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.
Writing was originally regarded not as a means of disseminating information but as a way to fix religious formulations or to secure codes of law, genealogies, and other socially important matters, which had previously been committed to memory.
For additional information on the preparation of early manuscripts, see writing.
A more detailed examination of printing technology can be found in printing.
It grew from the climate and needs of the first, and it fought in the battles of the second.
It has been at the heart of the expanding intellectual movement of the past 500 years.
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.
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.
Although printing was thought of at first merely as a means of avoiding copying errors, its possibilities for mass-producing written matter soon became evident.
In 1498, for instance, 18,000 letters of indulgence were printed at Barcelona.
Publishing could begin only after the monopoly of letters, often held by a priestly caste, had been broken, probably in connection with the development of the value of writing in commerce.