Notes for revision of the chapter ‘Print Culture and the Modern World’ Class 10 NCERT History Book. These are shorter version of the detailed notes of the same chapter. You can study more study materials by clicking here.
I. Emergence of the Printing Techniques
What were the early developments in printing books?
i. Printed materials are found in the form of books, journals, official circulars, cinema posters, newspapers, prints of famous paintings, theatre programmes, calendars, diaries and leaflets handed out at street corners.
ii. Print culture has moulded the modern world.
Printing in China
i. The earliest form of print technology that was developed in China in the 7th century was woodblock printing technology.
ii. The traditional ‘accordion book’ was folded and stitched at the side.
iii. Imperial China had a vast bureaucratic system that recruited personnel through civil service examinations.
iv. From the 16th century onwards, the number of candidates taking the examination increased, leading to an increase in the demand for copies of textbooks. The use of print diversified by the 17th century, and it was used by merchants and women who read and also published their works.
v. The growth of the reading culture was accompanied by developments in technology. Western printing techniques were imported into China the late 19th century. Shanghai became the hub of the new print culture.
Printing in Japan
i. Hand printing technology was introduced into Japan by Chinese Buddhist missionaries in the 8th century.
ii. The Buddhist Diamond Sutra, printed in AD 868, is the oldest Japanese book.
iii. Bookshops and libraries were filled with books on women, calculations, tea ceremonies, flower arrangements, musical instruments, cooking, and famous tourist spots.
iv. Kitagawa Utamaro was known for his contributions to an art form called ukiyo (‘pictures of the floating world’) that depicted ordinary urban life. These prints travelled to the US and Europe, and influenced artists like Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh.
II. Emergence of the Printing Techniques in Europe
How did printing develop in Europe?
Print technology travels to Europe
i. Silk, spices and paper reached Europe from China through the silk route.
ii. Marco Polo carried the knowledge of woodblock printing from China to Italy, from where the technology spread to other parts of Europe.
iii. Earlier copies of written material were handwritten on costly vellum, which is a parchment made from animal skin. These were meant for aristocratic circles and rich monastic libraries.
iv. Skilled scribes offered their services not only to influential and wealthy patrons but also to booksellers.
v. Woodblock printing became popular as manuscripts could not meet the increasing demand for books.
vi. Woodblock printing was used across Europe to print textiles, religious pictures and brief texts.
Printing press of Gutenberg
i. Johann Gutenberg developed the first known printing press in the 1430s in Strasbourg, Germany, and the first book he printed was the Bible.
ii. From 1450 to 1550, printing presses were established in most European nations, and printers travelled to other countries to find work and help begin new presses.
iii. The number of copies of printed books increased, and the shift to mechanical printing led to the print revolution.
III. Impact of the Print Revolution
What was the impact of printing revolution?
Impact of print revolution
- Print revolution brought a change in the production of books and transformed people’s lives.
- It changed people’s relationship with information and brought new ways of looking at the world.
- Books flooded the market as the time and labour required to produce each copy decreased.
- Books heralded a new era of reading, which was no longer restricted to the elites but became an integral part of common people’s lives.
- Printers published famous ballads and folk tales with picture illustrations for the benefit of the illiterate.
Fear of print
- Print played a vital role in the spread of ideas and encouraged debate and discussions.
- Many were apprehensive that absence of control over printed materials could lead to the spread of rebellious and irreligious thoughts.
- Religious reformer Martin Luther wrote Ninety Five Theses and criticised the rituals of the Roman Catholic Church.
- A printed copy of it was posted on the Wittenberg church door. The book was read widely and created a division within the church, leading to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
- Print stimulated various individual interpretations of faith.
- Menocchio, an Italian miller, read religious books and formulated a view about god that angered the Roman Catholic Church, ultimately leading to his execution.
- The Roman Church was troubled by the multiple questionings of faith and imposed restrictions on publishers and, from 1558, maintained an Index of Prohibited Books.
How did printing culture herald a new era?
- The literacy rate in Europe went up in the 17th and 18th centuries as churches of different denominations established schools in villages.
