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Talk:Global spread of the printing press


How to add further locationsEdit

Hello, I just opened this new article. One thing: I am aware that my source (Meyers Konversationslexikon) is pretty dated, but if you add new locations or revise current ones, please do so by giving a reference, so that the article becomes a reliable source for us all. Thanks Gun Powder Ma 17:25, 30 October 2006 (UTC)

Good start. so the users will know what item is verified as it gets improved, I've added a note. DGG 04:06, 31 October 2006 (UTC)
Where should we ask users to add the footnote? With the date, the town, the printer or what? We need a uniform, intuitively understandable method, I just realise. Gun Powder Ma 01:47, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Should be renamed, as seems only intended to cover movable type/Gutenberg style printingEdit

Johnbod 03:27, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

What means 'only'? And renamed to what? Since all printing today, with an annual output of hundreds of millions of printed documents, is ultimately derived from Gutenberg printing, and since Gutenberg printing spread in a long process all around the globe to every single country, the name of the article is as appropriate as one can get. Printing as we know it is synonymous with Gutenberg printing. Regards Gun Powder Ma 04:08, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

Actually, I was wondering the same, because a week or so ago I was going to propose a page : spread of printing from china & Korea, in which all the various speculations could be put--but it does not now seem necessary as it was handled very well otherwise. I do think it could be clarified, if we could find a name, as I do not like any I can think of
  • Spread of classical printing begs the question, as the reader doesnt know what we mean by classical,
  • Spread of Gutenberg printing isn't idiomatic English, Spread of Gutenberg's printing isnt right
  • Spread of printing from Germany isn't exact for it includes the first stages within Germany
  • Spread of printing in Europe is something I have seen used, but this article covers beyond Europe also.

We should certainly discuss this first, for we will have to change a number of links. Johnbod, you've made the general suggestion. any specific ideas? DGG 06:24, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

- well I had seen the difficulties you set out, but I think something is needed: Maybe :

  • spread of movable type printing (or P with MT)
  • Modern spread of printing (or S of MP)
  • spread of printing in the Modern period

- something like that Johnbod 14:27, 23 November 2006 (UTC)

Is this topic dead? I propose 'Spread of the Printing Press', since it is specifically about the spread of Guteberg's invention, and not about the spread of cloth printing, woodblock printing, newspaper printing, laser printing or any of several other uses of the word 'printing'. lk 09:46, 11 November 2007 (UTC)

Seems like except for one objection, the consensus is to rename. I have done so. Note that all other 'Spread of ....' pages refer to the most ancient historical use of the term. Do not revert without proper discussion. lk (talk) 07:06, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

Grosse DeutschelandEdit

Looking at your "Germany" list, this is bound to cause trouble soon! Do you know where these places actually are? When was Meyers published - 1942? I suggest you change the heading to German-language printing (which I imagine is correct), anglicise the place-names & link them. Otherwise you are bound to have NPOV trouble.Johnbod 02:37, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

The only one who is in breach of WP guidelines is you. With comments (and headings) like this you only disqualify yourself. Gun Powder Ma 01:24, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
I take it this means you cannot be bothered to clean up your mess! Or possibly that you think it acceptable to describe as "Germany" the capitals of Austria, the Czech Republic (plus several Bohemian towns), and to use "Ofen" for Budapest! Johnbod 15:42, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
You do not seem to understand. Unless you edit your brain dead headline, you are in no position to ask anything, let alone talk threatening with guidelines with which you are totally in breach. Gun Powder Ma 23:56, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I suggest you read the article Großdeutschland - this is exactly what your scheme is saying Johnbod 00:31, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
I suggest you read from when the source actually is, a reference which had been actually on the page all along. Then you may want to go back, edit your brain dead headline, edit your brain dead reference to 1942, or I suggest you may want to edit other article where you are not so demonstrably in conflict with NPOV guidelines. Gun Powder Ma 00:38, 16 December 2006 (UTC)


The names of the cities need to be put into the usual English form, and given links. An NPOV solution needs to be found for the heading "Germany" - includes Prague, Wrocław, Vienna etc. I have done a few. Where/what is "Kronstadt" - it's not the one in Russia (founded on swamp by Peter the great in 1710)? Johnbod 16:20, 15 December 2006 (UTC)

To be exact "Germany" depends on the time and the city, see Johannes Gutenberg which has

'''Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg''' (c. [[1398]] – [[February 3]], [[1468]]) was a [[Holy Roman Empire|German]] goldsmithDGG 00:37, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Of course it does, but Prague, Pilsen etc were never in it. And if we are taking that tack, what is Belgium doing there? As you know, there are policies, admittedly complicated ones, for all this, which Ma has chosen to ignore completely.

