The Gutenberg printing press is widely considered to be one of humanity’s defining inventions. But it couldn’t have changed the world without another brilliant invention: paper.
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)
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