Invention of the Printing Press
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The transition from handwritten manuscripts to printed books marks a crucial turning point in the history of speech, or reason, and politics. The ease and affordability of reproducing written work with the mechanical printing press that Johannes Gutenberg invented, or at least perfected, in the fifteenth century Holy Roman Empire, dramatically expanded the audience that an author could reach. Book reading was no longer the exclusive province of the privileged few who were rich enough to afford to buy hand-copied scrolls and codices, which were difficult to produce and therefore scarce and expensive. The result was the rapid proliferation of reading among previous excluded classes, and an enormous increase in the influence of single talented authors over society. It was not long before the two predominant authorities in the western world, the church and the state, responded to this new rival influence with measures to regulate and control presses.