Johnbod 00:43, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

are you sure about Prague? From [[Prague], it was part in the 13th c. and the 16th. But the relevant date was 1478, when things were a little confused there. :) Even when the EB was printed, there was no HRE. It may actually have been in the HRE in 1478, since--unlike the WP, that article was designed for scholars.DGG
It was always in the kingdom of Bohemia, and the Kings were the HRE's at various points (and later the Austrian Emperors), but that don't make it German, any more than the many Italian etc bits of the HRE. Try suggesting at the Prague article it used to be in Germany! Johnbod 01:21, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Depends on your definition of "German". Try suggesting at the Prague university article that the university was not the first German university founded! Gun Powder Ma 01:43, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
But not the first university in Germany! It's not defining German, but defining Germany, the term used. I have been suggesting all along we move from "Germany" to some use of "German". Johnbod 01:54, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Won't work. First, because we do not know of the vast majority of instances listed in what language they printed. In what language e.g. did they first print in 1479 in Toulouse? French, Provencal, Occidental, Spanish, Basque or Catalan? Second, because the term 'language' is itself vague. Did the American settlers already print in American or British English? Did the early printers in the Netherlands print in German or already in Dutch (= D[e]ut[s]ch)? When did Dutch, a German dialect, become a language of its own? Is it even a language of its own (the spectrum of Chinese dialects for example is much broader, still they are all called Chinese)? Who can answer these questions with authority? Gun Powder Ma 11:05, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Will work better than using Germany. I only suggest departing from states for German, Greek, and Hebrew, so Toulouse is not an issue. Dutch is normally regarded as a separate language from earlier than this (in discussions of manuscripts). American English is not regarded as a different language even now (what is Wikipedia in?). Latin, which you don't mention, is actually much more of a problem, but I think one has to assume a mix of Latin & vernacular books for all German printers, which from my limited knowledge would be correct in the majority of cases. No scheme will be perfect; I think we all recognise this Johnbod 16:04, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
I have found "Kronstadt", listed under Hungary; it is now Braşov in Transylvania, Romania. One of the German centres there. Johnbod 16:15, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Modest proposal: How about Germany, Austria, and German printers in Central Europe - evades most of these problems

Johnbod 16:35, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Laugingen does not appear as a place in either German Wiki or Google that I can see, except as a Surname & in medieval contexts. Seems connected to Augsburg - maybe is now a suburb/town district or uses a different spelling? Anyone know?

Btw "Ofen" is strictly Buda not Budapest (both sides of the river), but I think Budapest is ok to use. Johnbod 16:52, 16 December 2006 (UTC)


There is no easy way to categorize all the places where printing was done, especially in central Europe. My impression was that Meyer ordered the places also according to the language the printers used (taking Latin aside). Therefore, Prague belongs to Germany (apart from being a part of the Old Reich then), as the printers (next to the university, the imperial chancellery) used the German language. Then again, there were sooner or later Czech language printers. All I want to suggest for the moment is do not change the category of te places before we have found here a common solution. It just becomes a mess of what has been until now an orderly structure. Regards Gun Powder Ma 00:48, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

That was, you may recall through the red mist, my original suggestion above (to reorder by language). Plus it avoids you saying Florence is in Greece. And I wonder if those Rabbis in ?Lisbon were printing in Portuguese or Hebrew? Johnbod 00:59, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

Sorry, but next time try putting your facts in a different passage from your diatribe. Listing by language would destroy the 'spread of printing' character IMO pretty much. Also, it is far from being an unambigous criteria. I suggest we replace 'Germany' with 'Holy Roman Empire' which would solve most problems. To do much more is trying to impose technocracy on history, which won't work. We can also add another column for 'language', but actually I would prefer 'comments' here. And "Florence" is anyway a later insertion not done by Meyer. Gun Powder Ma 01:23, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Well I am am sympathetic to that approach, but really I think the only way is either go "German-language printers" or similar , "Greek-language" "Hebrew"(if so),& leave the rest by country, or use modern territories, which I agree would not be best. All sorts of places (eg Belgium & chunks of Italy) were in the HRE. Johnbod 01:36, 16 December 2006 (UTC)

names in generalEdit

This is a page intended for the non-specialist as well as the specialist, and i think it is better to use the modern names, and the modern countries--otherwise it needs an index. (unsigned comment by DGG)

