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Informational Age of the Internet

Updated on April 15, 2010

From the Printing Press to the Wireless Internet

(Johannes Gutenberg’s Influences From and Impacts on Society)

In an era where books were incredibly hard to make, preserving history was nearly impossible and there was no way to save the deterioration of education in society, Johannes Gutenberg, stepped up and invented something that started a revolution, changing society for hundreds of years to come.

Europe was in a time period of reform. The black plague had killed many of the monks who were the ones writing and copying the books, increasing there price even more (Meltzer). The growing of towns and trade caused a mining expansion and an advancement in metal working which was most evident in Germany. The expanding trade also supplied many materials, which had been unavailable to Europe before. Gutenberg was influenced by these events while growing up, since they were present in his community (Man).

Gutenberg was born roughly in the year 1400 in a small village in Germany, which at the time was presided by an archbishop. The Archbishops court strongly encouraged all branches of art. Gutenberg was the son of a merchant and his family was linked to a mint. He immediately took a pleasure in medals and grew up mastering many technical skills in it. After both of Gutenberg’s parents died he received a small inheritance and left his home town Mainz, and went to Strasbourg. He was inspired in Strasbourg to begin his invention, and was prepared to explore his thoughts and ideas and create something that would revolutionize the world (Man). However, like any invention or idea, Gutenberg’s printing press wasn’t just one man who simply thought up a concept entirely by himself, it was drastically influenced by the conditions he was in. It was a combination of several other inventions or innovations, like oil based ink and rag paper.
Johannes Gutenberg is conceived as the man who has allowed or triggered our society to go into an informational age, or media age, from “Gutenberg to Google” our internet has become our main resource for information today. This mans strive to make a change in societies education, is what has allowed us to have such a wide range of available information.

Gutenberg’s personal history as well as the conditions he was living in influenced him and allowed him to create the printing press which in turn triggered the reformation in Europe, the Renaissance and a scientific revolution.

The main aspects of Gutenberg’s life that influenced him and his invention are; the political, economical and intellectual conditions of Europe and his personal experiences and knowledge acquired while growing up (Man).

The largest influence on Gutenberg’s invention was the growth of towns and cities in Europe. This expansion triggered trade on a much larger scale, worldwide. Europe was beginning to trade with countries like china. This allowed Europe to obtain materials that hadn’t been available. It also supplied them with new writing materials that the Chinese had created such as, rag paper and block printing. Rag paper was a paper made from a thin dried out rag material; it was cheap but durable and long lasting. Block printing was a new style of printing, rather than completely hand writing you could organize Blocks which had the letters on them and then dip them in ink and push them on the paper thus printing the text from the organized blocks (Meltzer). These concepts both contributed to helping Gutenberg create a more efficient method of printing. However, growth of cities and trade also exposed Europe too many issues one being the Black Plague.

The Black Plague was a horrific event, killing nearly one third of Europe’s population it drastically altered Europe’s society which ironically was spread through the trade routes and roads. Looking beyond, all the deaths and other issues the plague presented, there were subsequent results which had a more positive effect that influenced Gutenberg’s ability to invent the printing press. Firstly the family members who survived the plague inherited all the land and property of those who died. This made even the peasants wealthy. Given that during the time period the textile industry was the most advanced industry in Europe, people spent a lot of money on clothing. Obviously, clothing wears out and turns into rags, and all the rags or old clothing become turned into rag paper (Adams). This provides Europe with a huge amount of paper for cheaper price and more availability. Sadly, many monks were killed by the plague and they were the ones who would write the books or who were able to write the books. So rather then the price of books going down do to the cheaper paper, the drastically spiked up because there weren’t many people able to write the books causing it to take much more time. People argued that it wasn’t fare for the prices to be going up while the cost of paper was going down and searched for something that would make printing easier (Adams). Following the Black Death the Italian Renaissance was born, presenting secular ideas and an emphasis on painting. Many of the painters were seeking for a more durable paint and ended up making an oil based paint, which later was used as oil based ink. This ink was able to adhere to metal type which allowed Gutenberg to use metal for his invention.

The last thing that the expansion of cities and trade brought to society and influenced Gutenberg was the mining boom. Mining started to expand vastly through Europe. This caused the technical skills in metals to start being used/needed, especially in Gutenberg’s country, Germany.

