The development of printing made the written word into a medium of mass communication. For the first time, copies of messages could be economically produced and distributed widely, bridging great gaps of space and time. It became possible to communicate with large numbers of people, as opposed to the minuscule few of the elite who had access to the manuscripts. The availability of technology for disseminating written texts did not, however, automatically provide everyone, or even most, with the ability to read and understand; it could not eradicate the widespread barrier of illiteracy resulting from lack of *education. The slow increase in education, albeit uneven geographically and across economic classes, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the corresponding spread of newspaper, pamphlet, and inexpensive book production and dissemination, resulted in the growing impact of the printed word as a medium for mass communication. In spite of the large and increasing number of literate people and the proliferation of printed material, large portions of the population in even the most technologically developed societies could not or did not read, and in the great rural populations of the agrarian societies of Africa, Asia and South America, reading remained a rare skill of the elites.