Print in Japan

  • Buddhist missionaries from China introduced hand-printingtechnology into Japan around AD 768-770.
  • The oldest Japanese book,printed in AD 868, is the Buddhist Diamond Sutra, containing six sheets of text and woodcut illustrations.

Gutenberg and the Printing Press

  • Gutenberg was the son of a merchant and grew up on a largeagriculturalestate.
  • From his childhood he had seen wine and olivepresses.
  • Subsequently, he learnt the art of polishing stones, became amaster goldsmith, and also acquired the expertise to create lead moulds used for making trinkets.
  •  Drawing on this knowledge, Gutenberg adapted existing technology to design his innovation.
  • The olive press provided the modelfor the printing press, and mouldswere used for casting the metal types for the letters of the alphabet.
  • By 1448, Gutenberg perfected the system.
  • The first book he printed was the Bible. About 180 copies were printed and it took three years to produce them.
  •  By the standards of the time this was fastproduction.

Religious Debates and the Fear of Print

  • Print created the possibility of wide circulation ofideas, and introduced a new world of debate anddiscussion.
  •  Even those who disagreed withestablished authorities could now print and circulatetheir ideas.
  • Through the printed message, they couldpersuade people to think differently, and move themto action. This had significance in different spheresof life.
  •  In 1517, the religious reformer Martin Luther wrote Ninety Five Theses criticising many of the practices and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church.
  •  A printedcopy of this was posted on a church door in Wittenberg.
  • It challenged the Church to debate his ideas.
  •  Luther’s writings were immediately reproduced in vast numbers and read widely.
  • This lead to a division within the Church and to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
  • Luther’s translation of the New Testament sold 5,000 copies within a few weeks and a second edition appeared within three months.
  • Deeply grateful to print, Luther said, ‘Printing is the ultimate gift of God and the greatest one.’


  • The imperial state in China was, for a very long    time, the major producer of printed material.
  • China possessed a huge bureaucratic system which recruited its personnel through civil service examinations.
  • Text books for thisexamination were printed in vast numbers under the sponsorship of the imperial state.
  • From the 16th century, the number of examination candidates went upand that increased the volume of print.
  • By the 17THcentury, as urban culture bloomed in China, theuses of print diversified. Print was no longer used just by scholar officials.Merchants used print in their everyday life,
  •  as they collected trade information. Reading increasingly became a leisure activity.
  • The new readership preferred fictional narratives, poetry, autobiographies, anthologies of literary masterpieces, and romantic plays.
  • Rich women began to read, and many women began publishing their poetry and plays. Wives of scholar-officials published their works and courtesans wrote about their lives.
  • This new reading culture was accompanied by a new technology.Western printing techniques and mechanical presses were importedin the late nineteenth century
  • as Western powers established their outposts in China.
  • Shanghai became the hub of the new print culture,catering to the Western-style schools.
  • From hand printing there wasnow a gradual shift to mechanical printing.


  • For centuries, silk and spices from China flowed into Europe through the silk route. In the 11th century, Chinese paper reached Europe via the same route.
  • Paper made possible the production of manuscripts, carefully written by scribes.
  • Then, in 1295, Marco Polo,a great explorer, returned to Italy after many years of exploration in China.
  • China already had the technology of wood block printing. Marco Polo brought this knowledge back with him.
  • Now Italians began producing books with woodblocks, and soon the technology spread to other parts of Europe.
  • Luxury editions were still hand written on very expensive vellum, meant for aristocratic circles and rich monastic libraries which scoffed at printed books as cheap vulgarities.
  • Merchants and students in the university towns bought the cheaper printed copies.
  • As the demand for books increased, booksellers all over Europe began exporting books to many different countries.
  • Book fairs were held at different places.
  • Production of hand written manuscripts wasalso organised in new ways to meet the expanded demand.
  • Scribes or skilled handwriters were no longer solely employed by wealthy or influential patrons but increasingly by book sellers as well.
  • More than 50 scribes often worked for one bookseller.
  • But the production of hand written manuscripts could not    satisfy the ever-increasing demand for books. Copying was an expensive, and time-consuming business.
  • Manuscripts were fragile,awkward to handle, and could not be carried around or read easily.Their circulation therefore remained limited. With the growing demand for books.
  • wood block printing gradually became moreand more popular. By the early 15THcentury, woodblocks werebeing widely used in Europe to print textiles, playing cards, andreligious pictures with simple, brief texts.
  • There was clearly a great need for even quicker and cheaper reproduction of texts. This could only be with the invention of anew print technology.
  •  The break through occurred at Strasbourg,Germany, where Johann Gutenberg developed the first-knownprinting press in the 1430s.


  • In England, penny chapbooks were carried by petty pedlarsknown as chapmen, and sold for a penny, so that even the poorcould buy them.

Biliotheque Bleue

  • In France, were the ‘Biliotheque Bleue’, which werelow-priced small books printed on poor quality paper, and bound in cheap blue covers.

