The Chinese invented moveable type around 1040 A.D. However, they did not fully exploit its possibilities. The invention finally reached Europe 400 years later. Unlike the Chinese, moveable type and the printing press revolutionized the continent and threatened the old order. The mass production of books and texts led to political, scientific, and religious upheavals in Europe and helped end the Middle Ages.
Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press using moveable type around 1440 A.D. His innovation led to the mass production of written material in Europe. By the turn of the sixteenth century, printers could reproduce 3600 pages a day compared to 30-40 before the press. As a result, presses sprung up all over Europe in short order.
The printing press explosion created modern mass communication. By 1500, the press resulted in over 20 million copies in just 60 years. This exploded tenfold by mid-sixteenth century. As a result, society itself changed. The authorities could no longer control information. Governments and the church proved slow to change and resisted the influx of information they considered subversive. Authorities tried to stem the tide, but technology outpaced dogma. Eventually, intelligent leaders learned to harness information and the new technology for propaganda.
New ideas flourished with new outlets to spread them. The Renaissance began in the fourteenth century following the Great Plague and exploded with the printing press. The Scientific Revolution coincided with the increased printing production. The Reformation probably could have been contained without the printing press. Additionally, printing led to increased literacy, learning, and eventually an expanding middle class.
The printing press and moveable type led to several revolutions. The old order could not stop the avalanche of information. The new technology helped spread the Renaissance. The Scientific Revolution and Reformation might not have occurred without the printing press. The mass production of printed material changed the world and brought Europe out of the Middle Ages.