Global Literacy: The Evolution Of The Printing Press Essay

Writing has existed since before the year 0. Its evolution to what it has become today was made possible by the invention of the printing press, which made books easier and cheaper to produce, stimulating the spread of knowledge and writing. This first mechanical machine that helped expand access to learning and information has led to the establishment of the modern-day Internet. Although the Internet has improved upon the beneficial qualities of the primitive printing press remarkably, the printing press was much more revolutionary than the Internet.

It caused literacy rates to increase drastically and made many world-changing revolutions possible as well. On the other hand, the Internet provides access to everything the printing press offers, but its use is less universal than the printing press and has not changed history as much as the printing press has. The printing press caused global literacy rates to increase dramatically. Before the perfection of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in 1440, books were copied by hand- taking extreme amounts of time as well as effort.

This made books highly expensive and only affordable by the clergy. As a result, education was scarce and only a small percentage of people in the world were literate (“Renaissance- Printing and Thinking”). When Gutenberg’s printing press came into use however, books could be printed more quickly and efficiently, and they therefore became much cheaper. Common people could then afford books, which led to a higher literacy rate (“The State of Publishing: Literacy Rates”). Not only were books made more available, but the language they were written in also allowed more people to read them.

Before the printing press, most books were written and copied in Latin, but as books began to be printed, middle classes demanded works in the language of the nation, as well as in their own languages. This made books readable by anyone who was, or became, literate (Shilling, pars. 3-4). The drastic increase in literacy rates had dramatic impacts as well, especially in Europe, home to some of the most advanced civilizations in the early modern period of world history. Before, book copying was controlled by the Church, which could control or monitor what was being written and published.

Because the printing press allowed information to spread quickly and accurately, more people became involved and aware of news around them and paid more attention to the political society rather than focusing on getting through their own daily lives. This is exactly what happened when Martin Luther wrote his 95 Theses, which was an outlined list of the Church’s corruptions and which challenged the legitimacy of their teachings. With the help of the printing press, Luther’s ideas were quickly brought to light.

Although not many people could read at the time, the printing press played a significant role in the sparking of the Protestant Reformation as it allowed thousands of copies of Luther’s pamphlets and sermons of complaints about the Church to circulate among the people, out of the Church’s control (“Martin Luther”). Later, Luther translated the Bible from Latin to German, which allowed more people to read it and interpret it for themselves, rather than blindly following what the Church taught them about God and the afterlife.

This caused dozens of new faiths to rise, and each of these faiths of “protest” offered a new choice against the Church (“Europe Reopens Its Eyes”). Without the help of the printing press, Luther’s original copy of the 95 Theses most likely would have been taken down from the door of the Church and his ideas be put out quickly without many people ever finding out about them. Furthermore, the invention of the printing press also played a role in launching the Scientific Revolution.

Through the easy and efficient book production that the printing press allowed, scientists studying the same topics in different parts of Europe could print their results and share it with others. These people could then take these accurate pieces (rather than miscopied) of information and advance their knowledge even further. As more and more scientists were able to benefit from each other’s findings rather than struggling to discover everything on their own, the Scientific Revolution was able to take existence. This would dramatically alter how people viewed the world and universe (“The Flow of History”).

In either case, the printing press played a huge role in starting revolutions that in turn led to other events that changed history forever. One could argue that the Internet is more revolutionary than the printing press because it can do everything that the printing press offers. In fact, it could probably do it even better. The same information can be found in seconds through just a few clicks of the finger, with more sources and viewpoints in different articles online. Although this is true, the Internet has only made lives easier and more convenient.

On the whole however, the world’s story has not been altered conspicuously. In fact, most of the world still does not have access to the Internet. According to a report by the United Nations, 60% of the world’s population still did not have Internet access at the end of 2014. All things considered, the printing press has existed for a very long time and has set up the foundation for most of the knowledge we have today. The Internet, on the other hand, has existed for almost less than half of a century and has not caused history-changing revolutions as the printing press has.

Generally speaking, the Internet, although extremely useful in everyday life, has not impacted the world as much as the printing press, which gave rise to many of the ideas and beliefs we have today, such as the branching of religions and new scientific discoveries and impacts. Several examples are evident in the history of the Protestant Revolution and the Scientific Revolution, which were affected by quick book production and higher literacy rates. Overall, the printing press is more revolutionary than the Internet because it has changed history and revolutionized the technology and knowledge of our world.