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Brief lectures in Media History. Chapter 1 The printing revolution. Topics . Before printing Technical context of printing Gutenberg Printing & the Protestant Reformation Printing & the scientific revolution Printing & the idea of news The Enlightenment

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brief lectures in media history

Brief lectures in Media History

Chapter 1 The printing revolution

  • Before printing
  • Technical context of printing
  • Gutenberg
  • Printing & the Protestant Reformation
  • Printing & the scientific revolution
  • Printing & the idea of news
  • The Enlightenment
  • Printing & the political revolutions
  • Life in a print shop
oral culture
Oral culture
  • People are “pre-wired” for language and storytelling
    • Reading & writing are learned
  • Sense of connection
  • Alex Haley’s Roots – Ex. of working oral culture
  • Fireside chats – Ex. Of radio as an oral culture

Learning to write was the “tuition” for human education – Wilbur Schramm

Writing developed in step-by-step progression for business and ruling elites from picture – oriented (logographic) symbols

Monks who copied Bibles worked at the rate of about 1 – 3 pages per day, or a book per year. They couldn’t keep up with demand during the Renaissance.

Pages were made from parchment (calf, sheep or goat skin). Paper from linen (flax) was common in Europe by 1400s.

printing revolution
Printing Revolution
  • THE pivotal development in history,
  • The turning point in the transition between the Medieval and modern worlds.
  • Printing comes from an build-up of techniques, resources & demands
    • pressing (olives, grapes)
    • paper making (to replace animal hides)
    • woodcuts of religious images
    • abundance of linen paper
gutenberg s matrix
Gutenberg’s matrix
  • Johannes Gutenberg’s key insight:
  • Re-useable, moveable type.
  • The “matrix” was a mold that formed a piece of type from hot lead, tin and antimony.
  • Printing sped up book production by 1000 -2000 x
printing impacts
Printing impacts
  • Standardized Bibles
    • Allowed challenge to church authority
  • Standardized language
    • Helped form nation-state
  • Amplified new information and ideas
  • Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther become famous overnight
printing and the reformation
Printing and the Reformation

Printing amplified Martin Luther’s dissent in a way that had never happened before.

His 95 Theses, published in Germany in 1517, circulated across Europe in less than a month.

Crowds surged around the printing houses, grabbing pages still wet from the press.

protestant reformation
Protestant Reformation
  • 20 – 30 million executed or killed in religious wars in the 1500s-1600s period.
  • Germany – 30 % population killed
  • England Counter-Reformation, 1553 Queen Mary I (“Bloody Mary”)
  • Calls for tolerance grow into what becomes the Enlightenment.
oxford bishops 1555
Oxford Bishops 1555

Executed as Queen Mary I attempts to return Britain to Catholic Church

Retaliation for executions of her father, Protestant king Henry VIII

Sister Elizabeth I decrees tolerance for all Christian religions in Britain 1560s

protestant reformation1
Protestant Reformation

Anabaptist Anne Hendicks is one of tens of thousands executed in Amsterdam 1570s

reaction to religious wars
Reaction to religious wars
  • Religious tolerance slowly emerges
  • In France, Sebastian Casellio (1515-1563) calls for freedom of conscience
  • In Britain, Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603) stops persecution of Catholics. “There is only one Christ, Jesus, one faith" she says. “All else is a dispute over trifles."
scientific impacts of printing
Scientific impacts of printing

Printing spurred the exploration of physical and mental horizons

News of Columbus’ voyages

spread rapidly with printing in the 1490s, making him one of the first international heroes

Astronomical observatory of Tycho Brahe (1546–1601) included a printing shop to help spread new scientific knowledge – and prevent repression by the church

de re metallica
De re metallica

A 1556 book by Georgius Agricola (1494–1555)

Exploration of geology, mining and metallurgy, carefully illustrated.

Set a standard for scientific and technical books to come

first newspapers
First newspapers
  • Handwritten by armies of scribes in ancient China and Rome
    • Roman paper was called “ActaDiurna”
  • Newsletters common in Europe to promote commerce 1400s-1600s
  • Johann Carolus owned a book printing company in Strasbourg, France, grew tired of copying business newsletters by hand. Published first newspaper.
press censorship by
Press censorship by …
  • licensing of a printing company itself;
  • pre-press approval of each book or edition of a publication;
  • taxation and stamps on regular publications; and
  • prosecution for sedition against the government or libel of individuals.
english civil war
English civil war
  • John Milton (1608-1674)
    • The marketplace of ideas
  • Who ever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?"
  • Areopagetica 1644 -- reference to the Athenian marketplace
english enlightenment
English Enlightenment
  • John Locke (1632-1704)
  • People and governmenthave a social contract
  • Government existed to serve the people, not the other way around;
  • People have natural rights to life, liberty and property.
  • Tolerance was vital
french enlightenment
French Enlightenment

Francois Voltaire (1694-1778) – May disagree with what you say but will die defending your right to say it.


Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) - Spirit of the Laws / Separation of powers (Legislative, executive, judicial)

trial of john peter zenger
Trial of John Peter Zenger

New York printer uses truth as a defense in seditious libel trial, 1734

american enlightenment
American Enlightenment
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Printers believe that "when men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Public. When Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."
john wilkes
John Wilkes

Editor of North Briton, Member of Parliament

Newspaper censored, Wilkes convicted of seditious libel in 1764

Goes into four years of exile in France, returns to fight for Parliamentary privilege

Ben Franklin and other American revolutionaries this as a bad omen for their hope of freedom in America

Yes, he was that ugly … and yet he was amazingly popular

the fourth estate
The Fourth Estate
  • a reference to the growing power of the press
  • Whig party leader Edmund Burke in a 1787 speech to Parliament.
  • Burke said that there were three “estates” (walks of life) represented in Parliament:
    • The nobility (House of Lords);
    • The clergy (Church of England);
    • And the middle class (House of Commons).
  • “But in the Reporters Gallery yonder, there sat a Fourth Estate, more important by far than they all.”
enlightenment spreads
Enlightenment spreads
  • Sweden was among the first to abolish complete censorship with a law guaranteeing freedom of the press in 1766.
  • Denmark and Norway followed with their own law on freedom of the press in 1770.
american enlightenment1
American Enlightenment
  • Thomas Jefferson
  • Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined, imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites.
american revolutionaries
American revolutionaries

“These are the times

that try men’s souls”— the

words that turned the spark of

rebellion into a campaign for

American freedom emerged

from the pen of Thomas Paine.

After independence, Paine

became involved in the French

Revolution, then returned to the

United States

Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense, 1776

camille desmoulins
Camille Desmoulins

“I was carried upon a table rather than allowed to mount it. Hardly had I got up on my feet when I saw myself surrounded by an immense crowd. Here is my short speech, which I shall never forget:

‘Citizens! There is not a moment to lose. . . .

This evening all the Swiss and German battalions will sally forth from the Champsde-

Mars to cut our throats. We have only one recourse—to rush to arms.’ I had tears in my eyes, and spoke with a feeling that I have ne’er

been able to recapture, no less describe.”

On the storming of the Bastille, July 14, 1789

  • Typical
the french terror
The French terror

Tens of thousands of aristocrats and innocents executed by guillotine in 1790s

Americans worry that their revolution can become bloody too

us passes sedition act 1798
US passes Sedition Act 1798
  • Prohibited writing, printing, uttering
  • "any false, scandalous and malicious writing ... against the government of the United States, or president of the United States,
  • ... to bring them into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against them the hatred of the good people of the United States."
  • A stiff fine and prison term of two years were the punishments. Overall, 25 people were arrested.
reaction to sedition act
Reaction to Sedition Act
  • ”A reign of witches" – Jefferson
    • "It suffices for a man to be a philosopher, and to believe that human affairs are susceptible of improvement, and to look forward, rather than backward to the Gothic ages, for perfection, to mark him as an anarchist, disorganizer, atheist, and enemy of the government."
  • Virginia and Kentucky assemblies pass Resolutions condemning Sedition Act
  • Doctrine of “nullification” and states rights
partisan press us britain
Partisan press US – Britain

William Cobbett was called “a kind of

fourth estate in the politics of the country.”

Published Porcupine’s Gazette in Philadelphia, 1790s and the Weekly Political Register in England 1800s

Crusaded against cruelty, poverty and corruption. In 1809 imprisoned two years for seditious libel. Fled back to US in 1817 but then returned in 1819 to continue crusading.

Cobbett attacked the “smothering system” that led to the Luddite

Riots and vowed to expose Britain’s “service and corrupt press” that had become an instrument in the “delusion, the debasement and the

enslavement of a people.”

us partisan papers
US partisan papers
  • Bitter partisanship aligned with John Adams’ Federalist party or Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic- Republican party
  • Depended on patronage and printing contracts for basic income
  • Business model would change with Penny Press revolution in 1830s
  • Not all newspapers were partisan.
    • Niles Weekly Register, published in Baltimore 1811 - 1848, forerunner of modern press, guided by principal of “magnanimous disputation”
partisan press france
Partisan press France

In 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte assumed power

Freedom of the press ended, and widespread system of censorship was put

in place by 1808

Number of newspapers in Paris dwindled from hundreds to only 4 by 1811.

Censorship was lifted following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, then imposed by French authorities, and occasionally lifted again in cycles over the next century.

life in a print shop1
Life in a print shop
  • Upper and lower case
  • Mind “p”s and “q”s
  • Composing “on the stick”
  • By the same token
  • Out of sorts
  • Playing quadrats
  • Getting a washing
  • Spirit of the chapel