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The industrial revolution of the book

Raven, J (2014) 'The industrial revolution of the book.' In: UNSPECIFIED, (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book. UNSPECIFIED, 143 - 161. ISBN 9781107023734

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Until the early nineteenth century, all book and print production processes in all parts of the world succeeded or failed as a result of manual labour. Hands, not powered machines, engraved wood blocks and plates, cut punches and cast, composed and inked type. Hands worked paper mills and different kinds of xylography and letter-press, using many different sorts of material. Hands hung drying paper and silk, and bound the products. Across Europe, men and women lived and often suffered from the making of lead-based type and rag-based paper and from the exertions of pulling the letter- and rolling presses. Many operatives worked in small, hot and unpleasant printing rooms. In all parts of the world, eyes as well as hands suffered from the demands of microscopic cutting and refining of wood blocks and copper and other metal plates. Unlike the coming of print (wood blocks in second-century East Asia and thirteenth-century Europe; moveable type in eleventh-century China and fifteenth-century Europe), the second mechanized, industrial revolution in book production was experienced worldwide in one century. It was, nonetheless, hugely variable in its regional adoption and impact. This nineteenth-century transformation has been identified with publishing capitalism, and yet its history is many-faceted, with complicated antecedents. Technological bravura led the revolution, its products sometimes dismissed as industrial literature. Thomas Carlyle (and cultural pessimists around the globe) denounced the new machinery as mechanizing minds, devaluing literature and learning, and replacing craftsmanship (in writing as well as in publishing) by the robotic and the mass-produced. The unprecedented cheapness of industrially printed materials encouraged more people to read but also developed a greater sense of the indeterminacy and anonymity of the reading public.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Z Bibliography. Library Science. Information Resources > Z004 Books. Writing. Paleography
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > History, Department of
Depositing User: Jim Jamieson
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2015 11:58
Last Modified: 07 Apr 2021 10:15

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