All of us “know” that the invention of printing was an epochal development in human civilization. Gutenberg and/or his invention of circa 1439-40 ranked at the top or very near the top of the lists of “greatest” of the millennium that journalists eagerly compiled. But how much do we really know?
Whenever I reach this topic on my syllabus, I ask my students: Just what was this achievement? They invariably give me a set of increasingly specific answers: printing? the printing press? movable type? I reply, variously: “nope,” or “close, but no cigar” (often adding: the Chinese had that centuries earlier). (read the rest)