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 Printing
If God spare my life, ere [before] many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plow shall know more of the Scripture than thou doest [than you religious leaders do].
—William Tyndale (c. 1490–1536), religious reformer who believed all people should be able to read the Bible in their native language
Today, books are plentiful and often inexpensive. In the Middle Ages, though, they were so rare and costly that few people had ever seen a book, and fewer had learned to read one. The development and spread of the mechanical printing press was a technology that changed learning forever, much as the Internet has in the 20th and 21st centuries. As people read more and learned more, they began to develop their own ideas—sometimes shocking or rebellious ideas.
The Printing Press Revolution
One key feature of the Renaissance was access to written works. During the Middle Ages, books had been copied by hand. Printing from carved wooden blocks began in Europe toward the end of the 14th century. Such blocks were first used to print religious pictures and then small amounts of text. Renaissance scholars needed new technologies to make their ideas available beyond Italy.
Invention of the Printing Press A revolutionary printing technology— movable type made of metal—was developed by printers over the first half of the 15th century in Europe. With this new development, printers could compose whole pages of text by creating lines of type from individual letters. Once a page was printed, the printer could take the type apart and reuse it.
German printer Johannes Gutenberg devised a usable form of the new process between 1445 and 1450. In addition, Gutenberg developed a printing press that differed from earlier technology. The hand-operated wooden press was the beginning of a process of mechanizing printing and producing large quantities of books. The Gutenberg Bible, completed in 1456, is one of the first known examples of a book produced from movable type.
 Essential Question: What influence did the printing press have on cultural and intellectual developments in modern European history?
20 EUROPEAN HISTORY: AP® EDITION
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