Knowledge can be spread in many ways which include; oral, visual reporting, writing, physical movements, education and training among others.
Before the printing press was invented, disseminating and dispersing of knowledge was mainly through word of mouth, although in some parts of the world like Egypt and other ancient civilizations, there were scribes who spread information through writing of manuscripts, these were only read by royals and the elite of those societies.
The relationship between the invention of the printing press and the spread of knowledge is significant.
The invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg Germany in the fifteenth century made it possible, cheap and easy to rapidly spread knowledge to a large segment of the population that until then did not have the privilege and were eager to be informed. The first massive publishing of the printing press was that of the bible done by Gutenberg himself.
Libraries were able to store information in great quantities for the public and at cheaper prices. The possibility of processing and preserving information in better and consistent forms greatly promoted the advancement of literacy, scholarship, art and science.
Although most written material in the earlier times was religious, printing enabled production of information in other disciplines of life like physical, health and social sciences, art, music and literature. The quick spread of knowledge facilitated by the printing press is thought to have contributed to the Scientific Revolution, the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation (Kreis, 2000).
The printing press has also been linked the formation of new political and social cultures during the independence of many American countries, especially Spanish America. Many people looked at it as the agent of transmitting civilization, education, freedom and the culture of modernity (Vera, 2003, p.15). It brought advancement and progress.
After attaining independence many American colonies used publications of the printing press like government gazettes, political writings and educational works to rejuvenate, re-energize and re-generate their populations.
The printing press was also used by post- independent governments in these countries to spread political propaganda, threats and instructions since in those early years very few people were able to own a printing press and publish independently.
In the Islamic world, the role of the printing press in the transmission of knowledge and transition from manuscript writing to printing of books was a significant one and it brought with it sentiments in community and national levels. People were able to read and learn even other languages and cultures through print translation.
Muslims communities played a crucial role in spreading of books in Europe and also within the Islamic world. Many of them were also authors, thinkers, reformists, mystical writers and literature giants with their original works in the nineteenth century.
Printing also encouraged the reading, translating and paraphrasing of books especially from Europe and America, which brought knowledge of modern literature of science, military, engineering and technology to the Islamic world (Atiyeh, 1995, p.5).
There is also the impact of printing on political and social-economic aspects of societies in many countries. The production of many books and literal copies, led to greater public knowledge and awareness which promoted fear within governments and religious authorities and this led them to control, censor and even forbid the production and distribution of these information sources.
The importance of the printing press in the spread of knowledge cannot be underestimated. Printing has greatly revolutionized the culture of reading.
The production of similar print material in large quantities has made it possible to spread education and information quickly and in many areas. Searching, gathering of information and awareness has been stimulated in the public and resulted in people’s private and public lives being greatly impacted.
Atiyeh, G. (1995). The Book in the Islamic World: The Written Word and Communication in the Middle East. Albany: State University of New York Press.
Kreis, S. (2000). Lectures on modern Europe intellectual history; The Printing Press: The history guide. Web.
Vera, E. (2003). The British book trade and Spanish American independence: Education and Knowledge Transmission in Transcontinental Perspective. Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing Limited.