Gutenberg’s experiences growing up allowed him the ability to create the printing press. His family was linked to a mint so he learned to weld and build using metal. This would become very useful when constructing his metal printing press. Later in his life he worked creating mirrors and selling them, through this he was able to meet several wealthy people of which he later was able to get loans from in order to supply him with the money needed for the materials (Childress). He also became a professional goldsmith when he moved to Strasbourg and joined the goldsmith guild. This allowed him to master his metal working abilities even more. Through these events he gained him knowledge needed in order to build the printing press (Man).

Gutenberg was able to create the printing press because of his personal history and the conditions of society, by applying developments and tools from several different aspects of his society such as the oil based ink, block printing and rag paper, Gutenberg is able to construct the first movable type printing press. Without the resources and knowledge that were made available to him from his personal history he wouldn’t have been able to create the printing press (Childress).

The printing press’s effects were phenomenal. The printing press revived literature and spread discoveries and ideas. This then led to a religious reformation in Europe and scientific revolution, an ideal Renaissance.

The printing press had both an immediate impact and a prolonged impact that we are able to see today. The immediate effect that changed European civilization was the spread of information quickly and accurately. The printing press allowed all classes of society to read books and learn, thus making education available to more then just the rich. Allowing literature to practically all of society was great however, the type of information that began to spread holds just as much importance (Scholderer). The expanding literature spread scientific information leading to revolution, opinions on religions leading to reformation and new concepts and ideas leading to a Renaissance.

Scientists that were studying, researching and experimenting similar things were able to accurately print there results and pass them along to other scientists in Europe. Not only did the printing press allow this to be spread more quickly, but it also allowed a more accurate print depicting the exact results. With this, scientists were able to further advance there knowledge and work off each others progress, thus gaining more understanding of science. This wide spread of knowledge only grew more throughout time and eventually led to a scientific revolution in Europe. This vitally changed how Europeans viewed the world and universe.

The printing press also took the control of what was being written and the bowdlerization of each printed document completely out of the hands of the Church. Thousands of books were being circulated and many contained opinions that contradicted the principles of the Catholic Church and presented a cynical view of the church. Previous rebellions against the church such as Jan Hus had been killed and there documents destroyed (Meltzer). However, the printing press was dispersing so many books of this nature that the church slowly lost its ability to prevent it. The printing press deteriorated the power of the church; we are able to say this by looking at events such as the Protestant Reformation and the disintegration of Europe’s religious unity during this. It’s reasonable to draw the conclusion that the Protestant Reformation occurred after the printing press was created (Scholderer). Especially considering that Martin Luther developed his 95 thesis and printed them using the printing press, which is on of the acts that triggered the reformation. The printing press contributed to the Protestant Reformation and changed the role of the Catholic Church drastically.

Opening up individual’s ideas and beliefs to society changed not only political economical and religious aspects of Europe but also Intellectual and Social aspects. Many people were influenced by others opinion and this triggered a rebirth with in society, a new begging, a Renaissance. The renaissance in the 16th century was a result of the printing press and the wide spread of new intellectual information, which inspired the minds of society to excel in the arts and change European culture forever (Meltzer).

The printing press was one of the single most important inventions to our society. Today we are able to see the advance from the printing press to the internet. However, the general idea of both inventions is the wide spread of knowledge and information on a worldwide scale (Scholderer). The printing press has made dramatic effects to society by molding public opinions as well as spreading information that has allowed our society to advance in many ways one being technologically. It is easy to see how much of an asset printing has become in our society, especially when looking at the safely guarded freedom of press, allowing people to share there beliefs and opinions freely with the world (Man).