Totally unhistorical. Would also destroy the 'spread of printing' character pretty much. Gun Powder Ma 01:25, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Well, it has the advantage that we need not argue over the history here & can concentrate of verifying the dates and the names in that listing--since the source is a little old. How about (now in ...) or (in what is now...) or see also ... Does anyone here really thinks able to mediate between Eastern European borders? DGG 05:44, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
We would stop arguing about countries and borders and start arguing about languages and dialects. Where again would you draw the exact line between Dutch as a German dialect and Dutch as a separate language? Gun Powder Ma 18:43, 21 December 2006 (UTC)
You are the one who has been insisting on countries. The Dutch/German divide is normally taken pretty much along the current borders, which (near enough) were the borders of Burgundy at the time. Obviously including Belgium in the list is anomalous, but I don't have very strong views on that.

Johnbod 19:03, 21 December 2006 (UTC)

Question: What historical explanatory power could have an entry which says that in 1475 in "Breslau, Poland", a printing press was established? Don't people then automatically assume that

  • Breslau was a Polish city - which it was not.
  • They printed there in Polish - which they did not.
  • That the printing press reached Poland in 1474 - which it did not. Don't they? Gun Powder Ma 20:03, 3 January 2007 (UTC)
Hence I repeat my proposal of Dec 16th above: How about Germany, Austria, and German printers in Central Europe - evades most of these problems?
- You must know it can't stay as Germany, which wasn't true even then Johnbod 20:29, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

Three of the many counter-points coming to my mind:

  • Lack of consistence: Why not "Germany", but "Spain" which was constituted as late as 1707?
  • Lack of unambigousness: "German printers" were also active in many other parts of Europe, especially in Italy. Do you think the readers will understand your differentiation between them and their colleagues in "Central Europe"?
  • Lack of methodology: The concept of language is actually no less problematic than the concept of nationhood or national borders. Was Dutch then a separate language or just another German dialect? Did they print in Castellano or in Spanish? Do we have to say they printed in Middle-English or in English?

I would still favour a solution around the term "Holy Roman Empire" which is the closest to history. Gun Powder Ma 21:02, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

First, you still have not adressed the point Under "German printers" you would also have to place much of the early Italian printers

wait a minute, we are not talking about printers who come from Germany, we are talking about printing done in Germany (or in Italy). There are two things easy to tell--one is the language of the book, the other is the imprint. !
and how about (now in Germany), or Czech Republic or whatever? This discussion is getting absurd. I could easily take it to another degree of absurdity, by discussing your interpretation that Spain wasn't a nation until 1707. We are just interested in identifying. DGG 02:19, 4 January 2007 (UTC)

Whom are you addressing and what are you actually arguing for? It is clear that a category "German printers in xyz" would be an anomaly in a list otherwise ordered by region. If we set that precedence, we would be obliged to go all the way and remodel for example also printing in America as "Spanish printers in America", since there wasn't then neither a state of Mexico, nor Argentine nor Peru. Nor were there India, Turkey and many other states. Either we expect from the readers some transmission logic or this article will fail due to being overstilized by its editors. Regards Gun Powder Ma 15:35, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Why on earth would we be "obliged" to do this? There are many other anomalies in the list - Belgium (modern), Scotland (historical)- but these are not confusing in the same way as Germany. The current list includes many places (Prague, Brno, Trento) that have never been within any generally-accepted geographical concept of Germany (apart from you-know-what), and others that were not then in Germany, are not now in Germany, but were in Germany for periods in between. You have not seriously addressed my solution that you have reverted and you are the only person who has objected to it in the three weeks since I proposed it here. I will therefore put it back - please do not start edit-warring over it. Johnbod 16:57, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

"Obliged" in order to keep it consistent. Since you did not address any of my numerous objections in any meaningful way, I fail to see how you went ahead with editing the article nonetheless. The argument that over the last three weels nobody objected to your proposal hardly counts considering that some people actually away from the Internet over Christmas and New Year...Gun Powder Ma 02:51, 6 January 2007 (UTC)

