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印刷機的起源

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2019/06/07 第465期  |  訂閱/退訂  |  看歷史報份  |  寂天閱讀網

 
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印刷機的起源 The Printing Press

What do you think is mankind’s most important invention? Is it the computer, the telephone, or the wheel? Many people say that it is the printing press, a machine that allows us to reproduce unlimited copies of books and documents.

Before the printing press, books were copied by hand. Ancient Roman book publishers sometimes sold as many as 5,000 copies of a book that had been copied by slaves. But copying a book was such a timeconsuming and expensive activity that often only a few copies of each book were made. As a result, only a small fraction of the population had access to books and learned to read.

While the printing press was invented in 1450 by Johannes Gutenberg, a goldsmith from Germany, printing had already been around for quite some time. Around 5,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, carved stones serving as seals or stamps were used to make impressions in clay. Later in China, wooden blocks were carved with text, coated in ink and then pressed onto paper or cloth. Instead of using a page-sized block of carved wood, however, Gutenberg’s printing press used small, metal blocks, each with just a single letter. To print a page, all the printer had to do was assemble the necessary letters and start the machine. Whereas wooden blocks would quickly become damaged, the metal letter blocks were durable, and if one was found to have a flaw, it could easily be replaced without affecting the entire page. What Gutenberg achieved with his printing press was the ability to mass-produce books quickly, cheaply, and efficiently.

After 1450, thousands of copies of a popular book or newspaper could be printed rapidly and inexpensively. Books and newspapers with ideas and images from all over the world became widely available to the public. The impact of Gutenberg’s machine is sometimes compared to the impact of the Internet, as it has allowed millions of people to gain access to new and exciting knowledge. As knowledge fuels human intelligence, mankind’s astounding technological and scientific progress over the last 500 years owes no small debt to Gutenberg’s remarkable printing press.


你覺得人類最重要的發明是什麼?是電腦、電話,還是汽車?很多人會說是「印刷機」。因為印刷機能讓我們無限複製各種書籍文件。

在印刷機問世之前,書籍以手工抄寫的方式複製。古羅馬時代的出版商有時可售出高達五千冊書籍,完全由奴隸抄錄。由於複印一本書實在太費時且成本高昂,所以每本書複製的數量不多。因此,僅有少數族群得以讀書識字。

雖然印刷機是由德國金匠古騰堡於1450 年所發明,但印刷概念其實早已行之有年。大約在五千年前的古美索不達米亞,就懂得用雕刻的石塊做為封章或印章,蓋印於黏土上。不久後,中國人開始在木塊刻上文字,塗上墨汁,壓印於紙張或布面。不過,有別於一頁大小的印刷木塊,會刻上所有內容,古騰堡的印刷技術使用小型金屬塊,且每塊僅刻上一個字母。如需印刷一頁內容,印刷工人僅需排列所需字母,再啟動印刷機即可。況且,木塊很容易毀損,活字金屬塊較為耐用,如果發現某金屬塊有瑕疵,也容易替換而不會影響整頁的印刷。古騰堡印刷機的出現,讓大家能以低成本的方式,有效率地快速量產書籍。

1450 年之後,上千本熱門書籍或報紙已可迅速且平價地印刷出版。來自全球各地、圖文並茂的豐富書報,也廣泛普及於大眾。古騰堡印刷機所帶來的影響,有時會被拿來和網路科技比較,因為兩者同樣能讓上百萬人接觸到新奇有趣的知識。由於知識是精進人類智慧的動力,因此人類過去五百年來在科技與科學領域方面的大躍進,都該歸功於了不起的古騰堡印刷機。

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