Hope you’re all doing great! Today’s post is a collaboration with Tia @ Tall Blonde Tales. She is an amazing friend who writes on relatable lifestyle topics in an informative and interactive manner. Apart from being a brilliant blogger, she is also a Potterhead! You have got to check out her Harry Potter bucket lists, they are fantastic!
Since, the both of us share a common love for reading, what better topic than that, to collaborate on? She penned down a stunning post mentioning the benefits of reading. Make sure you check out her take on the benefits of reading here!
And now for a blast back into the past (and eventual return)! Boy, I wish I could stay there for a while..
A HISTORY OF READING
I find it rather amusing that you’re reading a post about the history of reading while questioning your reading practices(at least overthinkers would!) I’ll get started by explaining what reading means, quoting Wikipedia of course, “Reading is the complex cognitive process of decoding symbols to derive meaning. It is a form of language processing. Reading is a means for language acquisition, communication, and sharing information and ideas.”
I know history is often considered a boring subject by many but reading has saved and continues to save many lives both figuratively and literally, that I think not knowing a brief account of its history is almost a crime. Reading as an asocial solo activity is actually a relatively recent phenomenon.
Let’s go through its history one century at a time. Print technology dates back to as far as AD 594. The earliest kind of print technology, which was a system of hand printing was developed in China, Japan and Korea. According to Wikipedia, “The history of reading dates back to the invention of writing during the 4th millennium BC”.
The 13th, 14th and 15th centuries (one century at a time after this, I promise):
In 1295, i.e the 13th century, Marco Polo returned to Europe after a period of exploration in China. He brought the Chinese art of woodblock printing along with his return expediting the spread of this technology across Europe which subsequently, led to an increase in the demand for books which in turn, led to booksellers exporting books to many different countries. Johann Gutenberg came to the rescue when booksellers found it increasingly difficult to keep up with rapidly increasing demands by inventing a new method of printing. The Gutenberg Bible is known to be the first printed book and was printed in Europe in 1445 by Johannes Gutenberg.
Fast forward to the 17th century:
By the 17th century, text technologies like moveable type and the rise of vernacular writing gave birth to the leisure reading we practice today. Also, as urban culture gained more popularity in China, uses of print diversified.
The 18th century:
Quoting Wikipedia yet again, “during the Age of Enlightenment (1715-1789), elite individuals promoted passive reading, rather than creative interpretation. Reading has no concrete laws, but lets readers escape to produce their own products introspectively, promoting deep exploration of texts during interpretation.” Reading played an important role in the French Revolution(1789) where controversial views were published and spread in the form of brochures and magazines. These were also read aloud for the benefit of the illiterate. Naturally, through the 17th and 18th centuries, literacy rates increased in many parts of Europe.
The 18th century had some peculiar views which included considering the act of reading in bed as dangerous and immoral. It was also thought that reading would cause women to question existing practices and beliefs. This was a widespread belief in many countries around the world.
We’re almost there i.e the 21st century. Before the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840), only a tiny percentage of the population in many countries were considered literate. Europeans who could read did so aloud, Ancient Greeks and the monks of Europe did the same too. Classical Athens and the Islamic Caliphate were among the few pre-modern societies where the literacy levels were comparatively high.
The 19th century,
By the 19th century, mandatory schooling, cheaper production, and wider availability of books caused a noticeable increase in the literacy rate which benefitted reading. Towards the end of the 19th century, gas and electric lighting also ensured that reading didn’t have to be limited to the day time.The development and subsequent growth of the rail network helped make novels cheaper still at railway stations. Spreading of literacy and diverse kinds of reading material led to people reading more voraciously (newspapers and periodicals) and by the late 1800s i.e the 19th century, it had branched out into children’s literature and novels.
The 20th century to the now:
Well, soon after came the 20th century where reading as we know became something of a usual act ranging from educational purposes to mental relaxation purposes. Something of a turning point in the 21st century was the increasing popularity of ebooks which substituted a large number of hard copies and became highly preferred due to the ease of use and portability it provided. But, interestingly, starting back in 1971, Michael S. Hart launched Project Gutenberg and digitized the U.S. Declaration of Independence, which became the first eBook in the world. The idea soon gained popularity and its public use skyrocketed with various companies producing their own e-readers and e-books.
This is by no means, a wholesome or compact history. We compiled information from a variety of sources and have mainly focused on the development of reading as both an act and hobby from the 13th century to the present while laying special emphasis on the European part although much of everything mentioned here took place at relatively the same time everywhere with variations due to socio-economic conditions and traditional beliefs in particular places.
So, that was all for the history. A huge thank you to Tia for doing this with me! I had great fun working with her! Don’t forget to check out her take on reading’s benefits here! Thank you so much for reading! Let me know what you think!
Previously on Random Specific Thoughts:
Disney Q&A with Renee
Parallels of Life (ft. Eleanor@Wishing Upon A Star)
Harry Potter Q&A with Aanya
Q&A with Catie