Chapter 7 Print Culture and the Modern World
Give reasons for the following :
(a) Woodblock print only came to Europe after 1295.
(b) Martin Luther was in favour of print and spoke out in praise of it.
(c) The Roman Catholic Church began keeping an Index of Prohibited Books from the mid-sixteenth century.
(d) Gandhi said the fight for Swaraj is a fight for liberty of speech, liberty of the press and freedom of association.
(a) Woodblock print only came to Europe after 1295 due to the following reasons :
- The earliest kind of print technology – system of hand printing – was developed in China, Japan and Korea.
- From AD 594 onwards, books in China were printed by rubbing paper – also invented there – against the inked surface of woodblocks.
- Marco Polo, a great explorer, had gone to China for exploration.
- In 1295 he returned to Italy and brought this knowledge with him.
- From Italy this technology spread to other parts of Europe.
- Religious preachers too were help in spreading print culture.
- However, it may be mentioned here luxury editions were still handwritten on vellum meant for aristocratic people and rich monastic libraries which scoffed at printed books as cheap vulgarities. Merchants and students in the university towns bought the cheaper printed copies.
- With the growing demand for books, woodblock printing gradually became more and more popular.
- By the early fifteenth century, woodblocks were being widely used in Europe to print textiles, playing cards and religious pictures with simple brief texts.
(b) Because it was the printing press which gave him a chance to criticise many of the practices and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church.
(c) Print and popular literature encouraged many distinctive interpretations of religious faiths and ideas. In the 16th century, Manocchio, a miller in Italy began to read books available readily in his locality. He gave a new interpretation of the Bible and formulated a view of God, and creation that enraged the Roman Catholic Church.
As a result, Manocchio was hauled up twice, and ultimately executed when the Roman Church began its inquisition, and to repress the therapeutical ideas. After this several control measures were imposed on publishers and booksellers. In 1558, the Roman Church decided to maintain an Index of prohibited books.
(d) Mahatma Gandhi uttered these words in 1922 during the Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-1922). Because according to him without the liberty of speech, the liberty of the press, and freedom of association, no nation can even survive. If the country was to get free from foreign domination, then these liberties were quite important. If there is no liberty of speech, liberty of the press, and freedom of association, then there is no nationalism. Nationalism requires these three prerequisites for its survival. Mahatma Gandhi fully knew the fact. That is why, he said so, particularly about these three freedoms. How could one ever think of nationalism in the absence of these three essential conditions?
Write short notes to show what you know about:
(a) The Gutenberg Press
(b) Erasmus’s idea of the printed book
(c) The Vernacular Press Act.
(a) The Gutenberg Press :
- It was invented by Gutenberg by adopting existing technology to design his innovation.
- He used olive press as a model for the printing press and moulds were used for casting the metal types for the letters of the alphabet.
- By 1448, he perfected his system. Gutenberg developed metal types for each of the 26 characters of the Roman alphabet.
- He devised a way of moving them around so as to compose different words of the text. This came to be known as the moveable type printing machine.
- It remained the basic print technology over the next 300 years.
- The Gutenberg press could print 250 sheets on one side per hour.
- Bible was the first book that was printed by him. It took three years to print 180 copies but this was fast production at that time.
(b) Erasmus’s idea of the printed book : Erasmus was a Latin scholar and a Catholic reformer. He criticised the excesses of Catholicism. He, however, kept his distance from Luther and did not join his movement against the Church. He was worried about printing on a large scale because he thought that some of the books might be good in contributing some useful knowledge but most of the books are slanderous, scandalous, raving, irreligious and seditious. Such books are harmful and their number is so large that even valuable books lose their value. So, he was against printing of books.
(c) The Vernacular Press Act:
- Before 1857, the East India Company encouraged publication of newspapers.
- During the period of William Bentick, Thomas Macaulay formulated new rules that restored the earlier freedoms of the press.
