7 - Chapter VII Print Culture and the Modern World P r i n...

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153 Print Culture It is difficult for us to imagine a world without printed matter. We find evidence of print everywhere around us – in books, journals, newspapers, prints of famous paintings, and also in everyday things like theatre programmes, official circulars, calendars, diaries, advertisements, cinema posters at street corners. We read printed literature, see printed images, follow the news through newspapers, and track public debates that appear in print. We take for granted this world of print and often forget that there was a time before print. We may not realise that print itself has a history which has, in fact, shaped our contemporary world. What is this history? When did printed literature begin to circulate? How has it helped create the modern world? In this chapter we will look at the development of print, from its beginnings in East Asia to its expansion in Europe and in India. We will understand the impact of the spread of technology and consider how social lives and cultures changed with the coming of print. Culture and the Modern World Chapter VII Print Culture and the Modern World Fig. 1 – Book making before the age of print, from Akhlaq-i-Nasiri , 1595. This is a royal workshop in the sixteenth century, much before printing began in India. You can see the text being dictated, written and illustrated. The art of writing and illustrating by hand was important in the age before print. Think about what happened to these forms of art with the coming of printing machines.
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India and the Contemporary World 154 1 The First Printed Books Fig. 2 – A page from the Diamond Sutra. The earliest kind of print technology was developed in China, Japan and Korea. This was a system of hand printing. From AD 594 onwards, books in China were printed by rubbing paper – also invented there – against the inked surface of woodblocks. As both sides of the thin, porous sheet could not be printed, the traditional Chinese ‘accordion book’ was folded and stitched at the side. Superbly skilled craftsmen could duplicate, with remarkable accuracy, the beauty of calligraphy. The imperial state in China was, for a very long time, the major producer of printed material. China possessed a huge bureaucratic system which recruited its personnel through civil service examinations. Textbooks for this examination were printed in vast numbers under the sponsorship of the imperial state. From the sixteenth century, the number of examination candidates went up and that increased the volume of print. By the seventeenth century, as urban culture bloomed in China, the uses of print diversified. Print was no longer used just by scholar- officials. Merchants used print in their everyday life, as they collected trade information. Reading increasingly became a leisure activity. The new readership preferred fictional narratives, poetry,
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7 - Chapter VII Print Culture and the Modern World P r i n...

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