasants and artisans which caused a virtual reading mania.
  • To meet the demand of the reading mania, printers produced books in large numbers and also tried to target the new audiences through newer forms of popular literatures.
  • Peddlars were employed by the booksellers to roam around the villages and sell the books.
  • The chapmen were the petty Pedlars in England who sold the chapbooks (pocket size books) for a penny. It was sold at low price so that even the poor could afford to buy.
  • The Biliotheque Bleue, were low price small books in France. It was printed on inferior quality paper and bound with cheap blue color.
  • The periodicals, newspapers and journals were published. Current affairs, entertainment, news of wars, trade, scientific and philosopher’s ideas, reasoning and rationality became popular literature.

‘Tremble, Therefore, Tyrants of The World!’

  • The books became the means of spreading progress and enlightenment.
  • It was believed that books will remove the despotism and tyranny and a liberal society will be formed where the intellectual people would rule.
  • Hence, Louise-Sebastian Mercier, an 18th century novelist in France declared ‘Tremble, threfore, tyrants of the world!’.

Print Culture and the French Revolution

  • Three different arguments were put forward in connection with the print culture and the French revolution.
  • The print culture spread the ideas of the great thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau. They criticized tradition, custom, superstition, despotism and the authority of church. They wanted rule of reason, questioning and rationality.
  • Debate and dialogue started due to the coming of the print culture which resulted in the re-evaluation of the values, norms and the institutions. This had brought the idea of social revolution.
  • The morality of the royal powers were criticized and the social order was questioned. The cartoons and the caricatures revealed the sensual pleasures of the monarchs and the harship of the common people. Hence, the people stood against the monarchy.
  • It is not true to say that the print culture was the direct cause of the French revolution. The print culture spread the ideas but people were reading different kinds of literature in which people like Voltaire and Rousseau were also exposed. The people interpreted the things in their own way as they accepted some ideas and rejected others.

The Nineteenth Century

  • During this period the literacy increased which increased the number of readers among the children, women and workers.
  • Primary education was made compulsory and hence the children became the important section of readers. The publishing industries started producing the school textbooks.
  • In the year 1857, a children’s press was set up in France for publishing the literature for children only which published the new works along with the old fairy and folk tales.
  • The traditional folk tales were collected from the peasants and the unsuitable and vulgar things were edited to make it suitable for children and the elites.
  • This collection was done by the Grimm brothers of Germany who published this in the year 1812.
  • Women became the important readers as well as writers. For women readers especially there was penny magazines. These magzines were basically the manuals of proper behaviour and housekeeping.
  • Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters and George Eliot were some famous women novelists.
  • These women novelists defined a new type of woman with will, strength of personality, determination and power to think.
  • After reducing the working hours, the workers got some time for themselves which they used for writing autobiography and political tracts, and books on self-improvement and self-expression.

Further Innovations

  • 19th and 20th century marked a series of innovations in the printing technology such as the power driven cylindrical press, the offset press and the electrically operated presses.
  • The power driven cylindrical press by Richard M.Hoe printed 8,000 sheets per hour which was basically useful for printing the newspapers.
  • The offset press was able to print upto 6 colours at a time.
  • Electrically operated presses increased the printing speed.
  • Other important innovations were made in the field of methods of feeding the paper, quality of plates, photoelectric controls of the colour register and the paper reels were made automatic.

India and the World of Print

Manuscripts Before the age of Print

  • In India, there is rich and old tradition of handwritten manuscripts in different languages which were copied on palm leaves or on handwritten papers.
  • These manuscripts were highly expensive, fragile and needed careful handling.
  • These were preserved by pressing between the wooden covers or sewn together.
  • Reading the manuscripts was not easy as were written in different styles which limits its use.

Print Comes to India

  • The Portuguese missionaries first brought the printing press to Goa in India in the mid-16th century/
  • The Jesuit priests learnt Konkani and Kanara languages in India.
  • The first Tamil book was printed in the year 1579 at Cochin by the catholic priests.
  • Tamil texts were also printed (32 texts) and translated by the Dutch missionaries by the year 1710.
  • The first Malaylam book was printed by the catholic priests in the year 1713.
  • The Bengal Gazette, a weekly magazine was edited by James Augustus Hickey from 1780. He began English printing in India and also published advertisements about trade and sale of slave.
  • Hickey was prosecuted by the then governor general Warren Hastings because he wrote gossips about senior officials of the Company in India in the Gazette.
  • The first Indian newspaper published was the weekly Bengal Gazette by Gangadhar Bhattacharya.