I have described above how the current version is inconsistent in many ways, & also manages to find the worst of all possible solutions re "Germany". You choose not to deal with my arguments at all, but to leave blatently incorrect content under what is supposed to be the modern definition of Germany. I am patient. Johnbod 02:58, 6 January 2007 (UTC)
And you have continually failed to describe why your version should be less inconsistent, when you pick out one "anomaly" and leave all the others in peace. By which criteria anyway? So far your 'solution' is a classical case of 'out of the frying pan into the fire' and I don not like the double standard involved. Actually, you know what, we are not far from one another. I propose to make one category "HRE" and several subcategories like "Germany", "Austria" if you like, "Bohemia", "Belgium", "Holland", "Switzerland", perhaps also (northern) "Italy". Gun Powder Ma 03:14, 6 January 2007 (UTC)
I suppose that would be an improvement on the current situation, although the Netherlands would also need to be included, and some places (Wroclaw I think, the Czech ones, maybe others) would still be a problem, as not in the HRE then, nor of course now. You would also be mixing German & Dutch language printing, which would be a pity - plus it would destroy the simple chronological aspect of the current "Germany" category. It still seems clearly less satisfactory than my solution & I don't understand why you prefer it. I think it's time to let some others comment on the two suggestions. Johnbod 03:23, 6 January 2007 (UTC)

stranded comments re languageEdit

Language would be a separate and different list--consider Italy,where there was the first printing for Italian, I think Greek, and certainly Hebrew. (as for Lisbon, I need to check).DGG 01:18, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
First printing in Hebrew is not currently listed, and should be. Do you have the info? Can go in the comments box, like music Johnbod 17:07, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
I have several conflicting sources. I'll need to check.DGG 03:34, 17 December 2006 (UTC)

as for how to arrange itEdit

there just is no one way. a straightforward one by dates is also useful. But let s get this one finished by city and by language, & then several arrangements can be done. This list is long, but not all that long compared to others. There is a guideline for names of cities, at WP:PLACESDGG 06:50, 22 December 2006 (UTC)

Why don't we just open up a new article, this time by the criteria 'language'? Gun Powder Ma 23:37, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
that would not solve the remaining issues on this one, and we all agree we don't know enough about what languages all these printers actually used. Do you fancy researching this? Johnbod 23:43, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
What I know is that there are several articles at WP concerning the List of tallest buildings and structures in the world#See also, each according to its own criteria. Perhaps we should just leave the idea of making a list according to the right and definite criteria, and instead give room to different ways of representing the spread of printing. This would also be in the spirit of WP. Gun Powder Ma 23:56, 23 December 2006 (UTC)
History of the book contains a list of first printed books, mostly by language. Man vyi 09:30, 26 December 2006 (UTC)


The article states that: "Due to religious qualms, Sultan Bayezid II. prohibited printing in Arabic script in the Ottoman empire in 1483 on death penalty, but underground printing was done by Jews as well as the Greek and Armenian communities".

In fact, the Jewish ans Christian printers were not operating in "underground". They were given permission to print, as long as they don't print Arabic script. (which at the time was also used for Turkish). —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 16:20, 1 February 2007 (UTC).

Provide a source and then go agead with an edit. Regards Gun Powder Ma 16:56, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

I would like to see more information about this - for example how many books a population had, where they got them from, were they imported, how literate the population was, what variety of books they had access to.

For example

Printing and Interest Restrictions in Islam & Christianity: An Economic Theory of Inhibitive Law Persistence

Jared Rubin California State University, Fullerton

Islamic Law and Law of the Muslim World Paper No. 08-10

Abstract: Until recently, many scholars attributed the divergence in Middle Eastern and Western European economic development to the "conservative nature" of Islam. This paper departs from such scholarship, suggesting that institutions supporting economically inhibitive laws are more likely to be self-enforcing in the Muslim world - providing an appearance of conservatism. A theoretical model inspired and substantiated by the history of interest and printing restrictions in Islam and Christianity suggests that this outcome emanates from the greater degree to which Islamic political authorities derive legitimacy from the dictates of religious authorities.

-- (talk) 16:49, 10 May 2009 (UTC)

Should this page be called "Spread of printing" or "Spread of the printing press" ?Edit

I've moved the page back for now, but we need to reach some sort of resolution to this dispute. Hopefully we can do so in a discussion on this talk page. Obviously, since I made the move originally, I think that it should be called spread of the printing press. Let me outline my reasons:

  • Firstly, the word 'printing', as commonly used, would include (apart from the printing press) printing on cloth, woodblock printing, and photographic prints. This page clearly does not address those topics, it describes the spread of the printing press after it's invention in Germany.
  • Secondly, all 'Spread of ....' pages refer to the most ancient historical use of the term. For example, Spread of Christianity discusses the apostles, not the Catholic church or Protestanism. By this logic, spread of printing should address Middle Eastern and East Asian printing technologies.
  • Thirdly, if this page is called spread of printing, it's content should mirror the page History of printing, and in fact it may be superflous to and should be merged with that page.
  • Fourthly, to start a page called spread of printing with Germany 1439, would imply that printing did not exist before 1439, overlooking the thousand years of print culture that existed in East Asia before hand.

