“What gunpowder did for war, the printing press has done for the mind”
– Wendall Phillips
When thinking about the phenomenon of the printing press, it has become accepted to refer to the mainstream press discussed in Crowley & Heyer, however this is not the only method of printing known.
The printing press referred to in Crowley & Heyer was invented in the Holy Roman Empire by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440. Gutenberg, a goldsmith by trade, invented a hand mould to create a metal movable type, and added screws and other existing technologies to create a printing system. It is said by Einstein (1980) that a single Renaissance press could reproduce 3600 pages per workday, compared to the inferior woodblock printing press system used in East Asia that could produce approximately 2000 pages per day.
The woodblock printing system of East Asia is the first method of printing known to man, dating back to 206 BC. Such a technique, originating in China, is a method for printing text, images and patterns on textiles and eventually on paper. From woodblock printing came Ukiyo-e, a famous genre of Japanese prints. Ukiyo-e translates to pictures of the floating world and rose to prominence during the 17th century. The creations of Ukiyo-e, described as beautiful artwork, was aimed at the merchant class in the urbanising modern Tokyo. Amongst the popular themes were depictions of beautiful women, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, scenes from history and folk tales, landscapes, flora and erotica (Salter, 2001).
Woodblock prints started receiving more attention and became highly regarded when Hishikawa Moronobu, a Japanese artist gained fame for popularising the Ukiyo-e genre of prints and paintings during the 1670’s. Moronobu slowly incorporated colour into his artworks, however this was done by hand and only for special commissions. Ukiyo-e, and the creations thereof continued to evolve and by the 1790’s, full colour prints were being produced (Lane, 1978).
Below are examples of woodblock prints, Ukiyo-e and Moronobu’s famous work.
Crowley, D & Heyer, P 2011, Communication in history: technology, culture, society, 6th edn, Pearson, Sydney
Einstein, E 1980, ‘The printing press as an agent of change’, Journal of Advertising Research, vol. 33, no. 2, viewed 30 April 2015, https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=WR1eajpBG9cC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=printing+press&ots=EqHGQ218kM&sig=TIDD_-LUPJfKQ8TB7mPB8BKaV6I#v=onepage&q=printing%20press&f=false
Lane, R 1978, Images of a floating world, viewed 30 April 2015, https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=4T-kJB8vKvcC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=related:tkEqOzHwtBsJ:scholar.google.com/&ots=SCVQJCdDwX&sig=rSmef1yj-Jxkt_D89A2p8N9DbH8#v=onepage&q&f=false
Phillips, W 2001, Wendall Phillips Quotes, viewed 30 April 2015, http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/wendellphi159542.html
Salter, R 2001, Japanese Woodblock Printing, viewed 30 April 2015, https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=WqmzsLn9ww0C&oi=fnd&pg=PA6&dq=woodblock+printing&ots=eSVvKE2-Bd&sig=RNLPnR_edpS63fdK–N0Hc6U5sQ#v=onepage&q=woodblock%20printing&f=false