Print Culture and the Modern World

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03 Print Culture and the Modern World

The First Printed Books

  • The earliest print technology was developed in China, Japan and Korea.

Print in Japan

  • Buddhist missionaries from China introduced hand-printing technology to Japan in AD 768-770

Print Comes to Europe

  • Chinese paper reached Europe through the silk route in the 11th
  • Johann Gutenberg developed the printing press in the 1430s.
  • The first book printed on Gutenberg’s printing press was the Bible.

Religious Debates and the Fear of Print

  • The new printed literature was criticized as it was feared that if there was no control over what was printed and read, then rebellious and irreligious thoughts might spread.
  • Those who disagreed with established authorities could now print and circulate ideas.

The Reading Mania

  • By the end of the 18th century, literacy rates in Europe were as high as 60 to 80%.
  • New forms of literature appeared in print that targeted new audiences.
  • In England, penny chapbooks were carried by petty pedlars known as chapmen.
  • Maps and scientific diagrams were widely printed. The discoveries of Isaac Newton and the writings of Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau were also widely printed and read.

Print Culture and the French Revolution

  • Print culture created the conditions within which French Revolution occurred.
  • Print popularized the ideas of the Enlightenment thinkers.
  • All values, norms and institutions were re-evaluated and discussed by a public that was inquisitive, critical and rational. Hence, new ideas of social revolution came into being.

Children, Women and Workers

  • As primary education became compulsory from the late nineteenth century, children became an important category of readers.
  • Women became important readers and writers.

Further Innovations

  • By the mid-19th century, Richard M. Hoe of New York had perfected the power driven cylindrical press, which printed 8,000 sheets per hour.
  • In the late 19th century, the offset print was developed that could print about 6 colours at a time.

India and the World of Print

  • India had a very rich and old tradition of handwritten manuscripts in Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian and other vernacular languages.

Print Comes to India

  • Mid-16th century: The first printing press came to Goa with Portuguese missionaries.
  • By 1674: About 50 books had been printed in Konkani and in Karana languages.
  • Cochin, 1579: Catholic priests printed the first Tamil book
  • 1713: Catholic priests printed the first Malayalam book
  • By 1710: Dutch protestant missionaries had printed 32 Tamil texts
  • From 1780: James Augustus Hickey began editing the Bengal Gazette, a weekly magazine.

Religious Reform and Public Debates

  • 1821: Raja Ram Mohan Roy published the Sambad Kaumudi and the Hindu orthodoxy commissioned the Samachar Chandrika to oppose his opinions.
  • From 1822: Two Persian newspapers were published, Jam-i-Jahan Nama and Shamsul Akhbar.
  • Calcutta, 1810: The first printed edition of the Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas, a 16th century text, appeared.

New Forms of Publication

  • By the end of 19th century, visual images could be easily reproduced in multiple copies.
  • By the 1870s, there were imperial caricatures lampooning nationalists as well as nationalist cartoons criticizing imperial rule.

Women and Print

  • 1876: Rashsundari Debi’s autobiography, Amar Jiban, was published. It was the first full-length autobiography published in the Bengali language.
  • From 1860s: Few Bengali women such as Kailashbashini Debi wrote books highlighting the experiences of women.
  • In 1880s (Maharashtra): Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai wrote with passionate anger about the miserable lives of upper-caste Hindu women, especially widows.

Print and the Poor People

  • 1871: Jyotiba Phule, the Maratha pioneer of ‘low caste’ protest movements, wrote about the injustices of the caste system in his Gulamgiri.
  • In the 20th century, B. R. Ambedkar in Maharashtra and E. V. Ramaswamy Naicker in Madras, better known as Periyar, wrote powerfully on caste and their writings were read by people all over India.
  • 1938: Kashibaba, a Kanpur millworker, wrote and published Chhote Aur Bade Ka Sawal.
  • The poems of Kashibaba and Sudarsan Chakr were compiled in Sacchi Kavitayan.
  • By 1930s: Bangalore cotton millworkers set up libraries for educating themselves.
  • These were sponsored by social reformers who tried to restrict excessive drinking among them, for bringing literacy and, sometimes, for propagating the message of nationalism.

Print and Censorship

  • Before 1789: The colonial state under the East India Company was too concerned with censorship.
  • By 1820s: The Calcutta Supreme Court passed certain regulations to control press freedom and the Company began encouraging publication of newspapers that would celebrate the British rule.
  • In 1835: Faced with urgent petitions by editors of the English and vernacular newspapers, Governor-General Bentinck agreed to revise press laws. Thomas
  • Macaulay formulated new rules that restored their earlier freedoms.
  • After the revolt of 1857, press freedoms were clamped down.
  • 1878: The Vernacular Press Act was passed, modelled on the Irish Press Laws.
  • It provided the government with extensive rights to censor reports and editorials in the vernacular press.
  • 1907: When the Punjab revolutionaries were deported, Bal Gangadhar Tilak wrote with great sympathy about them in his Kesari.

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