SECTION A— THE FIRST PRINTED BOOKS
- Print technology was developed in China, Japan and Korea first.
- It was a system of handprinting. From AD 594, books were printed by rubbing paper against the inked surface of wood blocks. Chinese books were folded and stitched at the sides.
- Skilled craftsmen duplicated, with remarkable accuracy, the beautiful calligraphy.
- China was a major producer of printed material for a long time.
- 17th century: Print diversified. Merchants used print in their everyday life. Reading became a popular leisure activity. Rich women, wives of scholar-officials, published their plays and poetry.
- By the 19th century: Western powers started exporting new technology to China. Shift from handprinting to mechanical printing. The oldest printed book known is a Japanese Buddhist book, the Diamond Sutra printed in AD 868.
- Buddhist missionaries from China introduced handprinting technology in Japan around 768-770 AD.
In the 18th century: Edo (Tokyo) published illustrated collection of paintings, showing urban culture; hundreds of books published on cooking, famous places, women, musical instruments, tea ceremony. etc. From Japan, this art travelled to Europe and the USA.
SECTION B— PRINT COMES TO EUROPE
- In 1295, Marco Polo, a great Italian explorer, brought the art of wood block printing from China to Italy. From Italy it spread to other European countries.
- So far handwritten, expensive books were written on vellum, a parchment made from the skin of animals, for the rich only.
- Popularity of books led to book fairs in all parts of Europe but handwritten books were expensive, time-consuming, fragile and awkward to carry.
- First Printing Press– invented by Johann Gutenberg of Germany in the 1430s.
- Gutenberg, son of a merchant, mastered printing technique by 1448. First book he printed was the Bible. It took him 3 years to print 180 copies.
- From 1450-1550 printing presses were set up in most countries of Europe. The second half of the 15th century saw 20 million printed books in Europe, by the 16th century the number was 200 million copies.
- William Caxton set up the first printing press in England.
- The shift from handprinting to mechanical printing led to the Print Revolution.
SECTION C— PRINT REVOLUTION AND ITS IMPACT
- Print Revolution transformed the lives of the people; changed their relationship to information and knowledge; opened up new ways of looking at things.
- A New Reading Public emerged due to low cost of books, multiple production of books quickly, reaching out to an evergrowing eager readership.
- Book reading led to a new culture of reading. Common people heard sacred texts in the forms of ballads recited and folk tales narrated, knowledge to them was given orally.
- Oral Culture was now replaced by print culture.
- Publishers chose themes which were enjoyed listening to, as rate of literacy was still low till the 20th century in most European countries. Books were sung and recited in gatherings in villages and taverns in towns.
- Print led to religious debates and fear of print.
- People could express their ideas in print and spread them. Fear of books spread.
- Rebellious and irreligious thoughts could be spread by new books.
- Many writers, artists, religious authorities and monarchs were worried about the loss of valuable literature due to uncontrolled printed works.
- Martin Luther wrote Ninety Five Theses in 1517, criticising the Roman Catholic Church for its many rituals. It ultimately led to a division within the Church and the beginning of Reformation and Protestantism in Christianity.
- Luther translated the New Testament into German and it sold 5,000 copies in a few weeks. Lather called Printing. “the ultimate gift of God and the greatest one”.
- Dissent became a part of print. The clergy became afraid of the new awakening.
- Erasmus, a Latin scholar and a Catholic reformer, expressed deep fear of printing, accusing the printers for filling the world with slanderous, irreligious and seditious books.
- Catholic Church began inquisition to repress heretical ideas.
- They began to maintain an Index of Prohibited Books from 1558.
- The 17th and 18th centuries saw the rise of literacy rates in almost all parts of Europe.
- This led to the reading mania. People wanted more books.
- Ideas of Issac Newton, Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Rousseau reached a larger public and their ideas about science, reason and nation became popular literature.
- Result was different types of books being published – Ballads, almanacs, newspapers, magazines, journals.
- They gave information about current affairs, prices of various commodities, new discoveries, socio-cultural and political functions.
- Booksellers sold books through hawkers, from village to village. Chap books (cheap books sold for a penny) were sold by hawkers called chapmen in England, low-priced books called Biliotheque Bleue sold in France.
- By the mid-18th century books were believed to be means of spreading progress and enlightenment. Books would liberate society from the tyranny and despotism. Reason and intellect would reign.
- Mercier, a French novelist, proclaimed : ‘Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world! Tremble before the virtual writer!’
- Many historians believe that it was the print culture that created conditions which led to the French Revolution.
- 19th century saw children, women and workers becoming new readers.
- Books for children, textbooks, folk tales were published.
- Women not only became important readers but also writers. Some of the best known novelists of the 19th century were women – Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Eliot.
- Lending libraries in England became instruments of education for white-collar workers, artisans and lower middle-class people.
- Innovations in Print technology were made throughout the 19th century–
(i) Power-driven cylindrical press produced 8000 sheets per hour
(ii) Offset press developed and printed up to six colours at a time
(iii) electrically-operated presses accelerated printing operations.
- New strategies in selling–
(i) Serialised novels
(ii) Cheap series called the Shilling Series
(iii) The dust cover jacket.
- The Great Depression of the 1930s led to cheap paperback editions.
- Impact of Print Revolution felt in reading, publishing, growth of ideas, knowledge and new ways of looking at things.
