Why Was the Printing Press so Important?

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The printing press was so important because it made the mass production of printed materials possible, and lead to much wider dissemination of knowledge and literacy throughout the socioeconomic classes. For thousands of years prior to the invention of the printing press, all works in the history of human writing could only be copied by hand or by inefficient forms of block-printing, time-consuming and laborious processes that commanded high fees. The printing press dramatically reduced the time and expense of copying works and paved the way for the democratization of knowledge.

Johan Gutenberg receives credit for creating the first printing press in 1450. European output of printed books skyrocketed into the hundreds of millions of copies during the following century. This expansion of access to information influenced every major cultural and political revolution for centuries. Religious philosophy, like that of Christian humanist Desiderius Erasmus or Protestant reformer Martin Luther, were able to shape the history of the Christian religion, and of the Western World, through the sale of hundreds of thousands of copies of printed work. No less significant was the impact of the printing press on scientific development as, for the first time, scientists could both educate and learn from an international community of peers through publication.