The Gutenberg printing press is widely considered to be one of humanity’s defining inventions. Actually, you can quibble with Gutenberg’s place in history. He wasn’t the first to invent a movable type press – it was originally developed in China. Still the Gutenberg press changed the world. It led to Europe’s reformation, science, the newspaper, the novel, the school textbook, and much else. But, as Tim Harford explains, it could not have done so without another invention, just as essential but often overlooked: paper. Paper was another Chinese idea, just over 2000 years ago.

Producer: Ben Crighton
Editors: Richard Knight and Richard Vadon

(Image: Stack of coloured paper, Credit: Laborant/Shutterstock)

Release date:

Available now

9 minutes

Last on

Tue 31 Jan 2017 23:50 GMT
BBC World Service Americas and the Caribbean

Sources and related links

Mark Kurlansky - Paper: Paging Through History (New York: W.W. Norton) 2016 

Jonathan Bloom - Paper Before Print (Yale University Press) 2001  

James Moseley - “The Technologies of Print” in M.F. Suarez, S.J. and H.R. Woudhuysen The Book: A Global History (Oxford: Oxford University Press) 2013 

Abigail Sellen and Richard Harper - The Myth of the Paperless Office (Cambridge: M.I.T.) 2001 

“World wood production up for fourth year; paper stagnant as electronic publishing grows” UN Press Release 18 Dec 2014