In this chapter we will look at the development of print from east Asia to Europe and in India.
How social lives and cultures changed with the coming of print.
The First Printed Books
→The earliest kind of print technology was developed in China, Japan and Korea. System of hand printing by wood block (594 A.D)
→As both sides of the thin, porous sheet could not be printed, the traditional Chinese ‘accordion book’ was folded and stitched at the side because both sides of the thin, porous sheet could not be printed.
→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.
Print in Japan
→Buddhist missionaries from China introduced hand-printing technology into Japan around AD 768-770.
→The oldest Japanese book, printed in AD 868, is the Buddhist Diamond Sutra.
→Kitagawa Utamaro, born in Edo (Tokyo) in 1753, was widely known for his contributions to an art form called ukiyo A skilled woodblock carver pasted the drawing on a woodblock and carved a printing block to reproduce the painter’s lines. In the process, the original drawing would be destroyed and only prints would survive.
Print Comes to Europe
→In the eleventh century, Chinese paper reached Europe via the Silk route. Paper invented in China by Cai Lun in 105 A.D
→In1295, Marco Polo, returned to Italy after many years of exploration in China.
→Marco Polo brought Wood Book printing knowledge back with him. He remained in the court of Kublai Khan for a long time.
→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, (A sheet made from the skin of animal )
→But the production of handwritten manuscripts could not satisfy the ever-increasing demand for books.
→Copying was an expensive, laborious 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, woodblock printing gradually became more and more popular.
Gutenberg and printing Press
→At Strasbourg, Germany, Johann Gutenberg developed the first-known printing press in the1430s.
→By1448,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 fast,of which no more than 50 have survived.
→In the hundred years between 1450 and1550, printing presses were setup in most countries of Europe by Germans
→The second half of the fifteenth century saw 20 million copies of printed books flooding the markets in Europe.
→The number went up in the sixteenth century to about 200 million copies.
→This shift from hand printing to mechanical printing led to the print revolution.
The Print Revolution and Its Impact
→Printing reduced the cost of books.
→Less time and labour required to produce each book.
→Multiple copies could be produced with greater ease
→Earlier, reading was restricted to the elites. Common people lived in a world of oral culture.
→Printers began publishing popular ballads, folk tales, and such books would be profusely illustrated with pictures. These were then sung and recited at gatherings in villages and in taverns in towns.
Religious Debates and the Fear of Print
→Not everyone welcomed the printed book, According to Catholic church if there was no control over what was printed and read then rebellious and irreligious thoughts might spread.
→If that happened the authority of ‘valuable’ literature would be destroyed.
→In 1517,the religious reformer Martin Luther wrote Ninety Five Theses criticizing many of the practices and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church.
→A printed copy 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. (A sixteenth-century movement to reform the Catholic Church dominated by Rome. Martin Luther was one of the main Protestant reformers)
Deeply grateful to print, Luther said, ‘Printing is the ultimate gift of God and the greatest one.’
Print and Dissent (Difference in ideas)
→In the sixteenth century, Manocchio, a miller in Italy, began to read books that were available in his locality.
→He reinterpreted the message of the Bible and formulated a view of God and Creation that enraged the Church
→When the Roman Church began its inquisition (A former Roman Catholic court for identifying and punishing heretics) to repress heretical (Beliefs which do not follow the accepted teachings of the Church) ideas, Manocchio was hauled up twice and ultimately executed.
→The Roman Church, imposed severe controls over publishers and booksellers and began to maintain an Index of Prohibited Books from 1558.
Fear of the book
Erasmus, a Latin scholar and a Catholic reformer, who criticised the excesses of Catholicism but kept his distance from Luther, expressed a deep anxiety about printing.
The Reading Mania
→As literacy and schools spread in European countries, there was a virtual reading mania.
→New forms of popular literature appeared in print, targeting new audiences.
Booksellers employed pedlars who roamed around villages, carrying little books for sale.
→There were almanacs or ritual calendars, along with ballads and folktales.
→In England, penny chapbooks were carried by petty pedlars known as chapmen, and sold for a penny
→In France, were the ‘Biliotheque Bleue’, which were low-priced small books printed on poor quality paper,
→Similarly, the ideas of scientists and philosophers now became more accessible to the common people
→Isaac Newton began to publish their discoveries.
→Writings of thinkers such as Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau were also widely printed and read.
‘Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world!’
Louise-Sebastien Mercier, a novelist in eighteenth - century France, declared: ‘The printing press is the most powerful engine of progress and public opinion is the force that will sweep despotism away.’
Convinced of the power of print in bringing enlightenment and destroying the basis of despotism, Mercier proclaimed: ‘Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world! Tremble before the virtual writer!’
Print Culture and the French Revolution (1789)
Many historians have argued that print culture created the conditions within which French Revolution occurred.
First: print popularised the ideas of the Enlightenment thinkers. The writings of Voltaire and Rousseau were read widely; and those who read these books saw the world through new eyes, eyes that were questioning, critical and rational.
Second: print created a new culture of dialogue and debate. All values, norms and institutions were re-evaluated and discussed by a public that had become aware of the power of reason, and recognised the need to question existing ideas and beliefs. Within this public culture, new ideas of social revolution came into being.
Third: by the1780s there was an outpouring of literature that mocked the royalty and criticised their morality.
Children, Women and Workers
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 folktales. The Grimm Brothers in Germany spent years to collect folklores.
Women became important as readers as well as writers. Penny magazines were especially meant for women, as were manuals teaching proper behavior and housekeeping.
Known novelists were women: Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot.
Lending libraries had been in existence from the seventeenth century onwards. In the nineteenth 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.
India and the World of Print
India had a very rich and old tradition of handwritten manuscripts – in Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, as well as in various vernacular languages.
Example – Gita Govinda of Jayadeva, eighteenth century is a palm-leaf handwritten manuscript in accordion format.
Print Comes to India
→The printing press first came to Goa with Portuguese missionaries in the mid-sixteenth century.
→First printed books were in Konkani in the mid-sixteenth century.
→Catholic priests printed the first Tamil book in 1579 at Cochin.
→In 1713 the first Malayalam book was printed.
→By 1710, Dutch Protestant missionaries had printed 32 Tamil texts.
→From 1780, James Augustus Hickey began to edit the Bengal Gazette, a weekly magazine. He published a lot of gossip about the Company’s senior officials in India. Enraged by this, Governor-General Warren Hastings persecuted Hickey.
→The first Indian newspaper was the weekly Bengal Gazette, brought out by Gangadhar Bhattacharya, who was close to Rammohun Roy.
Print- Religious Reform and Public Debates
From the early nineteenth century, social and religious reformers wrote and published about matters like widow immolation, monotheism, Brahmanical priesthood and idolatry.
→Rammohun Roy published the Sambad Kaumudi from 1821. Hindu orthodoxy commissioned the Samachar Chandrika to oppose his opinions. New ideas emerged through these clashes of opinions.
→The Deoband Seminary, founded in 1867, published thousands of fatwas telling Muslim readers how to conduct themselves in their everyday lives, and explaining the meanings of Islamic doctrines.
Women and Print
→Women reading discouraged by conservatives. Hindus believed that a literate girl would be widowed and Muslims feared that educated women would be corrupted by reading Urdu romances.
→However, in early nineteenth century in East Bengal, women like 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.
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 the 1880s, in present-day Maharashtra, Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai wrote with passionate anger about the miserable lives of upper-caste Hindu women, especially widows.
In 1926, Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossein, a noted educationist and literary figure, strongly condemned men for withholding education from women in the name of religion.
In the early twentieth century in Punjab, 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.
Print and the Poor People
From the late nineteenth century, issues of caste discrimination began to be 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 twentieth century, B.R. Ambedkar in Maharashtra and E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker in Madras, better known as Periyar, wrote powerfully on caste discrimination.
→Kashibaba, a Kanpur millworker, wrote and published Chhote Aur Bade Ka Sawal in 1938 to show the links between caste and class exploitation.
→The poems of another Kanpur millworker, who wrote under the name of Sudarshan Chakr between 1935 and 1955, were brought together and published in a collection called Sacchi Kavitayan.
Print and Censorship
Before 1798, the colonial state under the East India Company was not too concerned with censorship.
By the 1820s, the Calcutta Supreme Court passed certain regulations to control press freedom.
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, enraged Englishmen demanded a clamp down on then ‘native’ press, as vernacular newspapers became assertively nationalist.
Vernacular Press Act:
In 1878, the Vernacular Press Act was passed, modelled on the Irish Press Laws.
It provided the government with extensive rights to censor reports and editorials in the vernacular press.
If news was found as seditious, 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.
When Punjab revolutionaries were deported in 1907, 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.
→Hafiz was a fourteenth-century poet whose collected works are known as Diwan.
→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. Newspapers conveyed news from one place to another, creating pan-Indian identities.
→The first printed edition of the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas, a sixteenth-century text, came out from Calcutta in 1810.
→Naval Kishore Press at Lucknow and the Shri Venkateshwar Press in Bombay published numerous religious texts in vernaculars.
→By the end of the nineteenth century, a new visual culture was taking shape due to print. Visual images could be easily reproduced in multiple copies. Painters like Raja Ravi Varma produced images for mass circulation. Raja Ravi Varma produced innumerable mythological paintings that were printed at the Ravi Varma Press.
Ulama – Legal scholars of Islam and the sharia ( a body of Islamic law)
Fatwa – A legal pronouncement on Islamic law usually given by a mufti (legal scholar) to clarify issues on which the law is uncertain
Censorship – A process of removing things, information from publishing by authority, government etc.
Ballad – a poem or song narrating a story in short stanzas. Traditional ballads are typically of unknown authorship, having been passed on orally from one generation to the next.
Taverns - Places where people gathered to drink alcohol, to be served food, and to meet friends and exchange news
Persecute - harass or annoy (someone) persistently.
Tyrant - a cruel and oppressive ruler.