NCERT Class 10 History Chapter 7: Print Culture and the Modern World YouTube Lecture Handouts

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NCERT Class 10 History Chapter 7: Print Culture & Modern World

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  • There was a time without print and print itself has a history. Technology began in East Asia and spread in Europe and India.

  • Before art of printing writing was done by hand

  • Earliest technology or hand printing developed in China, Japan and Korea

  • 594 AD – books printed by rubbing paper against the inked surface of woodblocks – both sides couldn’t be printed as was thin, Chinese ‘accordion book’ was folded and stitched at the side – craftsmen performed calligraphy

  • Major producer of printed material – huge bureaucratic system which recruited personnel by civil service exams – textbooks for same were printed under sponsorship of imperial state

  • 16th century – candidates increased and so does the volume of print

  • 17th century – print culture diversified from scholar officials to merchants and reading became leisure activity (fiction, poetry, autobiography and romantic plays). Rich women also began to read.

  • Late 19th century - Western printing techniques and mechanical presses were imported, Shanghai became hub of new print culture catering to western style schools & shift from hand printing to mechanical printing

  • Handprinting in Japan by Buddhist missionaries from China in 768-770 AD

  • Oldest Japanese book, printed in AD 868, is Buddhist Diamond Sutra, containing six sheets of text and woodcut illustrations

  • Pictures printed on textiles, playing cards and paper money

  • Poets and prose writers published cheap and abundant books

  • Late 18th century – urban circle at Edo (Tokyo) – collection of paintings of urban culture, artists

  • Books on women, musical instruments, calculations, tea ceremony, flower arrangements, proper etiquette, cooking and famous places

  • Kitagawa Utamaro – art form ukiyo (‘pictures of the floating world’) or depiction of ordinary human experiences - travelled to contemporary US and Europe and influenced artists like Manet, Monet and Van Gogh.

  • Publishers like Tsutaya Juzaburo identified subjects and commissioned artists who drew the theme in outline.

  • Skilled woodblock carver pasted drawing on a woodblock and carved a printing block to reproduce the painter’s lines. In the process, the original drawing would be destroyed and only prints would survive.

  • Silk and species flowed to Europe by Silk route & paper reached Europe by same route in 11th century

  • Paper made possible manuscripts written by scribes (skilled handwriters)

  • Marco Polo returned to Italy after being in China for many years & brought idea of woodblock printing

  • Italians started to make books with woodblocks & it spread to other nations in Europe

  • Luxury editions were handwritten on velum (parchment made from animal skin) for aristocratic and rich monastic libraries

  • As demand increased, booksellers exported books, book fairs were held

  • Scribes were now employed by booksellers (each having 50 scribes)

  • Copying was an expensive, laborious and time-consuming business. Manuscripts were fragile, awkward to handle, and could not be carried around & had limited circulation

  • Need for quicker and cheaper text reproduction – new print technology – At Strasbourg, Germany, Johann Gutenberg developed first-known printing press in 1430s

Gutenburg & Printing Press

  • Gutenberg was son of merchant who grew on agricultural estate seeing olive and wine presses. He learnt polishing stones & acquired expertise to create lead moulds for making trinkets

  • Olive press provided the model for the printing press, and moulds were used for casting the metal types for the letters of the alphabet.

Image of Movable type printing machine

Image of Movable Type Printing Machine

Image of Movable type printing machine

Movable Type Printing Machine

  • By 1448, he perfected the system and 1st book to be printed was Bible – 180 copies were printed in 3 years (considered fast production at that time) - No two copies were the same. Every page of each copy was different. Elites preferred it due to differences (colored regions were left blank while text in black – color was used to emphasis)

  • Printed books resembled handwritten manuscripts as metal letters intimated handwritten designs – borders were illuminated with foliage and illustrations were painted

  • For rich – space was left blank for decoration

  • B/w 1450 and 1550 – many printing press across Europe

  • 2nd half of 15th century – 20 million copies in Europe which increased to 200 million by 16th century

Image of Printer's Workshop, sixteenth century

Image of Printer's Workshop, Sixteenth Century

Image of Printer's Workshop, sixteenth century

  • Development with new ways of producing books

  • Transformed lives and changed relationships

  • Spread knowledge and information

  • New reading public emerged – cost of books became less and people were able to afford it – earlier it was meant only for elite group

  • Earlier common people only had oral culture – hear sacred texts, recite ballads and folk tales or see a performance – books were expensive and could not be produce in large numbers

  • Again rate of literacy was very low till 20th century – those who could not read would enjoy listening to it so folk tales were published with pictures and sung in village gatherings and taverns in towns

  • Circulation of ideas emerged – those who disagreed with authorities could now print ideas

  • Some were apprehensive that wider circulation of printed books could open people’s mind and they could rebel

  • In 1517, religious reformer Martin Luther wrote Ninety Five Theses criticizing many of the practices and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church – posted on church door in Wittenberg – it was immediately reproduced and led to division within Church and beginning of Protestant Reformation. His translation of New Testament sold 5000 copies within few weeks and 2nd edition came in 3 months. He said “Printing is the ultimate gift of God and the greatest one”

  • 16th century – Menocchio, a miller in Italy could read books –reinterpreted Bible and formulated a view of God and Creation that enraged the Roman Catholic Church. When the Roman Church began its inquisition to repress heretical (believes that don’t follow accepted teachings) ideas, Menocchio was hauled up twice and ultimately executed.

