Less than fifty years after Gutenberg produced his first 180 books, the printing press populated 270 cities in Europe and 200 million copies of books had been printed. During the following century, that number increased to one billion copies. This was accomplished using presses that produced from 150 to 240 impressions per hour.
Although books remained the mainstay of print in these early years, Gutenberg’s press spawned another familiar industry. The first periodical was published in 1605, (Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenckwürdigen Historien) in Strasbourg, Germany; it is considered to be the world’s first newspaper. Unlike books, periodicals published on a regular schedule, providing timely information to their readers on topics of interest from news to business and science. In a matter of a few decades, newspapers were published in all major European cities.
By the mid 18th century sixty-one newspapers had been established in Europe and North America. Remarkably, twenty-two of these newspapers continue to publish today.
The rapid growth of the print industry in this period fostered another industry, the type foundry. First established in Italy, type foundries began to supply a variety of typefaces to printers across Europe. Type was sold in complete sets, in a specified size (points) and these sets would include the appropriate proportion of characters depending on the language. This is where the term ‘uppercase’ and ‘lower case’ has its origin. The capital letters were stored in the upper part of the type case and the remaining characters in the lower section.
The production of paper continues to expand to meet the growing demand for print during this period. In 1690, William Rittenhouse established the first paper North American paper mill in Pennsylvania, establishing this region as the America’s centre for paper manufacturing and printing until the late 19th century.
The renaissance period laid the foundation of the printing industry we know today, a custom manufacturing and service industry, periodical publications and supporting industries to supply products that fuel production. Now, as we move into the mid 18th century, printing and publishing is an established industry ripe for growth. The Industrial Revolution will provide new technologies that advance productivity, economies of scale and the quality of print.
Image Source: Deutsch: Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, Plöck 107-109, D-69117 Heidelberg English: University library of Heidelberg, Germany, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons