Saturday, September 06, 2008

Online Map of Printing Spread Throughout Europe

Humans are said to be in existence in one form or the other for about four and a half billion years. Throughout most of our history not much can be said about intelligence. However, a mere five thousand plus years ago a formal writing system was invented in Mesopotamia and all the sudden the Bronze Age starts and man starts to walk out of the darkness. Civilizations advanced wherever there was writing (Middle East, Far East Asia, Europe, Africa, Middle America, etc). However, the invention of printing help advanced China to the point of a global power that was only stopped by xenophobic internal forces.

So civilizations continued to crawl towards development. However, one thing changed everything. When printing reached Western Europe during the height of the Renaissance, European powers used knowledge to spread out throughout Europe and into the world. Intellectual movements like the Reformation, Counter-Reformation, and Enlightenment owe themselves to printing that allowed them to spread throughout Europe easily and cheaply.

Long time reader Goethe Girl (thanks Goethe Girl!) sends me a link to the Atlas of Early Printing. The website is an online GIS map that allows one to see the spread of printing in Western Europe compared to locations of paper mills, universities, conflicts, trade routes, universities, and fairs. A sliding scroll allows one to see the changes over time.

The map shows that printing gave knowledge to more power to people which in turn leads to good (more schools) and bad (smarter people, or peasants lead by learned people, tend not to like oppression and start wars). Like with everything else knowledge can be corrupted for evil and wrong.

3 comments:

Dan tdaxp said...

Great map!

What a revolutionary technology -- it just sweeps everywhere, and by historical standards, immediately!

Seerov said...

I don't understand the map? There seems to have been more print-houses, more Universities, and more fairs, before 1450?

Click on the pre-1450 layer and you'll see what I'm talking about.

Catholicgauze said...

Hi Seerov,
There were more universities before 1450, but the printing press allowed quick spread throughout Europe compared to the hundreds of years of "development" before.