How Printing Got Better

Today we are all Pajama Publishers if we want to be, sitting at the computer creating page after page of precise and beautiful pagination. It was not always so.

  1. Sticks. Clay. Greed. Mesopotamia.
  2. Cuneiform tablet 3200 BCE. Kahn Academy says: You might be disappointed to learn that writing was not invented to record stories, poetry, or prayers to a god. The first fully developed written script, cuneiform, was invented to account for something unglamorous, but very important—surplus commodities: bushels of barley, head of cattle, and jars of oil!
  3. Illuminated manuscripts hand done by medieval monks. Was it hard work? Sometimes the work of years, accompanied by complaining.
  4. In 1450 came the breakthrough.
  5. It turns out that the printing press is far from simple. The technological innovations that Gutenberg developed were much more than the modification of a wine press and the addition of the idea of movable type. Gutenberg combined and extended a whole host of technologies and innovations from an astonishing number of areas, and that is what made his work so powerful. He used metallurgical developments to create metal type that not only had a consistent look (Gutenberg insisted on this), but type that could be easily cast, allowing whole pages to be printed simply at once. He used chemical innovations to create a better ink than had ever been used before in printing. Gutenberg even exploited the concept of the division of labor by employing a large team of workers, many of whom were illiterate, to churn out books at a rate never before seen in history. And he even employed elegant error-checking mechanisms to ensure that the type was always set properly: There was a straight line on one side of each piece of type so that the workers could see at a glance whether any letters had been set upside down.

    Only by having the combined knowledge of all of these technologies does the printing press become possible and cost-effective. - Samuel Arbesman in "The Half-life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date"
  6. Benjamin Franklin On Money: $100 - One Hundred Dollar Bill
    Benjamin Franklin On Money: $100 - One Hundred Dollar Bill
  7. In 1730 there was this: Ben Franklin, newspaperman. Not much had changed.
  8. Even as printing presses improved in the 1830s and the first great daily mass-circulation newspapers appeared in the U.S., type still had to be set by hand.
  9. And then in 1884 things got better. They called it hot type.