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Scripts of various kinds came to be used throughout most of the ancient world for proclamations, correspondence, transactions, and records; but book production was confined largely to religious centres of learning, as it would be again later in medieval Europe.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.Freedom of the press was pursued and attacked for the next three centuries; but by the end of the 18th century a large measure of freedom had been won in western Europe and North America, and a wide range of printed matter was in circulation.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 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 invention of printing in Europe is usually attributed to Johannes Gutenberg in Germany about 1440–50, although block printing had been carried out from about 1400.In 1498, for instance, 18,000 letters of indulgence were printed at Barcelona.The market for books was still small, but literacy had spread beyond the clergy and had reached the emerging middle classes.
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.
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History of publishing, an account of the selection, preparation, and marketing of printed matter from its origins in ancient times to the present.
The activity has grown from small beginnings into a vast and complex industry responsible for the dissemination of all manner of cultural material; its impact upon civilization is impossible to calculate.
This article treats the history and development of book, newspaper, and magazine publishing in its technical and commercial aspects.