The development of the Gutenberg Press was a true watershed moment in world history. One bit of history not often mentioned is the fact that it took Gutenberg almost ten years to finalize his press, as he utilized a mechanical screw-secured device to maintain consistency in print ability and presentation of the printed page. Even this micro-development process laid foundation to what would be an economic impact.
The Gutenberg Press was invented in 1439 by Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg. A German goldsmith, Gutenberg discovered the concept of movable type printing, which facilitated creation of the printing press itself. His first published project was the Gutenberg Bible, a beautiful book and also one of the most important ever printed.
It was important because it showed clearly that the Roman Catholic Church had not been telling the truth about the Bible and its contents. Once people were able to read printed Bibles they learned that they'd been lied to by the Church. This sense of injury led to the Reformation, and to Protestantism as well. Protestantism began just the way it sounds -- as a protest.
Eventually, nearly a hundred years later, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to a church door and set off a revolution. Religious wars followed that did not conclude until 1648 as the power structure attempted to retain its footing despite information, for the first time, pouring forth from printing presses and being distributed throughout the masses.
The Gutenberg Press changed the world irrevocably. No longer could that day's power elite insist on rhetorical fantasies developed for their own support and pretend they were other than man-made doctrine. Reality could finally be communicated and gradually the factually false artifices that had structured society collapsed.
Some Impacts of the Gutenberg Press:
The Industrial Revolution
Though the Industrial Revolution did not occur until much later, the process that Gutenberg used to continually improve his invention became a model for the way manufacturers would theorize mass production. Starting with a basic idea, product development is still a primary component to all industry, contemporarily called research and development. With Gutenberg, it was more like "tinkering" with new adjustments for an improved product of the means, or the press itself, and the ends, which was the printed word.
This research and development process was actually popularized during the Renaissance. The Renaissance began well before invention of the press, and is commonly associated with the artistic expansion of the times, beginning with Italy's de Medici family. The industrial impact was macroeconomic.
This was critical to developing a middle class through the free-market system that still exists today. The impact on science was probably of greater application than the humanities of arts and letters, as Aristotle's methodical approach to reasoning became widely read through his minimal primary work On Man in the Universe, which addresses several academic arenas of both science and society.
Government is another institution impacted greatly by the Gutenberg Press. The great thinkers of classical Greece were rediscovered, and the acceleration of new ideas began with the era of the press. Concepts of socialism, libertarianism, individualism and collectivism all began to be more widely considered during this era.
The printed word allowed for broader dissemination of ideas, both current and historical, and the opportunity to have ideas circulated with regularity, and to many more people. Long before the development of television, this was the primary communication means of the Renaissance. Newspapers became of ultimate importance, hence the term "the press."
The establishment of a new social compact theory that focused on the individual gave birth to the concepts of privacy, private property and individual liberty. The discipline of religion was largely affected by this acceptance of individual entity, laying the foundation for the development of contemporary society. Global governmental structures were greatly influenced by the "free marketplace of ideas."
The 21st Century Internet Reformation
Today, the Internet is providing the world with another Gutenberg Press. The results of the information available on the Internet have set off an Internet Reformation.