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the dbq project

The DBQ Project

What was the most important consequence of the printing press?

  • There are historians who believe that the printing press ranks among the most revolutionary new technologies in the history of humankind. Like the invention of the alphabet two thousand years before, and like the creation of the computer and the internet more than 500 years after, the printing press changed the way we inform, and misinform, one another.
  • Document 1: Scribe and Print Shop
  • Document 2: The Spread of Printing (map)
  • Document 3: The Protestant Reformation: Luther’s 95 Theses
  • Document 4: Different Views on the Reformation
  • Document 5: The Spread of Protestantism (map)
  • Document 6: Columbus’ Letter
  • Document 7: Printing and Map Making (3 maps)
  • Document 8: Classical and Medieval Books
  • Document 9: Early Modern Books
  • Document 10: Newton’s Bookshelp
  • The history of communication is dotted with milestones—developments and discoveries that greatly advanced human ability to exchange feelings and ideas.
  • From the list of twelve milestones on your paper, create a “Top Ten List” placing a “1” in front of the most important breakthrough and a “2” in front of the second most important breakthrough, etc.
  • In the space to the right, explain the reasons for your first two or three choices. Be ready to discuss your rankings.

England was the only nation that from the beginning printed a vast majority of books in the vernacular (English). This was in part because England had a long history of prose and poetry in its native tongue. Other areas of Europe prior to the spread of the printing press were, as one scholar suggested, submerged in Latin. In fact, by 1500 about three-quarters of all printed matter was in Latin. The other fourth was primarily in Italian and German. However, with the boost from Luther and the Reformation, vernacular editions became much more popular and even expected. As demand grew for vernacular editions, printers responded.

background essay
Background Essay

Let’s read the Background Essay together


Read the Background Essay silently

You have 5 minutes

document analysis
Document Analysis
  • Let’s analyze a couple of documents together.
document 1
Document 1

Would you rather have worked as the scribe or the printer?

What is a scribe?

What is a printing press and, in general terms, how did the 16th century printing press work?

Note the date of the advertisement of the Badius firm (scribe). Why were manuscript books being produced in 1494, fifty years after the invention of the printing press?

Consider differences in time and accuracy of a scribe copying a text from a prior manuscript, or for several scribes copying a book from dictation. What problems of accuracy might arise from copying a book taken from dictation or copying a book from a previous handwritten book?

document 2
Document 2


Examine the two maps. What statement can you make about the spread of printing in the second half of the 16th century?

What is the number of cities in which printing presses were established before 1470 and after?

Look for patterns of the establishment of printing houses in Europe. How do you think those patterns evolved?


Document 2

What other industries may have been impacted by the invention of the printing press?

Predict what areas of life the proliferation of the book might affect most. How might millions of books influence the politics of the day, or the religion, or people’s views of the world?

creating categories pre bucketing
Creating Categories – Pre-Bucketing
  • Can you predict how you might organize a paper answering the essay question?
  • As you read, create 3 categories (buckets) in which to organize your documents (evidence)
  • Write the number of documents you might use for each category. You can go back and adjust these later.

Category 1

Category 2

Category 3

creating categories re bucketing
Creating Categories – Re-Bucketing
  • Now that you have analyzed all the documents, would you change any of your “buckets”?
  • Is there a class consensus on categories?
  • Remember that a few of the documents are mainly used to provide context.

Category 1

Category 2

Category 3

getting ready to write
Getting Ready to Write
  • Look over the documents and organize them into your final categories.
    • Write the document numbers in each bucket on your handout.
    • It is okay to put a document in more that one category.
    • The categories/buckets will become your body paragraphs.
  • Let’s discuss our essay prompt as a whole group before we begin writing. Who can tell us:

What was the most important consequence of the printing press?

What was the most important consequence of the printing press?

essay writing
Essay Writing
  • You will now use the information you learned about the printing press from the essay and the ten documents to construct an essay that answers the question:

What was the most important consequence of the printing press?

bibliography works cited
Bibliography/Works Cited

DBQ Project @