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What are the causes of the emergence of the printing press, and what are its effects on...

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lola21 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Honors

Posted June 5, 2010 at 8:51 PM via web

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What are the causes of the emergence of the printing press, and what are its effects on the literary market during the Victorian age?

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ecofan74 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted July 1, 2010 at 3:14 AM (Answer #1)

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Though the printing press was invented by Johann Gutenberg around 1455, it did not begin to make its mark in the literary world until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  The primary cause for the emergence of the printing press is the increasing rise of literacy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  With more and more people who could read, the demand for printed texts grew tremendously.  In addition, the cost of mateials also began to drop, so that printing was not as costly an enterprise as it had been in previous centuries.  As the printing press was refined over time, it also became more efficient in its production of texts for consumption.

All of these factors contributed a great deal to the literary world of the Victorian age.  In some ways, it defined that world.  More than any other time before, the serial novel became the preferred form of publication in the Victorian period.  Serial publication, which requires printing a manuscript more frequently and in smaller installments, would not have been possible in earlier periods when the printing press would have a difficult time keeping up with demand.  As it was the most ubiquitous form of publication during the period, many of the most famous authors of the period initially published their works serially.  Some of these authors include Dickens, Thackeray, and Carlyle in the early Victorian period, and Hardy, Doyle, and Stevenson in the later Victorian period.  Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities, just to name two, were published in a serial format, as were Doyle's famous adventures featuring Sherlock Holmes (in The Strand).  The prevalence of this form of publication was such that people expected to read a few chapters of a novel in a serial magazine long before the complete volume would be published.

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