- Printers produced a vast number of books to cater to the increasing number of readers.
- Booksellers employed pedlars who roamed around villages carrying little books for sale. For instance, in England, low priced chapbooks were carried by chapmen.
- In France, ‘Bibliotheque Bleue’ printed books on poor quality paper for the poor to read.
- Ideas of Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Rousseau, and discoveries of scientists like Isaac Newton influenced people. Ideas about science and rationality became major topics of discussion.
Books – Agents of change
- Books were looked upon as weapons that could liberate the world from tyranny and herald a time of reason.
- Louis Sebastian Mercier, a French novelist, used books as a means of transformation.
- Heroes in Mercier’s books underwent a transformation in the story and became enlightened after reading books.
- In this way, Mercier tried to encourage people to read books and question the prevalent societal norms.
Impact of print culture on French revolution
- Many historians state that print culture was the basis of the French Revolution.
- Print culture popularised the ideas propagated by Enlightenment thinkers, created a culture of debate and dialogue, and mocked the autocratic nature of royalty and nobility.
- Satirical cartoons and caricatures were used to mock the monarchy and clergies. This played a vital role in creating awareness about political issues, especially amongst the illiterate.
- People were exposed to different kinds of literature – philosophies and ideas of Voltaire and Rousseau as well as Church propaganda.
- Print not only shaped people’s ideas, but it also opened the possibility of framing a perspective of one’s own.
IV. Impact of the Printing in the Nineteenth Century
How did printing impact the lives of different sections of the society?
Children as readers
- Children became an important category of readers as primary education became compulsory from the late 19th century.
- Publication of school textbooks became an important part of the publishing industry.
- The popularity of children’s reading materials can be understood from the fact that a press dedicated to children’s books alone was established in 1857 in France.
- Fairy tales and folk tales were published for children, and whatever was considered inappropriate for children was not printed.
- The Grimm brothers in Germany collected folk tales from peasants and edited them and published them in 1812.
Women as readers
- Penny magazines meant for women emphasised proper behaviour and housekeeping.
- Women engaged in reading and writing. Jane Austen, George Eliot and the Bronte sisters were popular novelists whose writings portrayed women’s determination, strength of personality and will.
Workers as readers
- Lending libraries that initially catered to the elite became instruments for educating lower-middle-class people and white-collar workers.
- Penny magazines, published by the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge from 1832 to 1835, were for working-class readers.
- Industrial workers wrote political tracts as well as autobiographies highlighting their struggle.
Innovations in printing press
- The printing press underwent several innovations from metallic to electricity-operated that accelerated printing operations while adding colour to the paper.
- Richard M Hoe of New York invented a power-driven cylindrical press.
- Publishers adopted several strategies to sell their products. In the 1920s, popular works were sold in shilling series in England.
- During the period of economic depression, publishers brought out inexpensive paperback editions due to fear of a decline in book purchases.
V. India and the World of Print
How did printing press help in bringing about a change in the Indian society?
Age of manuscripts
- The tradition of manuscripts in Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic and other languages is old and rich but the copies are fragile and expensive.
- The script in old manuscripts is of a different style and cannot be easily read by later readers.
- Pre-colonial Bengal had a vast network of village primary schools in which students learnt to write but not to read.
Arrival of printing technology
- The printing press came to India for the first time in Goa in mid-16th century with Portuguese missionaries.
- About 50 books were printed in Konkani and Kanara languages by 1674. The first Tamil and Malayalam books were printed by Catholic priests at Cochin in 1579 and 1713 respectively. 32 Tamil texts were printed by Dutch Protestant missionaries.
- James Augustus Hickey edited the Bengal Gazette from 1780. It was a weekly English magazine that was independent of colonial influence. Hickey published several controversial articles pertaining to Company officials leading to his persecution by Governor General Warren Hastings.
- Indians too published Indian newspapers. The first among these was Bengal Gazette by Gangadhar Bhattacharya.
Print media and religious reform
- Print media played a vital role in the spread of ideas that shaped discussions of socio-religious reforms. Ideas were written and printed in local languages to reach a wider audience.