lk (talk) 07:58, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

  • Agree per above - plus (like Ma & most printy editors here) you forget printmaking, which started slightly before 1400 in Europe & was very widespread before JG got going. Move it back. Johnbod (talk) 12:04, 20 July 2008 (UTC)
I am the creator of the article and the contributor who added most contents to the article. First, I have to say it is less than perfect style to not consult the main contributor, in this case me, especially when the person(s) who change the article name did not contribute themselves to the article. Going around and changing article name is always a sure recipe for trouble. Even more, it is also ignores the WP concept of stressing competence which, naturally, lies with those who worked most at the topic. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 15:08, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

Article name: Spread of PrintingEdit

This article should be named "Spread of printing" as it has been now for over a year and accepted by most contributors who made additions to the article. The reason for keeping are:

  • First, The term printing press is reductive and simplistic. It excludes the number of other technologies and inventions by Gutenberg which allowed the printing (not printing press revolution) revolution to come into being. The Gutenberg entry says it:
Among the specific contributions to printing that are attributed to Gutenberg are the design of metal movable type, the invention of a process for making such type in quantity (mass production), the use of oil-based ink, and the use of a wooden printing press similar to the screw olive and wine presses of the period. His truly epochal invention was the combination of these elements into a practical system. So why should we here reduce GT printing to the printing press when in the article on the man himself the combination of all factors is stressed?
  • Second, the source on which the bulk of material (ca. 80%) rests, Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 4. Aufl., 1888–1890, Eintrag ‚Buchdruckerkunst (Ausbreitung der Erfindung)/ entry Art of printing (spread of the invention), explicitly uses the term "printing". Thus, to rename an article to printing press, although most of the material comes from a source which says printing, would be close to original research.
  • Thirdly, the article name "spread of printing" does actually not imply more that printing did not exist before 1439 or in the Far East, any more than the article name "spread of the steam engine" beginning with Newcomen and Watt would negate the prior inventions of Heron and Branca. Because in both cases, the real story, and the global impact started with the later instances, not the former, which anyway differed considerably in technological detail.
  • Fourthly, in 95% of the world printing started with the introduction of GB printing. Hence the global spread of printing started in 1439, hence the article should be named "spread of printing". And, moreover, as we all know all bulk printing today, including in East Asia, comes from Gutenberg printing.
  • Fifthly, the scientific term for the impact of Gutenberg printing is called the printing revolution, not the printing press revolution. Hence, by analogy, the article should be named "spread of printing", not the more OR-like term "spread of printing press".

Regards Gun Powder Ma (talk) 15:08, 22 July 2008 (UTC)

