chapter  1
12 Pages

The Book Revolution

The invention of typographic printing in the middle of the fifteenth century is properly recognised as one of the turningpoints of world history. Within less than a century, the printed word had transformed the intellectual world of the West, and had facilitated political, religious and economic change. Western Europe’s dominance of the rest of the world, built on the solid foundations of its own achievements since the fall of Rome and on the emergence of a capitalistic free market economy, would never have been fully realised without the ease and uniformity of communication and the easier interchange of ideas which was made possible by printing. Like some other technologies and ideologies now considered distinctively ‘western’, however, printing was not unknown outside Christian Europe. A form of printing from carved wooden blocks was in use in China and Korea in the sixth century AD, but there is no evidence that this was known in the West or that it influenced in any way the evolution of similar block books which may have been produced in Europe before the invention of printing from type.