- After 1857 the Indian press began publishing a lot of information which helped in the awakening of the masses.
- The vernacular press became nationalist. The attitude of the press enraged the Englishmen and they demanded to put restrictions on the vernacular press.
II. It was under above conditions that the Vernacular Press Act was passed in 1878. It was modelled on the Irish Press Laws. It provided the government with extensive rights to censor reports and editorials in the vernacular press. This Act was against the freedom of press and the vernacular press was kept under stringent control.
For example when a newspaper report was judged as seditious, the newspaper was warned, and if the warning was ignored, the press was liable to be seized and the printing machinery confiscated. But in spite of this repressive measure, the nationalist newspapers grew in numbers in all parts of the country. They went on reporting misrule of the British government in India and encouraged nationalist activities.
What did the spread of print culture in nineteenth-century India mean to :
(b) The poor
(a) Women: The spread of print culture in nineteenth-century India was very important in the following ways for the women :
- The lives and feelings of women began to be written in clear and intense ways.
- Women’s reading increased enormously in middle-class homes.
- Liberal husbands and fathers started educating women at home. When women’s schools were opened after the mid-nineteenth century, they sent them to schools for education.
- Articles were written in journals about the need for education for women. Sometimes syllabus and suitable reading material was published which could be used for home-based schooling.
Thus print culture helped in the improvement of the condition of women in society. Some of them wrote books and autobiographies. For example, Rashsundari Debi wrote her autobiography Amar Jiban which was published in 1876. Kailashbashini Debi (Bengal), Tarabai Shinde, and Pandita Ramabai (Maharashtra) were famous women writers. However, the conservative Hindus believed that a literate girl would be widowed. Muslims too feared that educated women would be corrupted by reading Urdu romances.
- Women started writing about their own lives. From the 1860s, a few Bengali women like Kailashbashini Debi wrote books highlighting the experiences of women at home doing hard domestic labour and treated unjustly by the very people they served.
- In 1880, in present-day Maharashtra, Tarabai Shinde, and Pandita Ramabai wrote with passionate anger about the miserable lives of the upper caste Hindu women.
- In Hindi too, a large segment of printing was devoted to the education of women.
(b) The Poor : Print culture helped the poor people significantly in the following ways :
- Very cheap small books were brought to the markets in nineteenth-century Madras towns and sold at cross-roads, allowing poor people travelling to markets to buy them.
- Public libraries were set up from the early twentieth century, expanding the access to books. These libraries were located mostly in cities and towns, and at times in prosperous villages. For rich local patrons, setting up a library was a way of acquiring prestige.
- From the late nineteenth-century, cases of caste discrimination were published. For example Jyotiba Phule, the Maratha pioneer of ‘low caste’ protest movements, wrote about the injustices of the caste system in his Gulamgiri (1871).
- Social reformers tried to restrict excessive drinking among them to bring literacy and sometimes, to propagate the message of nationalism.
(c) (i) Reformers used newspapers, journals and books to highlight the social evils prevailing in the society. Raja Ram Mohan Roy published the Sambad Kaumudi to highlight the plight of widows.
(ii) From the 1860s, many Bengali women writers like Kailashbashini Debi wrote books highlighting the experiences of women about how women were imprisoned at home, kept in ignorance, forced to do hard domestic labour and treated unjustly by the menfolk, they served.
In the 1880s, in present-day Maharashtra, Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai wrote with passionate anger about the miserable lives of the upper-caste Hindu women, especially the widows. The poor status of women was also expressed by the Tamil writers.
(iii) Jyotiba Phule was a social reformer. He wrote about the poor condition of the ‘low caste’. In his book Gulamgiri (1871), he wrote about the injustices of the caste system.
In the 20th century, B.R. Ambedkar also wrote powerfully against the caste system. He also wrote against untouchability.
E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker, also known as Periyar, too wrote about the caste system prevailing in Madras (Chennai).