Before the invention of writing, information could only be spread by mouth. This meant severe limitations of place and time – and of course, the proverbial Chinese whisper. While writing eventually became a prerequisite to running successful kingdoms, its original intention was to establish religious decrees, codes of law, and other socially important matters.

A monopoly of letters.

Writing It Down

Writing was often a monopoly defined by how literate you were (Photo credit: Jaime_GC via / CC BY)

Writing of such religious decrees and codes of laws was often undertaken by those who were in a priestly caste. And, it was a monopoly of letters. The advent of publishing could only began once this monopoly was over.

The use of scripts began to go beyond the priestly caste, and it truly became of the people. With growing literacy, the adoption of writing soon spread for use in commerce – writing was now used for proclamations, correspondence, transactions and records.

However, the concept of book production, if we can call it that, was limited to ‘copying’ and supplying a lay readership. Such centers of ‘copying’ books was predominantly in learning centers across Greece, Rome, and China. While this was revolutionary in that it opened unprecedented access to written material, there was yet another revolution waiting in the wings.

We invented printing.