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Monday, December 20, 2010

Printing Press

   "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". . .a familiar song to any of us who sing Christmas hymns but did you know that the melody was actually written to celebrate the quartercentenary of Gutenberg's printing press.  The tune was first sung in June of 1840 as written for an all male chorus commemorating the first use of movable press to print a document. Felix Mendelssohn wrote the tune and very soon after, the words of Charles Wesley's (John's brother) Christmas Carol were combined to make the now familiar Christmas hymn.

What a long way we have come! That revolutionary invention eventually did away with jobs all over the globe.  Many traditional scribes were no longer scribing.  I wonder how many people avoided the new-fangled technology in order to keep the status quo for scribes and the economic culture.  These people, mostly men were among the small percentage of educated people who could read and write.  They often spent long hours leaned over their vellum copying words from earlier written books.
     Due to the work of Gutenberg and other publishers who followed, the reformation had an easier time.  The Bible was printed and delivered churches all over Europe.  It could also be more readily translated into vernacular or native languages - no longer just Latin.  This meant that many more people were encouraged to learn to read so that they could read the Bible in their own tongue.( The history of The King James Translation of the Bible )
      Politicians made great use of this valuable tool also, printing pamphlets extolling their  political beliefs. Books became much more readily available because they were so much cheaper when printed by machine.Within a couple hundred years, novels and works of non-fiction could be found in many homes.
     The Gutenberg works were followed by text books then cheap paperbacks.  All this history brings us to where we are now.  I am currently typing in an airport terminal wirelessly connected to the world-wide web while I watch people from many continents pass by pulling behind them their belongings on wheels.  My work could be published in moments.
      Okay, so this isn't really a nature related blog entry but just a reminder to all you who are bloggers out there who have forgotten about Gutenberg and his contemporaries in publishing who gave us such a good start.  It is not just us writers who should be thankful, but all you readers who are reading this from your (smart)phones or ipads.
   So this Christmas season, as we hear and sing the hymn "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" remember Johannes Gutenberg and what we owe to his invention.

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