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Student Research Guide WQ24/ The Gutenberg Press and its Impacts on Lower and Middle Class Societies in Western Europe

Student Research Guide for Library 201/ Brooke Tyler



The Gutenberg Press and its Impacts on Lower and Middle Class Societies in Western Europe


 This is a student created research guide for English 102 & Library 201 Learning community


This guide will address the impacts that the Gutenberg press had on lower and middle class societies in Western Europe in regards to education, religion, and the spread of knowledge.


The research thesis of this guide is to explore the impacts that the Gutenberg press had on societies across Western Europe.


The research questions addressed in this guide are:

  • When and why was the Gutenberg press invented? Who invented it?
  • What were some of the ways that the Gutenberg press helped reformers in their disagreements with the Catholic Church?
  • What were some of the impacts the Gutenberg press had on literacy and research?
  • How did the Gutenberg press impact education?


In the past decade, especially after the Coronavirus pandemic, many people have shied away from physical media. Print and physical media is something that many people take for granted because today it is easily accessible to everyone, but that wasn't always the case. Before the invention of the Gutenberg press, only the extremely wealthy could afford to own books and many people did not know how to read. Throughout this investigation, different ways that the Gutenberg printing press impacted lower and middle class societies across Western Europe, were explored. Many methods of research were used in this investigation including SVC library databases, university studies, Google Scholar, encyclopedias, and research organizations. The results of the research concluded that there are immense impacts of societies all over the world. When looking at how the Gutenberg press impacted Western Europe, some of the impacts included the increased spread of knowledge in the Renaissance, the use of print in the Protestant Reformation, an increase in literacy rates, and increased access to books because of the lowered prices and higher volumes. The impacts of the Gutenberg press are vast and should be continuously researched and appreciated.

Background Information

The Gutenberg press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440 in Strasbourg, Germany. Gutenberg was trained as a goldsmith and made the press with metal instead of wood or clay. The Gutenberg press was the first press that used movable type. It was made using a winepress. The press had a large wooden screw that when twisted would press the metal pieces covered in ink down onto the parchment or other paper material. It was a very quick process that immensely cut down the labor involved in making text previously, when using Chinese block printing or writing by hand.

Informative Graph

The graph below shows literacy rates in several Western European countries from the years 1451- 1700. The graph provides evidence of a large increase in literacy after the creation of the Gutenberg press.


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