The periodical press

  • developed from the early 18THcentury.
  • combining information about current affairs with entertainment.
  • Newspapers and journals carried information about wars and trade.
  • as well as news of developments in other places.


  • the ideas of scientists and philosophers now became more accessible to the common people.
  • Ancient and medieval scientific texts were compiled and published.
  •  maps and scientific diagrams were widely printed.
  • scientists like Isaac Newton began to publish their discoveries, they could influence a much wider circle of scientifically minded readers.
  • The writings of thinkers such as Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau were also widelyprinted and read.
  •  Thus their ideas about science, reason and rationality found their way into popular literature.


  • As primary education became compulsory from the late nineteenth century, children became an important category of readers.
  • Production of school textbooks became critical for the publishing industry.
  • A children’s press, devoted to literature for children alone, was set up in France in 1857.
  • This press published new works as well as old fairy tales and folk tales.
  • The Grimm Brothers in Germany spent years compiling traditional folk tales gathered from peasants. What they collected was edited before the stories were published in a collection in 1812.


  • Women became important as readers as well as writers.
  • Penny magazines were especially meant for women, aswere manuals teaching proper behaviour and housekeeping.
  • When novels began to be written in the 19THcentury, women were seen as important readers.
  • Some of the best known novelists were women: Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot.
  • Their writings became important in defining a new type of woman: a person with will, strength of personality, determination and the power to think.


  • Lending libraries had been in existence from the 17TH century onwards.
  • In the 19TH century, lending libraries in England became instruments for educating white-collar workers.
  • artisans and lower-middle-class people. Sometimes, self-educated working class people wrote for themselves.
  • After the working day was gradually shortened from the mid-nineteenth century, workers had some time for self-improvement and self-expression.
  • They wrote political tracts and autobiographies in large numbers.

Shilling Series– 

  • In the 1920s in England, popular works were sold in cheap series, called         the Shilling Series.


  • The printing press first came to Goa with Portuguese missionaries.
  • Catholic priests printed the first Tamil book in 1579 at Cochin.
  • in 1713 the first Malayalam book was printed by them.
  • The English language press grow in Indiathough the English East India Company began to import presses from the late 17TH century.
  • From 1780, James Augustus Hickey began to edit the Bengal Gazette,a weekly magazine.
  •  that described itself as ‘a commercial paper opento all, but influenced by none’.
  • it was private English enterprise, proud of its independence from colonial influence, that began English printing in India.
  • Hickey published a lot of advertisements, including those that related to the import and sale of slaves.
  • Hickey also published a lot of gossip about the Company’ssenior officials in India.
  • Enraged by this, Governor-General Warren Hastings persecuted Hickey, and encouraged the publication of officially sanctioned newspapers that could counter the flow of information that damaged the image of the colonial government.
  • The first INDIAN NEWS PAPER was the weekly Bengal Gazette, brought out by Gangadhar Bhattacharya, who was close to Rammohun Roy.


  • This was a time of intense controversies between social and religious reformers and the Hindu orthodoxy over matters like widow immolation, monotheism, Brahmanical priesthood and idolatry.
  • Rammohun Roy published the Sambad Kaumudi from 1821.
  •  the Hindu orthodoxy commissioned the Samachar Chandrikato oppose his opinions. From 1822.
  •  two Persian newspapers were published, Jam-i-Jahan Nama and Shamsul Akhbar. In the same year.
  • a Gujarati newspaper, the Bombay Samachar, made its appearance.In north India.
  • the ulama were deeply anxious about the collapseof Muslim dynasties. They feared that colonial rulers would encourage conversion, change the Muslim personal laws.
  • To counterthis, they used cheap lithographic presses, published Persian andUrdu translations of holy scriptures, and printed religious newspapers and tracts.
  • The Deoband Seminary, founded in 1867, published thousands upon thousands of fatwas telling Muslim readers how to conduct themselves in their everyday lives, and explaining the meanings of Islamic doctrines. All through the nineteenth century.


  • The first printed edition of the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas, a 16TH-century text, came out from Calcutta in 1810.
  • By the mid-19TH century, cheap lithographic editions flooded north Indian markets. From the 1880s.
  • the Naval Kishore Press at Lucknow and the Shri VenkateshwarPress in Bombay published numerous religious texts in vernaculars. In their printed and portable form, these could be read easily.


  • more people could now read, they wanted to see their own lives,experiences, emotions and relationships reflected in   what they read.
  • The novel, a literary form which had developed in Europe, ideallycatered to this need.


  • By the end of the 19TH century, a new visual culture was taking shape. With the setting up of an increasing number of printing presses,
  • visual images could be easily reproduced in multiple copies.
  • Painters like Raja Ravi Varma produced images for mass circulation.
  • Poor wood engravers who made woodblocks set up shop near the letter presses, and were employed by print shops.
  • Cheap prints andcalendars, easily available in the bazaar, could bebought even by the poor to decorate the walls of their homes or places of work.
  • By the 1870s, caricatures and cartoons were being published in journals and newspapers,
  • commenting on social and political issues. Some caricatures ridiculed the educated Indians’ fascination with Western tastes and clothes, while others expressedthe fear of social change.
  • There were imperial caricatures lampooning nationalists, as well as nationalist cartoons criticising imperial rule.


