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The Printed Page

Jeffrey Syken

The Need to Read – its been part of human DNA since the time of the Sumerians when cuneiform letters were engraved in clay tablets to record for posterity the Epic of Gilgamesh. As time went by, printing technology steadily advanced from parchment to paper, but the big breakthrough came with the invention of the printing press whereby an army of scribes was no longer required to “get the word out.” Though the scribe had become redundant with the invention of the typewriter, printing – even on a large scale, still retained much of the skill required of the medieval craftsman. With the introduction of mechanical typesetting machines in the late 19th Century, the industry was poised to expand exponentially. Though hand-setting of type still had applications, the ability to produce type via Monotype and/or Linotype machines was a major breakthrough and by the middle of the 20th Century, the printing industry was ranked as fourth largest in the United States. Ancillary industries such as lumber (for wood pulp to make newsprint), transportation etc. contributed significantly to the national economy as well. When you think about it, almost every industry, art, science, human activity etc. is dependent on recording human thought via language. With advances in technology came more efficient typesetting machines that use computers to do much of the former grunt work. Photo-engraving allows for high-quality printing of display ads and/or photographs. No matter how sophisticated the technology of printing becomes, it all boils down to twenty-six letters arranged in a precise order for the human brain to decipher and interpret in its own individual way.

This course includes a multiple-choice quiz at the end, which is designed to enhance the understanding of the course materials.

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