Religious Reform and Public Debates

  • During the 19th century , people debated, interpreted and criticized the different religious beliefs like widow immolation, monotheism, Brahmanical priesthood and idolatory. Some people campaigned for the reform whereas others countered the arguments of the reformers.
  • The printed materials and the newspapers spread the new ideas and also shaped the nature of debate which gave opportunity to the people to participate in the public debates.
  • Sambad Kaumudi was published by Rammohun Roy. Samachar Chandrika was commissioned by the Hindu Orthodoxy to criticize the views of Rammohan Roy.
  • The other newspapers publised were Jam-i-Jahan Nama, Shamsul Akhbar (Persian) and the Bombay Samachar (Gujrati).
  • The ulemas in the north India also publised their views as they feared and anxious about the collapse of Muslim dynasty, religious conversions and change in the Muslim personal laws.
  • In the year 1867, the Deoband Seminary was founded and published thousands of fatwas. These fatwas explained the meanings of Islamic doctrines and telling the Muslim how to conduct themselves in their daily lives.
  • The Naval Kishore Press (Lucknow) and the Shri Venkateshwar Press (Bombay) were the famous ones to publish the Hindu religious texts.
  • Print helped in stimulating and connecting different communities and different areas.

New Forms of Publication

  • Lyrics, short stories, essays on social and political matters, visual images, calendars, caricatures and cartoons became the new forms of publications.
  • Raja Ravi Varma was the famous painter in the 19th century India.
  • These new forms of publications popularized the ideas of modernity and tradition, religion and politics, and society and culture.

Women and Print

  • Women’s reading increased among the middle class because their lives and feeling began to be written and also the liberal husbands and fathers focused on their education.
  • The conservative Hindu families believed that a literate girls would be widowed and the conservative Muslim families thought that by reading Urdu romances their women would be corrupted.
  • Amar Jiban was the autobiography of Rashsundari Debi published in the year 1876.
  • Kailashbhashini Debi from Bengal, wrote about the experiences of the women such as how they are imprisoned at home, ignorance, forced wrok, unjust treatment at home and society etc.
  • Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai from Maharashtra wrote about the miserable lives of the widows.
  • The Hindi Press discussed the issues like women’s education, widow remarriage and national movement along with the household and fashion lessons.
  • Istri Dharm Vichar was published by Ram Chaddha of Punjab to teach women how to become an obedient wife.
  • The Khalsa Tract Society also wrote about the good qualities of women. It was basically in the form of dialogues.
  • The Battala in the central Calcutta was known for the printing of the populr books including the religious as well as obscene and scandalous literatures.
  • The Pedlars also contributed in spreading these books to homes and enabled the women to read them in their free time.

Print and the Poor People

  • For easy and affordable access of the printed books to even the poor people, very cheap small books were published and also the public libraries were set up.
  • The book Gulamgiri was written by Jyotiba Phule in the year 1871, which explained the injustices of the caste system in India.
  • B.R.Ambedkar and E.V.Ramaswamy Naiker also wrote about the caste based indiscrimination in India.
  • Chhote Aur Bade Ka Sawal was written by Kashibaba, a mill worker, in the year 1938 which explained the caste and the class exploitation in the Indian society.
  • Libraries were set up by the Bangalore cotton mill workers to educate themselves but these were sponsored by some social reformers.

Print and Censorship

  • Some Englishmen in India criticized the Company rule and hated their actions. This worried the Company because such criticism might be carried to England which could affect their trade monopoly in India. It was the first incident when the Company took measured to control the printed matter.
  • To control the freedom of the press, certain regulations were passed by the Calcutta Supreme Court in the 1820s, whcih was again restored by the governor general Bentinck after the urgent petitions filed by the editors of the English and vernacular newspapers.
  • The native press were clamped down after the 1857 revolt and measures of stringent control were taken as they were becoming more and more nationalist.
  • The Vernacular Press Act was passed in the year 1878. It was based on the model of the Irish Press laws. The government got extensive rights to censor the reports and the editorials and kept and eye on the vernacular newspapers.
  • For any report against the government a warning was given and seized and confiscated if ignored the warning.
  • In the year 1907, Bal Gangadhar Tilak showed sympathy for the Punjab revolutionaries who were deported in his newspaper Kesari. For this he was imprisoned in 1908, against which widespread protest took place all over the country.