Johannes Gutenberg’s personal history shaped his ideas and actions throughout his life. Gutenberg’s family connections with the mint allowed him to understand and/or know the technical skills needed in metals, giving him the ability to create nearly anything he thought up and test its usefulness and efficiency. Living in a high trade village in Germany as well as the time period he was living in also would have influenced his thoughts, all books were handwritten, taking months to complete just one, the ability to preserve history was deteriorating because they were unable to keep up with the times and education was something affordable only to the rich causing literature to go into great decline. Growing up in these issues surrounding society, compelled Gutenberg to have a drive to make a change, however it is quite amazing that his childhood led him to invent the printing press, which has drastically changed society. We are able see the immediate impact the printing press had on Gutenberg’s community, it multiplied the output and drastically decreased the costs of books making information available to a much larger amount of the population who were interested in information of any variety. Printing also expedited the distribution and preservation of knowledge in consistent structure, which was most important in the advance of science, technology and scholarship. By making the same texts and information available to all society it made this advancement faster and more reliable. (Meltzer) We can also see today how education is flourishing from the availability of books to nearly all of our society, the wide spread of ideas and knowledge and the preservation of historical information. The printing press initiated an informational age or a media age on par with today’s Internet. The production of newspapers, magazines and books has just enlarged the amount of distribution of information in our country. The newest lead off the printing press and spreading information is the Internet. The Internet has allowed our society to go into this age of information, allowing not only a spread of information within our country but internationally. It has truly expanded thoughts and issues worldwide to countries all over the globe. The Internet is becoming the new printing press and rather then having an overloading amount of books and paper, you get a digital or virtual version of nearly any book or paper you would like. Gutenberg’s initial invention of the printing press has allowed us to explore concepts and excel in our abilities to spread ideas around the globe, the Internet has caused our community to revolve around this informational age, and clearly the Internet has been based off the widespread of information introduced by Gutenberg’s printing press. It is quite obvious that Gutenberg’s personal history, from where he grew up to his family relations, triggered or inspired him to make a change leading to his phenomenal invention of the printing press. This expresses that a person can’t just make history and/or history cant just make a person but that history is like a chain reaction, all actions are made from influences and all actions have there own effect. History is something that builds off the past and lays something out for the future; Gutenberg’s life exemplifies the concept of history.

Bibliography: Johannes Gutenberg

1. McMurtrie, Douglas C. The Gutenberg Documents. New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1941.

2. O. W. FUHRMANN Gutenberg and the Strasbourg Documents of 1439, New York, 1940.

3.Adams, James L. (1991). Flying Buttresses, Entropy and O-Rings: the World of an Engineer. HarvardUniversity Press.

4. Meltzer, Milton. (2004). The Printing press. Tarrytown, Ny: Benchmark Books.

5. Man, John. (2002). Gutenberg: how one man remade the world with words. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

6. Childress, Diana. (2008). Johannes Gutenberg and the printing press. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty First Century Books.

7. Victor Scholderer. (1963). Johann Gutenberg: The Inventor of Printing. London: The Trustees of the BritishMuseum.

8. Mishra, Patit Paban. "Gutenberg, Johannes." In Ackermann, Marsha E., Michael Schroeder, Janice J. Terry, Jiu-Hwa Lo Upshur, and Mark F. Whitters, eds. Encyclopedia of World History: The Expanding World, 600 CE to 1450, vol. 2. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2008. Modern World History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
ItemID=WE49&iPin=WHII114&SingleRecord=True accessed February 8, 2010.

This source contains a detailed explanation about how Gutenberg changed the role of literacy in society. It explains how difficult the current moveable type was to use, which the Chinese created. Gutenberg is shown to have ushered an era of enlightenment. It also supplies information about the Churches response to the new expansion of literacy. From the information you are able to understand the impact this single invention had on civilization as a hole. With the printing press many artifacts and information from history could be preserved. There was of issues between the church and the printers, however through time they were resolved and opportunities for education expanded as the amount of books and information spread. With this information I am able to making it possible to decide whither Gutenberg made history or if history made him through my other sources.

9. English, Edward D. "Gutenberg, Johannes." Encyclopedia of the Medieval World, vol. 1. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2005. Ancient and Medieval History Online. Facts On File, Inc.
ItemID=WE49&iPin=EMW0635&SingleRecord=True accessed February 8, 2010.

I choose this source because it gives an overview and detailed description of Gutenberg’s life, and what was going on during his time period. With both of these views I am able to understand what in society would have influenced him to create the printing press. I am able to see what was going on in society on economic, philosophical and religious levels. The site presents lots of very useless information that can help me decide withers Gutenberg was more so influenced by history of if Gutenberg had a larger impact on history. This source is structured in a way that makes you understand Gutenberg’s life and what occurrences and or events would have triggered his idea of the moveable printing press. It shows how society may have structured his decision to create it and how he may have only created due to events in his past. This gives me the ability to thoroughly understand wither he made history or history made him. This source is reliable because it also came from the schools research databases’, meaning it has been approved as legitimate information.


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    • Smireles profile image

      Sandra Mireles 7 years ago from Texas

      Nice informational hub.

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      somebody 4 years ago

      i dont like raisins

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