  • Now Roman Church established several controls over publishers and booksellers to maintain Index of Prohibited Books from 1558

Reading Mania

  • 17th and 18th century – literacy rate surged

  • Church started to set up schools in villages

  • By end of 18th century – literacy rate increased to 60-80%

  • Booksellers employed pedlars who roamed in villages selling books

  • Almanacs, calendars, folktales; chapbooks (pocket sized books) sold for penny in England;

  • In France, were “Biliotheque Bleue”, which were low-priced small books printed on poor quality paper, and bound in cheap blue covers

  • Romances printed on 4 to 6 pages and histories which were stories of past

  • Early 18th century – periodical press developed – combine current affairs with entertainment; newspapers and journals

  • Scientists and philosophers became more accessible to common people – included scientific texts and diagrams

  • Newton started to publish the discoveries

  • Thinkers like Thomas Paine, Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau started to print and read – idea about science, reason and rationality found way in literature – world could be seen with new eyes of critical understanding and reasoning

  • Conditions created in French revolution by Print Culture

  • Books meant for spreading progress and enlightenment – change and liberate society from despotism and intellect could rule and bring in public opinion

  • Popularized ideas of enlightenment thinkers – argued for rule of reason and judgment to be done on rationality; authority of Church was attacked

  • Created culture of dialogue and debate – reevaluation of norms, values and institutions – new ideas of social revolution

  • By 1780s literature mocked royal culture and criticized morality – cartoons suggested that monarchy was absorbed in sensual pleasures and common man suffered hardships

  • Spread of ideas – reinterpretation of things in their own way – it did not shape the mind but opened possibility to think differently

19th Century

  • Leap in mass literacy in Europe and increasing number of readers

  • Late 19th century – primary education became compulsory – children became important readers

  • Production of school textbooks became critical

  • Children’s press was set up in France in 1857 – new works, old fairy tales and folk tales

  • Grimm brothers complied folk tales and it was edited before publishing in 1812

  • Penny magazines were popular in women – as manuals teaching proper behavior and housekeeping

  • Women novelists - Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, George Elio – defined new type of women as person with will, strength, determination and power to think

  • Since 17th century – lending libraries were seen. In 19th century – it became instrument to educate workers, artisans and middle class

  • After working hours shortened from mid-19th century – workers found time for self-improvement and self-expression and started to write political tracts and autobiographies


  • Late 18th century – press was made of metal

  • By the mid-19th century - Richard M. Hoe of New York had perfected the power-driven cylindrical press. This was capable of printing 8,000 sheets per hour for printing newspapers

  • Late 19th century – offset print was developed – could print 6 colors at a time

  • 20th century - electrically operated presses accelerated printing operations

  • Methods of feeding paper improved, the quality of plates became better, automatic paper reels and photoelectric controls of the color register were introduced

  • Mechanical improvements transformed appearances of printed texts

  • Publishers and printers developed strategies to sell their products

  • Nineteenth-century periodicals serialized important novels, which gave birth to a particular way of writing novels

  • In the 1920s in England, popular works were sold in cheap series, called the Shilling Series.

  • 20th century innovation - Dust cover or book jacket

  • During Great depression decline in book purchases – and people bought cheap paperback editions

India and World of Print

  • India had rich handwritten manuscripts I Sanskrit, Arabian and Persian – copied on palm leaves or handmade papers with beautiful illustrations and wooden covers

  • 18th century - Gita Govinda by Jayadev - palm-leaf handwritten manuscript in accordion format

  • 14th century poet - Hafiz collected works are known as Diwan.

  • Highly expensive and fragile manuscripts were made – handled carefully and could not be read as the scripts were written in different styles

  • In Schools (mainly Bengal) – extensive primary schools but children did not read texts, they only could write

  • Mid-16th century – 1st printing press in Goa with Portuguese missionaries

  • Jesuit preists learnt Konkani and printed tracts. By 1674, 50 books were printed in Konkani and Kanara languages

  • 1st Tamil book printed in 1579 in Cochin & 1st Malayalam book came in 1713

  • By 1710, Dutch Protestant missionaries had printed 32 Tamil texts

  • Late 17th Century – English East India Company began to import press

  • From 1780, James Augustus Hickey began to edit the Bengal Gazette, a weekly magazine

  • He published advertisements related to import and sale of slaves

  • End of 18th century – newspapers and journals appeared in print

  • Indians began to publish Indian newspapers - first to appear was the weekly Bengal Gazette, brought out by Gangadhar Bhattacharya, who was close to Rammohan Roy

Religious Reforms

  • Some against reforms while others were in favor of it

  • Wider public could lead to more public discussions & new ideas emerged

  • Time of controversy between religious reformers and orthodoxy like widow immolation, monotheism and idolatry