- Muslim ulemas used the cheap lithographic press to publish Urdu and Persian translations of the holy Quran. They printed religious newspapers as they feared that colonial rulers would change Muslim personal laws and promote conversion among Muslims.
- The Deoband Seminary published several fatwas explaining the significance of Islamic doctrines and giving Muslim readers guidance on how to behave.
- Urdu print helped different Muslim sects in propagating their various ideas.
- Print encouraged the reading of religious texts among Hindus. The first edition of Tulsidas’ Ramcharitamanas came from Calcutta in 1810.
- Cheap lithographic editions flooded the markets of North India by the mid-19th century, which made it possible for religious people to access texts at any time and place as they were printed and in portable form.
- Printed works enabled the creation of a pan-Indian identity as it connected communities from different parts of India.
What were the new forms of publications beginning from the late 19th century?
New forms of print
- Printing created the desire for writing as people wanted to see their emotions, relationships, lives and experiences reflected in what they read.
- The novel served this need and opened a new world of experience.
- Lyrics, essays, short stories, social and political commentary entered the world of reading.
- These forms of writing emphasised intimate emotions as well as social and political rules that moulded people’s lives.
- Reproduction of visual images in multiple copies became easier due to an increase in printing presses.
New forms of print – II
- Raja Ravi Varma produced several images for mass circulation.
- Calendars and cheap prints available in the market could be easily purchased by the poor to decorate their homes and workplaces.
- Caricatures and cartoons on political and social issues were being published in newspapers and journals by the 1870s.
Print and women – I
- Middle-class women began reading extensively, and liberal-minded husbands and fathers sent their wives and daughters to schools to receive education.
- Journals, too, carried articles encouraging women to receive education. Many women wrote about their lives and experiences. For instance, Kailash Bashini Debi, Pandita Ramabai and Tarabai Shinde wrote about the miserable domestic lives of women.
- From the 1870s, substantive Hindi printing began and the publications devoted a large part to women’s education, widow remarriage, widowhood and the national movement.
Print and women – II
- Folk literature was printed widely from the early 20th century in Punjab, teaching women to be obedient wives and highlighting the qualities of a good wife. For instance, Ram Chaddha wrote Istri Dharm Vichar to teach women to be obedient and disciplined wives.
- The Battala in Bengal was devoted to printing low-cost religious works as well as literature that was infamous in nature due to its obscene content. By the late 19th century, these books carried coloured lithographs and woodcuts to homes, enabling women to read them in their free time.
Print and poor people
- Public libraries were established in the early 20th century, which expanded people’s access to books. These libraries were located in towns as well as villages.
- Jyotiba Phule wrote powerfully against the caste system in Gulamgiri as did B R Ambedkar and E V Ramaswamy Naicker.
- Factory workers like Kashibaba from Kanpur wrote about caste and class exploitation.
- Cotton mill workers of Bangalore set up libraries for worker’s education after being inspired by the example set by Bombay mill workers.
- Social reformers sponsored these libraries to discourage excessive drinking among workers and increase literacy and propagate the message of nationalism.
How did the colonial government respond to printing culture in India?
Censorship laws before 1798
- Under the East India Company, the colonial state did not enforce censorship before 1798 and instead focused on controlling printed matter written against Company officials.
- Governor General Bentinck approved the revision of press laws after receiving petitions by English and vernacular newspapers editors.
- Thomas Macaulay, a colonial official, framed rules that restored earlier press freedoms.
Vernacular Press Act
- The vernacular press became assertively nationalist, which provoked the colonial government to pass the Vernacular Press Act in 1878.
- The Act gave the government powers to censor editorials and reports that appeared in vernacular newspapers.
- If the reports were seditious in nature, the publication would receive a warning, and if the warning was ignored, then the press would be seized and the printing machinery confiscated.
Print and nationalism
- Nationalist newspapers grew in number despite the stringent measures and reported on colonial atrocities.
- Bal Gangadhar Tilak wrote about the deportation of Punjab revolutionaries in his Marathi newspaper Kesari, which led to his imprisonment in 1908.