Perhaps no other invention has had such a profound influence on human lives as the printing press. Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the 15th century and within ten years printing presses across Europe were churning out books, pamphlets, and other printed material, spreading knowledge and ideas that previously had no outlet for dissemination. The printing press has had enormous implications for education and the state of the world.
Spread of Ideas
Prior to the invention of the printing press, scholars could only make one copy of their work at a time. Therefore, small pockets of learning existed around the world, but ideas did not travel easily from one place to another. Hundreds or thousands of copies of one scholar's work could be made and dispersed after the invention of the printing press. Ideas from the Italian Renaissance spread west and north, and influenced artists, scientists and philosophers throughout Europe and beyond.
Before the invention of the printing press, ideas and experiences often died with the person who possessed, so each generation had to start from scratch. The invention of the printing press meant scholars could read work done by other scholars and build on this knowledge. The advancement of technology and scientific knowledge made great strides in a short period of time. Scholars could communicate their ideas with other people working on similar ideas who lived in different areas.
Education for Lay People
Books were very expensive prior to the invention of the printing press. Books were precious and very rare because they were copied by hand. The printing press vastly reduced the amount of human labor involved in making books, so the price of books came down considerably. Hence, people could buy books who were never able to buy them before. Libraries were established and commoners became more educated than ever before.
The Bible was the first book ever printed by Gutenberg's printing press. People had to depend upon their ministers to read the scriptures to them before the printed version of the Bible. Their own religious education was at the mercy of the few who possessed a Bible and could read. People began to question interpretations of the Bible once they had their own copies of the Bible, and different religious sects appeared. People began to want to learn about religion for themselves instead of having to be taught religion by the few who possessed the tools.