  • Women’s reading increased enormously in middle-class homes.
  • Liberal husbands and fathers began educating their womenfolk at home, and sent them to schools.
  • when women’s schools were set up in the cities and towns after the mid-19TH century. Many journals began carrying writings by women, and explained why women should be educated.
  • They also carried a syllabus and attached suitable reading matter which couldbe used for home-based schooling.
  • But not all families were liberal. Conservative Hindus believedthat a literate girl would be widowed and Muslims feared that educated women would be corrupted by reading Urdu romances.
  • Sometimes, rebel women defied such prohibition. InEast Bengal, in the early 19TH century, Rashsundari Debi, a young married girl in a very orthodox household, learnt to read in the secrecy of her kitchen. Later, she wrote her autobiography Amar Jiban which was published in 1876.
  • It was the first full-length autobiography published in the Bengali language.From the 1860s,
  • a few Bengali women like Kailashbashini Debi wrote books highlighting the experiences of women – about how women were imprisoned at home, kept in ignorance, forced to do hard domestic labour and treated unjustly by the very people they served.
  • In the1880s, in present-day Maharashtra, Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai wrote with passionate anger about the miserable lives of upper-caste Hindu women, especially widows.
  • While Urdu, Tamil, Bengali and Marathi print culture had developed early, Hindi printing began seriously only from the 1870s.Soon, alarge segment of it was devoted to the education of women.
  • In the early 20THcentury, journals, written for and sometimes edited by women, became extremely popular. They discussed issues like women’s education, widowhood, widow remarriage.
  • the national movement. Some of them offered householdand fashion lessons to women and brought entertainment through short stories and serialised novels.
  • In Punjab, fromthe early 20TH century. Ram Chaddha published the fast-selling Istri Dharm Vichar to teach women how to be obedient wives.
  • The Khalsa Tract Society published cheap booklets with a similar message.
  • In Bengal, an entire area in central Calcutta – the Battala – was devoted to the printing of popular books. Here you could buy cheap editions of religious tracts and scriptures, as well as literature that was considered obscene and scandalous.
  • By the late nineteenth century, a lot of these books were being profusely illustrated with woodcuts and coloured lithographs. Pedlars took the Battala publications to homes, enabling women to read them in their leisure time.


  • Public libraries were set up from the early20TH century, expanding the access to books. These libraries were located mostly in cities and towns.
  •  in prosperous villages. For rich local patrons, setting up a library was a way of acquiring  prestige.
  • From the late 19TH century, issues of caste discrimination began tobe written about in many printed tracts and essays.
  • Jyotiba Phule, the Maratha pioneer of ‘low caste’ protest movements, wrote about the injustices of the caste system in his Gulamgiri (1871).
  • In the 20THcentury, B.R. Ambedkar in Maharashtra and E.V. Ramaswamy Naickerin Madras, better known as Periyar, wrote powerfully on caste and their writings were read by people all over India.          
  • Workers in factories were too over worked and lacked the education to write much about their experiences.
  • Kashibaba, a Kanpur millworker, wrote and published Chhote Aur Bade Ka Sawal in 1938.
  • The poems of another Kanpur mill worker, who wrote under the name of Sudarshan Chakr between 1935 and 1955, were brought together and published in a collection called Sacchi Kavitayan.
  • By the 1930s, Bangalore cotton millworkers set up libraries to educate themselves,


  • Before 1798, the colonial state under the East India Company    was not too concerned with censorship.
  • its early measures to control printed matter were directed against Englishmen in India who were critical of Company misrule and hated the actions of particular Company officers.
  • The Company was worried that such criticisms might be used by its critics in England to attack its trade monopoly in India.
  • By the 1820S, the Calcutta Supreme Court passed certain regulations to control press freedom.
  •  the Company began encouraging publication of newspapers that would celebrate Britsh rule.
  • In 1835, faced with urgent petitions by editors of English and vernacular newspapers, Governor-General Bentinck agreed to revise press laws.
  • Thomas Macaulay, a liberal colonial official, formulated new rules that restored the earlier freedoms.
  • After the revolt of 1857, the attitude to freedom of the press changed. Enraged Englishmen demanded a clamp down on the ‘native’ press. In 1878,
  • the Vernacular Press Act was passed.  It provided the government with extensive rights to censor reports and editorials in the vernacular press.
  • From now on the government kept regular track of the vernacular newspapers published in different provinces. When a report was judged as editious, the newspaper was warned, and if the warning was ignored, the press was liable to be seized and the printing machinery confiscated.
  • Despite repressive measures, nationalist newspapers grew in numbers in all parts of India. They reported on colonial misrule and encouraged nationalist activities.
  • balgangadhar Tilak wrote with great sympathy about them in his Kesari. This led to his imprisonment in 1908, provoking in turn widespread protests all over India.


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