Remember WP:OWN! In fact the subject & lead definition of it have been contentious throughout the article's history, as this page & the article's edit summary amply demonstrate. All these arguments have been gone over many times before - I suggest you set up an RFC if you want to change the title now. One could easily do articles on the Spread of printmaking, Spread of block-printing, Spread of cloth-printing etc, so the steam engine argument hardly applies. I note your German reference uses "book printing" ("Buchdruckerkunst") in the title too! Johnbod (talk) 15:22, 22 July 2008 (UTC)
I do not agree that the article has been "contentious". The talk page shows you are almost referring to yourself alone there. If you feel like doing articles like you quoted above, feel free to go ahead. They are certainly a good idea! Although you did not bother to really address my arguments, I take up your suggestion and change the article name to "Spread of book printing". Gun Powder Ma (talk) 12:54, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
Certainly not my suggestion, as you well know, & misleading as block-printing printed many books for hundreds of years before JG. It should be returned to "printing press". Johnbod (talk) 13:06, 25 July 2008 (UTC)
Better than 'Spread of Printing', but once again, implies that books were not printed before JG and ignores east asian book culture of previous 1000 years. For me at least, 'spread of book printing' naturally calls up the earliest printed books from ancient China. Also, even in Europe, book printing started before Gutenberg's press. And, Gutenberg's press had a greater effect than just book printing, eg. leaflets, newspapers, advertisements. In fact, having read Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, it seemed that most of the business of a printer involved printing other than book printing.
Gunpowder, if I may speak frankly, why do you object to 'printing press'? I don't see that it denigrates JG's contribution in any way. No one argues that his invention was not significant. Also, printing press makes for a fine shorthand for the technologies associated with the printing technologies that he started. For example, one refers to the 'influence of television', actually meaning the effect of watching at home, pre-programmed studio shows transmitted through a radio network. This is not meant to denigrate television, it's just shorthand that people understand.
lk (talk) 11:34, 26 July 2008 (UTC)
Dear lk, I am going to answer frankly. As you may know by now from my userpage I am mainly active in the history of technology, where one deals with questions of definitions all the time. There are a whole lot of inventions which began at one place earlier, but were discontinued, so that today another invention by someone else is actually the only archetype of all related technologies today. A very common phenomenon.
  • 1. To illustrate my point: An article called "spread of the steam engine" beginning with James Watt and Thomas Newcomen would make perfect sense for me, even if it leaves out the much earlier steam apparatus of Giovanni Branca and Hero of Alexandria. Because, these inventions had very little impact, while the later sparked the industrial revolution. And the same is true for the Far eastern techniques whose local impact were, relatively speaking, a far cry from the printing revolution, which is judged by many commentators to be the most important technological development of the second millenium AD.
  • 2. To reduce the spread of printing to the spread "...of the printing press" implies that today's printing owns anything to the older Far Eastern techniques. It does not, these techniques practically died out for bulk printing in the late 19th century. Spread of book printing is true for 95% of the world, and not wrong for the rest as these techniques were almost confined to China.
To cut a potential long discussion short, how about "Global spread of book printing"? This should meet all your reservations, since it both distinguishes sufficiently from A. other printing (block, cloth, etc.) and B. makes it clear that we are not concerned with separate local developments which have no impact at all on today's printing. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 13:25, 28 July 2008 (UTC)
I despair of having a reasonable discussion. The proposed title does not answer our complaints and seems to me like a way to weasel around the objections. Gunpowder, given your insistence that the history section of the Printing page start with the Phaistos Disc, a singular artifact who's meaning remains debated; how can you argue that a print tradition that served most of the world's population (East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East) for over 1000 years, printing new books to within living memory (mine anyway), and that preceded the gutenberg press by several hundred years, was a "local invention" with "very little impact", comparable with the steam apparatus of Hero of Alexandria. Given that woodblock printing in Europe preceded the gutenberg press by about 100 years, and that the first printed books were likely woodblock printed books, and that this technology was likely transmitted to Europe from East Asia via the Middle East, the very concept of the printed book likely owes much to the Eastern book printing tradition. It is ridiculous to draw an arbitrary line in the sand, and say that before this we owe nothing, and after this everything depends, everything can be traced back to this line. lk (talk) 07:05, 30 July 2008 (UTC)
I agree with the first, main, points, although not that European blockbooks preceded JG - scholarship now thinks they were later by 10 years or so. Woodblock textile printing was very familiar in Europe from well before JG, and came from Asia though. Johnbod (talk) 14:37, 4 August 2008 (UTC)
I am much more prefered to "Global spread of book printing press", provide if lk and Johnbod don't disagree on me. (talk) 18:47, 4 August 2008 (UTC)
I think Book printing unfairly restricts the utility of the invention, as the printing press is used to print more than books. lk (talk) 05:54, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
The way I read the comments on this page, 4 editors including myself find printing to be inaccurate, and printing press a better description of the technology that this page is describing the spread of. Does anyone read the comments another way? lk (talk) 16:08, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
OK, it's been a week. Since no one has objected, I assume that my reading of things is correct. After all, silence implies consent (WP:CON). I'm moving the page back. lk (talk) 01:48, 14 August 2008 (UTC)
I am still missing a detailed and well-founded discussion of the points I made above. Does it ever come? What is wrong with "book printing"? Was its spread global or not? As consensus is hardly about counting votes (which was strange anyway), but about exchanging views and arguments, I would appreciate a clarification. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 04:02, 11 November 2008 (UTC)
What is wrong with "book printing" has been explained above. What is right with "printing press" is best expressed/quoted by yourself above: "His truly epochal invention was the combination of these elements into a practical system" - and the usual shorthand name for that "system" in English is "printing-press", which remember can also be the term for a whole printing business, not just its largest piece of equipment. Johnbod (talk) 04:12, 11 November 2008 (UTC)
It is a pars pro toto which is only understood by an informed minority, that is the problem. Actually, the whole system of Gutenberg went far beyond the press, which in itself was not even new nor original. In contrast, "book printing" is comprehensive and easily understood by those who do not know what a printing press is or how it works. Currently, the article is named "Global spread of the combustible motor", when it should be called "Global spread of the automobile". Gun Powder Ma (talk) 04:43, 11 November 2008 (UTC)

