Printing and its Impact on Society

Essay by dnl2499University, Bachelor's March 2003

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Much of the knowledge of the past was limited to memories of personal experience. It was a world without facts. Experience was what mattered most and power lied with the elders who were highly respected.

There were only few with a written language. The first writings were very expensive, time consuming and laborious. Few common people had the time or the inclination to become literate and even if they were able to read the cost of producing written documents kept the works out of there reach. People of this world had very amazing memories. They would make rhymes and use props to help themselves remember.

Manuscripts remained rare and costly because they had to be laboriously drafted and copied by hand. They were marks of doubtful significance on dead animal skins. The skins were smoothed with pumice stone and scraped then softened with a crayon. Documents were often forged and undated.

One out of three was false. Travel was hazardous because travelers had little idea of the way they should be going. There were no maps and few roads.

There were no calendars or clocks so passage of time was marked by memorable events. Rich villages that could afford a sundial or water clock still rarely used units smaller than an hour. They had no purpose in a world that moved at the pace of nature.

The absence of widespread literacy made the ability to memorize essential. It was possible to preserve laws, ceremonies, and stories in the minds of individuals. It was not unusual to find people who could recite sacred texts and heroic sagas that today might occupy hundreds of pages in print. The growing university population used mnemonics. Lectures were read from a set text. Many instructions to students took the form of mnemonic lists and...