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In less than 50 years it had been carried through most of Europe, largely by German printers.Printing in Europe is inseparable from the Reformation.
Before the invention of writing, perhaps by the Sumerians in the 4th millennium , information could be spread only by word of mouth, with all the accompanying limitations of place and time.
Writing was originally regarded not as a means of disseminating information but as a way to fix religious formulations or to secure codes of law, genealogies, and other socially important matters, which had previously been committed to memory.
The mechanization of printing in the 19th century and its further development in the 20th, which went hand in hand with increasing literacy and rising standards of education, finally brought the printed word to its powerful position as a means of influencing minds and, hence, societies.
The functions peculiar to the publisher— selecting, editing, and designing the material; arranging its production and distribution; and bearing the financial risk or the responsibility for the whole operation—often merged in the past with those of the author, the printer, or the bookseller.
Only in Hellenistic Greece, in Rome, and in China, where there were essentially nontheocratic societies, does there seem to have been any publishing in the modern sense—Arabs but not, it seems, printing.
The reason may well lie in Arab insistence on hand copying of the Qurʾān (Arabic printing of the Qurʾān does not appear to have been officially sanctioned until 1825).The dissemination of published material via electronic media is treated in information processing.For a discussion of reference-book publishing, see the articles encyclopaedia; dictionary.Conquerors or usurpers wishing to destroy a people’s heritage have often burned its books, as did Shih Huang-ti in China in 213 , the Spaniards in Mexico in 1520, and the Nazis in the 1930s.There is no wholly satisfactory definition of a book, as the word covers a variety of publications (for example, some publications that appear periodically, such as , may be considered books).For additional information on the preparation of early manuscripts, see writing.