If you are looking for a nice way to spend the better part of an hour this weekend, I recommend this BBC Radio 4 discussion on the life of William Caxton; who first set up a printing business in Bruges before returning to England in 1476 with presses in tow. Caxton is thought to be one of the first, if not the first, person to bring the printing press to England. He was a fascinating businessman and this podcast discusses his work, as well as early printing in Western Europe.
As with all Radio 4 programs the chatter is wonderful and I think my favourite part of the discussion is when the panel is opines it was the typewriter, and not the printing press, that killed the manuscript and the scribe. Scribes were continued to be sought after well past the advent of the printing press because with their aid no book was ever out of print, they were in effect the first Print-on-demand service. Additionally the group suggested that if you were looking to truly impress someone with a gift in the sixteenth century, a printed monochrome book would play second fiddle to a much more beautiful and colourful manuscript created by a talented scribe.
The whole conversation sounded so familiar to what I see on various blogs in the 21st century about the merits of Fine Press books in a digital age, whether print-on-demand books add any value to publishing, and if eBooks are going to destroy publishing as we know it. It was kind of comforting to remember that we really have been though all this before.
The program was recorded as a podcast and can be found via this link on the BBC website