East AsiaEdit

A user asked WP:Japan to find references for the first appearance of the printing press in Japan. After a bit of net research, I came across the name "The Jesuit Mission Press in Japan", and from there to this site, with the yearmark: [1]. I added this into the article, but I'm not sure how to reference the year, nor if the page I linked to is sufficient as reference - it is a commercial site afterall. But the Valignano article does mention Jesuits spreading the printing press in Asia, so one could say with some certainty that the info is correct. TomorrowTime (talk) 07:27, 1 August 2008 (UTC)

More titling talkEdit

Could I suggest changing the "global" to "geographic". Global is an ambigious term at times, and can be defined as "worldwide" (everywhere in the world), across the globe, holistic, universal etc.. Changing to geographic will also allow alignment of a range of "Geographic spread of ..." articles that have not yet acheived global ("worldwide" spread)--ZayZayEM (talk) 00:59, 16 December 2008 (UTC)

Sounds good. Please go ahead. LK (talk) 08:36, 11 May 2009 (UTC)

Map is not OK. According to the map Austria and Slovenia till 1900 didnt have printing maschines. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jarc5 (talkcontribs) 19:28, 29 March 2010 (UTC)

Unsourced additionsEdit

I removed - reluctantly - a number of unsourced, tagged statements. Not that I don't believe them to be factually correct, but without references or Wiki links it is impossible to verify their accuracy. Please provide your sources. :-)


Ferdinand Geldner's 1970 assertion, perpetuated by Man in "The Gutenberg Revolution" 2002) that printing occurred in Africa (an island off the west coast of Guinea) before 1501 (in fact 1494, but the title of this - if true- extremely important work and its author are not appended) is revolutionary and not yet accepted. ISTC makes no mention of it.This would add a whole new continent to the world of incunabula. (talk) 04:07, 12 July 2011 (UTC)

Missing information in tableEdit

Hi Colleagues

I have a suggestion regarding a methodology for accessing much of the information missing in the first table. Under the heading Dates by Location, the first table (Germany, Austria etc) has many gaps for the first printer and also for some dates.

The British Library has been compiling for the last 30 years a catalogue of every known book printed before 1500 - as many of you know these are called 'incunabula'. They have about 28,000 entries and think they are almost complete. Using their database(Incunabula Short Title Catalogue - ISTC)accessed via:, I have identified most of the missing information. For example:

Strassburg Entry. Date: Change to 'Not after 1460' (from 'Before 1462'), Printer: Johann Mentelin Lubeck Entry. Date c.1474, Printer: Lucas Brandis Esslingen Entry. Printer: Conrad Fyner Laugingen Entry: The ISTC includes no works printed before 1500. Suggest omit as not important. Merseburg Entry. Date: 1473, Printer: Lucas Brandis, Comment: He seems tohave started two printeries - see Lubeck. Ulm Entry. Date: 1473, Printer: Johann Zainer

My procedure to obtain the above info was to use the Search facility in the ISTC by entering the City from the Wiki table, and when the list of printed works came up I then used the Sort function to sort by date. This gives the first work printed in the city as well as its date and printer.

Okay, that's my contribution (it's after 4am and I have other work to catch up on). If you approve the methodology, I'll leave it up to one of you regulars to locate the rest of the missing info and update the table.

One pet peeve while I'm at it. I don't think the entry for Mainz should include Peter Schoffer. Surely Johann Gutenberg deserves sole credit as the first printer (perhaps with Johann Fust's name in brackets as investor/financier). John Man in his book 'The Gutenberg Revolution' (Random House, 2010) makes it clear that Peter Schoffer was introduced to the printing business by his uncle (Fust) after the financing arrangements had been made. Schoffer later took over the printery when Fust successfully sued Gutenberg to recover his investment. Man shows that Gutenberg had been working for several years with a few trusted assistants perfecting his printing techniques before starting on his famous Bible with up to 20 assistants (presumably including Schoffer). I think the inventor of printing warrants a solo credit. That's my pitch - I'll leave it to you to consider changing the entry.

