Republic of Venice

Book-printing capital of Europe
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1465 Jan 1

Book-printing capital of Europe

Venice, Metropolitan City of V

Gutenberg died penniless, his presses impounded by his creditors. Other German printers fled for greener pastures, eventually arriving in Venice, which was the central shipping hub of the Mediterranean in the late 15th century.


“If you printed 200 copies of a book in Venice, you could sell five to the captain of each ship leaving port,” says Palmer, which created the first mass-distribution mechanism for printed books.


The ships left Venice carrying religious texts and literature, but also breaking news from across the known world. Printers in Venice sold four-page news pamphlets to sailors, and when their ships arrived in distant ports, local printers would copy the pamphlets and hand them off to riders who would race them off to dozens of towns.


By the 1490s, when Venice was the book-printing capital of Europe, a printed copy of a great work by Cicero only cost a month’s salary for a school teacher. The printing press didn’t launch the Renaissance, but it vastly accelerated the rediscovery and sharing of knowledge.

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