SECTION D— INDIA AND THE WORLD OF PRINT
- India has a very old and rich tradition of handwritten manuscripts– in Sanskrit, Arabic,Persian as well as vernacular languages.
- Problems of Handwritten books:
(i) very expensive
(ii) very fragile
(iii) had to be handled carefully and
(iv) script written in different styles– could not be read easily
- Print comes to India in the mid-16th century to Goa, brought by the Portuguese.
- In 1579, Catholics print first Tamil book at Cochin. In 1773, the first Malayalam book was printed by them. Dutch Protestant missionaries print 32 Tamil texts.
- First regular periodical in India, Hickey’s Bengal Gazette, in English in the late 17th century.
- First Indian Newspaper to appear, the weekly, Bengal Gazette by Raja Rammohun Roy’s associate Gangadhar Bhattacharya.
- Early 19th century, age of reforms, intense debates around religious issues.
- Traditional practices criticised, new ideas emerged.
- Hindu Orthodoxy debated widow remarriage, sati, monotheism, idolatry and Brahmanical priesthood.
- Rammohun Roy published Sambad Kaunudi from 1821. Hindu Orthodoxy published Samachar Chandrika to oppose his ideas.
- Two Persian newspapers published – Jam-i-Jahan Nama and Shamsul Akhbar.
- Gujarati newspaper Bombay Samachar was published from 1822.
- The Ulema, afraid of the English changing the Muslim Personal Laws, printed newspapers in Urdu and Persian.
- Deoband Seminary, founded in 1867, published fatwas telling Muslims how to behave.
- Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas was first printed from Calcutta in 1810.
- The Naval Kishore Press of Lucknow, known as the most prestigious publishing house in this period, made great contribution to Urdu publication.
- Shri Venkateshwar Press of Bombay, another famous firm, published literature in vernacular languages.
- Thus, print connected various people, communities, sects in different parts of the country.
- It contributed to the growth of pan-Indian identities.
SECTION E— NEW FORMS OF PUBLICATION
- Printing created a desire for new kinds of writing.
- The novel soon became a distinct form of print. Other genres of writing were lyrics, short stories, essays about social and political matters.
- A new visual culture was born– painters like Ravi Varma produced images for mass circulation.
- People could decorate their houses with cheap prints and calendars, even the poor could afford them.
- Cartoons and caricatures in pro-British publications lampooned nationalists and nationalist cartoons criticised imperial rule.
- Women were affected by print culture. Literate fathers and brothers started educating them. Schools for women were set up.
- There were dissenters too. Hindus believed that an educated woman would be widowed soon.
- Muslims believed she would be corrupted by reading Urdu romances. Some rebellious women defied this prohibition.
- Examples: (i) A girl from conservative Muslim family learnt Urdu herself.
(ii) In the early 19th century, Rashsundari Debi, a young married girl learnt to read in the secrecy of her kitchen. She later wrote her autobiography, Amar Jiban in 1876.
Women Writers from 1860 onwards were:
(i) Kailashbashini Debi, a Bengali, wrote how women were imprisoned at home, denied education, forced to do hard domestic work and was treated unjustly.
(ii) Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai of Maharashtra wrote in 1880s, about the plight of upper-caste Hindu women, specially widows, with great anger.
(iii) A Tamil novel expressed through a woman character about reading denied to women.
(iv) Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossein, a noted educationist and literary figure, condemned men for denying education to women.
- By the 1870s, Hindi printing progressed.
- In Punjab: Early 20th century, Ram Chaddha’s Istri Dharam Vichar, taught women to be obedient housewives. The Khalsa Tract Society published many cheap booklets with the same message. Battala, an entire area in Central Calcutta, was totally devoted to printing popular books, sold by peddlers from door to door.
- Print and Poor People: Poor people could now buy cheap small books sold at crossroads. Public libraries were set up in early 20th century.
- Jyotiba Phule, a Maratha reform pioneer, wrote on behalf of low-castes. His Gulamgiri (1871) highlighted the injustices of caste system.
- In the 20th century, Dr B.R. Ambedkar of Maharashtra and E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker in Madras (known as Periyar) wrote against the caste system, read by people all over India.
- Workers like Kashibaba wrote and published Chhote Aur Bade Ka Sawal in 1938. An expose’ of caste and class distinctions.
- A millworker of Kanpur wrote under the name of ‘Sudarshan Chakra’ between 1935-1955, a collection named Sacchi Kavitayan.
- Millworkers of Bangalore cotton mills set up libraries to educate themselves.
SECTION F— PRINT AND CENSORSHIP
- Before 1798, colonial rulers (East India Company) did not impose censorship.
- The 1820s saw the Calcutta Supreme Court pass regulations to control freedom of press.
- The Revolt of 1857 changed the attitude of the British. Englishmen demanded repression of the ‘Native Press’.
- In 1878, Vernacular Press Act was passed.
- It gave the government extensive rights to censor reports and editorials in vernacular newspapers.
- Militant protests and publication of more nationalist newspapers was the reaction.
- Punjab revolutionaries were deported in 1907. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was imprisoned in 1908 for writing against the deportation in his Kesari. Gandhiji condemned the Vernacular Press Act in 1922. He saw freedom of press as a powerful vehicle of expressing and cultivating public opinion.