Best wishes Andy (talk) 18:37, 14 August 2011 (UTC)

The printing press replaced the manuscript from a global point of viewEdit

This assertion is simply not true. Even in China block printing did not replace the manuscript which remained similarly important and cherished format (Chinese calligraphy). In Europe the block book was actually very little used: only a few hundred specimen are today known, compared to 500.000 extant books printed by the press from 1450-1500 alone. Moreover, block books only came, at least according to the WP article, only after the printing press, so they are in any case irrelevant. In the Muslim lands the manuscript was practically exclusive form of text production. Libraries only consisted of manuscripts and no printed matter at all. Printing was even forbidden by the Ottoman sultans once it spread from the Central Europe across the Med. In the other world regions (Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, India, Australia) any form of printing was totally unknown (unless you count stamping as printing). The evidence could not be more clear: in most world regions the printing press replaced the manuscript as the dominant text format. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 09:13, 18 September 2012 (UTC)

I would agree mostly with these points, although their bearing on the sentence in question is not all that clear. Yes, manuscripts should be in there, but I fail to see why block printing should not also be. No-one except GPM is talking about block books, which were certainly a very limited phenomenon. I doubt it is actually correct to say that "Even in China block printing did not replace the manuscript which remained similarly important and cherished format (Chinese calligraphy)." "Manuscript" calligraphy was regarded as an artform sure, but everyday books were block-printed, although doing so involved more significant set-up costs than a Western printed book, and so was not economic for low print-runs. The contents of the Imperial Library, or those of collectors, can give a misleading impression, and should not be taken as typical - just as royalty in Europe continued to commission illuminated manuscript books for at least a century after printing had become more generally important. I will attempt a compromise version. Johnbod (talk) 15:04, 18 September 2012 (UTC)
In your version, I would remove the redundant "other printing technologies": The printing press displaced the manuscript and block printing. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 16:06, 18 September 2012 (UTC)
Yes, I didn't think there was much else, though a link to that article should maybe be worked in later. Johnbod (talk) 00:19, 19 September 2012 (UTC)
I agree with your wording. I would note though that the WP article notes that even in Europe, some block books pre-date the printing press. LK (talk) 00:28, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
Well, just: "Although many had believed that block books preceded Gutenberg's invention of movable type in the first part of the 1450s, it now is accepted that most of the surviving block books were printed in the 1460s or later, and that the earliest surviving one may date to about 1451." There is little certainty there. Johnbod (talk) 00:30, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
True enough, and we're also not sure when Gutenberg first started printing books on his press. However, block printing of cards and single prints in Europe certainly do pre-date the press. Anyway, this is all moot. Block book printing was an active vibrant industry in Asia, and was the main method of book printing [in Asia] until about the 19th century. LK (talk) 00:41, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
Strictly speaking, printing already started with the first fingerprints which prehistoric men left on the walls of Saharian caves 30.000 years ago. It depends on your definition. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 11:47, 21 September 2012 (UTC)
So, it's your considered opinion that block printed books are the cultural equivalent of cave paintings, and only books printed on a press are REAL printed books? LK (talk) 10:09, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
No, my remarks rather refer to the sinocentric equation of wood block printing as the only substantial form of printing done before Gutenberg printing. Gun Powder Ma (talk) 12:01, 24 September 2012 (UTC)
We all seem happy with the relevant article wording now, so I suggest we leave it at that. Johnbod (talk) 15:17, 24 September 2012 (UTC)

New ZealandEdit

William Colenso was not New Zealand's first printer. The Australian missionary Rev. William Yate printed in August 1830 a small Catechism "Ko te Katikihama III", of which two copies are known. This was printed at the Church Mission Press,Kerikeri,NZ,which is thus the country's first printing place. The earliest printing in the Maori language was "a korao no New Zealand; or, the New Zealander's first book...", G.Howe,Sydney, 1815. Source - "Books in Maori 1815-1900", comp. Phil Parkinson & Penny Griffith, Reed, 2004. (talk) 21:27, 15 January 2013 (UTC)


Locations in subtitles are not consistent. Sometime they refer to regions, sometimes to contemporary states and sometimes to modern states that did not even exist during this spread. I propose to follow consistency and to use contemporary states with notes about modern states.--Antidiskriminator (talk) 14:46, 24 December 2014 (UTC)

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Questionable quoteEdit

I am new at this, so sorry if I tread on anybody's toes. There is a quote "by 1500, 1000 printing presses were in operation throughout Western Europe and had produced 8 million books." It's attributed indirectly to .... "E. L. Eisenstein: "The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe", Cambridge, 1993 pp. 13–17," via "Angus Maddison: "Growth and Interaction in the World Economy: The Roots of Modernity", Washington 2005, p.17f." However, I can't find the quote in the Eisenstein book on Google Books. I am getting a paper copy, but perhaps someone who already has a copy could verify this? The error could be Maddison's. RicardoJuanCarlos 09:36, 25 October 2017 (UTC)

A dispute that the printing press was banned in the Ottoman EmpireEdit

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