Launching the Scientific Age (03:18)
The printing press, invented by Johannes Gutenberg, allows knowledge to spread quickly and begins the modern world. This episode will examine why writing is history's most important technology. (Credits)
Writing Is Fundamental (05:07)
Brody Neuenschwander demonstrates how to make a pen out of a soda can. Calligraphy is an experimental approach to historical research. Egyptians create paper from papyrus.
Roman Empire (05:00)
After Rome conquers Egypt, the papyrus export trade flourishes; literacy is widespread. Scribes use a reed pen cut to a fine point. Papyrus is slippery, making it easy to write.
Christian Middle Ages (09:02)
Books become rare and precious objects after the fall of the Roman Empire. Paper is made from sheep, calf, or goat skin; pens are made from bird feathers. Leaves are stitched together into a codex; each sheet yields eight pages of an octavo volume.
Asian Cultures (09:10)
The four treasures of calligraphy are paper, brush, inkstone, and a stick of solid pigment. Wang Jianing demonstrates the Tang Cursive Script. Arab forces capture a region in central Asia and discover how to make paper from mulberry trees.
Islamic Golden Age (05:58)
Papermakers polish each sheet to produce a smooth writing surface. In central Asia, 400 mills produce paper for calligraphers. The arts and sciences flourish as scholars make discoveries in mathematics, geology, biology, and medicine; Ulugh Beg forms universities and builds an observatory.
Paper Reaches Europe (08:13)
A star catalog lists the position of fixed stars and honors Beg. Gutenberg's printing press spreads writing to every level of society; he produces a Bible using moveable type. The letters of the Latin alphabet are simple shapes and a modular form of writing.
Arabic Moveable Type Script (05:59)
The "Book of Hours" is printed in Fano, Italy. It is difficult to reproduce the look of an Arabic manuscript so printing does not gain momentum; Qurans maintain a certain quality. The printing press leads to European scientific and industrial revolutions.
Credits: A to Z: How Writing Changed the World (01:07)
Credits: A to Z: How Writing Changed the World
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