  • Ideas were printed in language of common man

  • Rammohan Roy published Sambad Kaumudi from 1821

  • Hindu orthodoxy commissioned the Samachar Chandrika to oppose his opinions of Raja Rammohan Roy

  • 1822: Two Persian newspapers were published, Jam-i-Jahan Nama and Shamsul Akhbar

  • 1822: Gujarati newspaper, Bombay Samachar started

  • In north India – Ulama (legal scholars of Islam) were worried about collapse of Muslim dynasty – believed colonial rule could encourage conversion – used cheap lithographic presses, published Persian and Urdu translations of holy scriptures, and printed religious newspapers and tracts

  • 1867 – Deoband Seminary published thousands of fatwas (legal pronouncement on Islamic law) – telling Muslim leaders about conduct and meaning of Islamic doctrines

  • 1st printed edition of Ramcharitmanas of Tulsidas, a sixteenth-century text, came out from Calcutta in 1810.

  • Mid-19th century – cheap lithographic editions flooded market

  • From the 1880s, Naval Kishore Press at Lucknow and the Shri Venkateshwar Press in Bombay published numerous religious texts in vernaculars

  • Print connected communities and created pan-Indian identities

New Forms of Publication

  • Writings witnessed experience, emotions and relationships

  • Novel – a literary firm in Europe catered to this need

  • Other forms included lyrics, short stories, essays and political matters

  • Visual images for mass circulation – Raja Ravi Varma (painter) produced mass copies

  • Poor could buy cheap calendars to decorate houses

  • It shaped ideas on modernity and traditions

  • By 1870s - caricatures and cartoons were published in journals and newspapers, commenting on social and political issues – ridiculed educated Indians fascination for Western tastes

Women & Print

  • In mid-19th century – went to schools after separate schools for women

  • Also carried syllabus and reading material for home based learning/schooling

  • Mentality was not liberal - Conservative Hindus believed that a literate girl would be widowed and Muslims feared that educated women would be corrupted by reading Urdu romances

  • 19th century – In East Bengal Rashsundari Debi, young married girl in a very orthodox household, learnt to read in the secrecy of her kitchen. Later, she wrote her autobiography Amar Jiban which was published in 1876. It was the first full-length autobiography published in the Bengali language.

  • 1860s in Bengal - Kailashbashini Debi wrote books highlighting the experiences of women

  • 1880s – In Maharashtra, Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai wrote with passionate anger about miserable lives of upper-caste Hindu women, especially widows

  • 1870s – Serious beginning for Hindi printing – education, remarriage, national movement

  • Ram Chaddha published fast-selling Istri Dharm Vichar to teach women how to be obedient wives. Khalsa Tract Society published cheap booklets with a similar message.

  • Central Calcutta area Battala – devoted to printing of popular books – cheap editions of religious and literature texts – many were illustrated with woodcuts and colored lithographs. Pedlars took Battala publications to homes, enabling women to read

  • 19th century – cheap small books in market sold at crossroads

  • Early 20th century – public libraries were set up expanding access to books (for rich, setting up library was way to acquire prestige)

  • Jyotiba Phule, Maratha pioneer of ‘low caste’ protest movements, wrote about injustices of the caste system in his Gulamgiri (1871)

  • In 20th century, B.R. Ambedkar in Maharashtra and E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker (Periyar) in Madras wrote powerfully on caste and their writings were read by people all over India

  • Kashibaba, a Kanpur millworker, wrote and published Chhote Aur Bade Ka Sawal in 1938 to show the links between caste and class exploitation

  • The poems of another Kanpur millworker, who wrote under the name of Sudarshan Chakr between 1935 and 1955, were brought together and published in a collection called Sacchi Kavitayan.

  • By 1930s, Bangalore cotton millworkers set up libraries to educate themselves, following the example of Bombay workers

  • Before 1798, colonial state under East India Company were not too concerned with censorship

  • Early measures to control printed matter were directed against Englishmen in India who were critical of Company misrule and hated the actions of particular Company officers. Company was worried that such criticisms might be used by its critics in England to attack its trade monopoly in India.

  • 1820s – regulations to control press freedom was passed & company encouraged publications that would celebrate British rule

  • In 1835, faced with urgent petitions by editors of English and vernacular newspapers, Governor-General Bentinck agreed to revise press laws.

  • Thomas Macaulay (liberal colonial official) formulated new rules that restored the earlier freedoms

  • Vernacular press became nationalist, government brought stringent measures

  • 1878 – Vernacular Press Act was passed modelled on Irish Press Laws – provided with extensive rights to censor reports in vernacular press & strict control by government

  • Nationalist newspapers reported on colonial misrule and encouraged nationalist activities – it led to renewed cycle of persecution and protests

  • When Punjab revolutionaries were deported in 1907, Balgangadhar Tilak wrote with great sympathy about them in his Kesari. This led to his imprisonment in 1908, provoking in turn widespread protests all over India.

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