We take book publishing for granted. Today, anyone can be a published author. In fact, you don’t have to print a book to make it available to people. Electronic “printing” by way of eBooks and PDFs (Portable Document Format) can send information around the world without the need of ink and paper.
Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1398-1468)
Publishing was not always this easy. Gutenberg’s “introduction of mechanical movable type printing to Europe started the Printing Revolution and is widely regarded as the most important invention of the second millennium, the seminal event which ushered in the modern period of human history. It played a key role in the development of the Renaissance, Reformation, the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific revolution and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.”
Prior to Gutenberg, if you wanted a pamphlet or book copied, you had to hire someone to make a hand-written copy.
For approximately 4,500 years before Gutenberg invented the printing press, books were produced by hand. They were written on surfaces of clay, papyrus, wax, and parchment. Law books, cookbooks, works of philosophy and science, great comedies and tragedies were painstakingly copied, and all too often lost through war and neglect.
History 101: Lessons from the Past
History 101 is an overview course designed to help Christians understand their place in the historical timeline. With study materials in audio, video, and print, History 101 will give the student of history much to think about. This course will point the way forward by revealing how we got where we are. You will be thrilled and encouraged by the stories from ancient and not-so-ancient history.Buy Now
There were very few Bibles, and the Bibles that were available were often under lock and key by the authority of the Roman Catholic Church. William Tyndale was executed, strangled and burned at the stake, for daring to translate the Bible into English. He was deemed a “heretic.”
The moveable type printing press changed everything. There were no longer any information gatekeepers.
It has been estimated that there were perhaps 30,000 books in all of Europe before Gutenberg printed the Latin translation of the Bible; less than 50 years later, there were as many as 10 to 12 million books. A printer used Martin Luther’s “95 Theses,” an invitation of clergy to debate any or all of the propositions listed.
The 95 Theses became the catalyst for reformation because they were soon after translated from Latin into German and, thanks to the technology of the printing press, were made available to the public. Within a year of the initial distribution of the theses, they had already been translated into other languages and ignited the Reformation movement in other countries because, to those who read them or heard them read, they represented a direct challenge to the authority of the Church from a respected clergyman in good standing.
Samuel F.B. Morse (1791-1872)
Like printing, we take for granted how easy it is to communicate with people today over long distances. Prior to telegraphy, the fastest mode of communication was on horseback (e.g., Pony Express) and later by the development of the railroads. Express trains could reach speeds of 40 mph on good tracks. Telegraphy had been around for some time, but it had not been developed enough to make it popular and easy to use.
This all changed because of a tragedy in the life of Samuel F.B. Morse:
“After having established his reputation as a portrait painter, in his middle age Morse contributed to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system based on European telegraphs. He was a co-developer of the Morse Code and helped to develop the commercial use of telegraphy.”
“While Morse was painting a portrait of Lafayette, a horse messenger delivered a letter from his father that read, ‘Your dear wife is convalescent.’ The next day he received a letter from his father detailing his wife’s sudden death. Morse immediately left Washington for his home at New Haven, leaving the portrait of Lafayette unfinished. By the time he arrived, his wife had already been buried. Heartbroken that for days he was unaware of his wife’s failing health and her death, he decided to explore a means of rapid long-distance communication.”
This happened in 1825.
In 1832, the first message sent over Morse’s telegraph from Washington, DC, to Baltimore, Maryland, was, “What hath God wrought?” (Num. 23:23). What has GOD brought to pass?
Overnight, the speed of information went from a few miles per hour — horseback — to 186,000 miles per second and hasn’t gotten any faster since, but the devices that are used to transmit voice and data are the stuff of science fiction.
Wilson Tucker (1914-2006), who had been writing science fiction since the 1930s, made an interesting observation: “To my knowledge, not a single writer of the early era foresaw email or the introduction of the internet concept. We were busy with variations of the telephone, radio phones, picture phones and the like. Yes, we missed the boat.”
Cyrus West Field (1819-1892)
Prior to the age of radio and the internet, voice and data over long distances relied on sending messages over copper wires. Putting up poles and stringing wires was arduous enough on land, how do you bridge an ocean?
The first underwater cable was laid between a 400-mile (640 km) telegraph line connecting St. John’s, Newfoundland, with Nova Scotia, coupling with telegraph lines from the U.S. On August 16, 1858, the first message sent via the cable was, “Europe and America are united by telegraphy. Glory to God in the highest; on earth, peace and good will toward men.” It took eight years of repeated struggles to tie together the two sides of the Atlantic. By 1940, there were 40 telegraph lines across the Atlantic.
Worldview 101: A Biblical View of the World
Utilizing audio, video, and printed material, Worldview 101 will equip the student with the tools necessary to "think God's thoughts" about the world and the created order. It will reveal and re-direct the humanistic thought patterns that exist in each of us. The Enlightenment promised freedom, but brought slavery to man's ideas instead. Worldview 101 points the way forward to true freedom of thought in Christ.Buy Now