top of page

How the Printing Press Changed the World

Modern man typing with image of the world

The printing press is widely considered one of the most important inventions in human history. It revolutionized the way information was shared, and ultimately helped to shape the world we know today.

Prior to the invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century, books were written and copied by hand. This was a slow and laborious process, with each copy taking months to produce. As a result, books were extremely expensive and generally only accessible to the wealthy.

Johannes Gutenberg, a German goldsmith, changed all of that with his invention of the printing press. He developed a system of movable type, which allowed printers to arrange individual letters and symbols in order to create text. This made the printing process much faster and more efficient, allowing for the mass production of books and other printed materials.

As a result, knowledge and ideas were able to spread more quickly and widely than ever before. This had a profound impact on society, as it allowed for the sharing of information and the democratization of knowledge. Ideas that were once only accessible to the wealthy and powerful were now available to the masses, which helped to foster new ideas and new ways of thinking.

The printing press also played a key role in the Protestant Reformation, as it allowed for the mass production and distribution of religious texts. This helped to fuel the growth of Protestantism and played a significant role in the religious and political upheaval of the time. Martin Luther, the German monk who initiated the Protestant Reformation.

In the early 16th century, Luther was studying theology and working as a professor in Wittenberg, Germany. He was troubled by the corruption and abuse of power in the Catholic Church, and he began to question some of its teachings. In 1517, he wrote a list of 95 theses, or arguments, against the sale of indulgences, which were pardons for sins.

Luther wanted to spread his ideas and provoke discussion, so he printed his theses on a printing press and distributed them throughout Germany. Within weeks, copies of Luther's theses were being read and discussed throughout Europe. The printing press allowed Luther's ideas to be disseminated on a scale never before possible, and his movement gained momentum as people began to question the authority of the Catholic Church.

Modern Printing Press

The printing press revolutionized the way information was produced, disseminated, and consumed. It transformed the world in many ways beyond the religious sphere. Here are a few examples:

Democratization of Knowledge: The printing press made knowledge more widely available and affordable. Books and other printed materials were no longer the exclusive domain of the wealthy and educated. The middle class had access to books and the information they contained, leading to increased literacy rates and greater opportunities for education.

Spread of Scientific Discoveries: The printing press played a significant role in disseminating scientific discoveries and theories. Scientists could publish their findings and share them with their peers, leading to faster and more efficient scientific progress.

Standardization of Language and Spelling: The printing press helped to standardize language and spelling. Printed materials could be mass-produced with consistent spelling and grammar, making it easier to learn and understand language.

Development of Journalism: The printing press made it possible to produce newspapers and magazines quickly and inexpensively. This led to the rise of journalism, which provided people with current news and information about the world.

Economic Growth: The printing press helped to fuel economic growth by making it easier and less expensive to produce and distribute goods. Advertising and marketing materials could be produced and distributed more efficiently, leading to increased commerce and trade.

Overall, the printing press changed the world by making information and knowledge more widely available, fueling scientific progress and economic growth, and enabling the development of new forms of communication and media.

The printing press enabled Luther's message to reach a wider audience than ever before, and his ideas spread rapidly throughout Europe. Luther's writings were printed in multiple languages and distributed throughout the continent, sparking a movement that led to the creation of new denominations of Christianity and a reformation of the Church.

The printing press allowed Luther's ideas to be printed and distributed quickly and efficiently, making him one of the most influential figures in religious history. Without the printing press, it is unlikely that Luther's message would have reached such a wide audience, and the course of history would have been very different.

Ninety-Five Theses


Photograph of the Ninety-Five Theses - Library of Congress
Photograph of the Ninety-Five Theses

Ninety-Five Theses

Other Title

  • Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum


Martin Luther's Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum of 1517, commonly known as the Ninety-Five Theses, is considered the central document of the Protestant Reformation. Its complete title reads: "Out of love and zeal for clarifying the truth, these items written below will be debated at Wittenberg. Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology and an official professor at Wittenberg, will speak in their defense. He asks this in the matter:

That those who are unable to be present to debate with us in speech should, though absent from the scene, treat the matter by correspondence. In the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen." The document went on to list 95 clerical abuses, chiefly relating to the sale of indulgences (payment for remission of earthly punishment of sins) by the Roman Catholic Church. Luther (1483--1546), a German priest and professor of theology, became the most important figure in the great religious revolt against the Catholic Church known as the Reformation. While he intended to use the 95 theses as the basis for an academic dispute, his indictment of church practices rapidly spread, thanks to the then still-new art of printing. By the end of 1517, three editions of the theses were published in Germany, in Leipzig, Nuremberg, and Basel, by printers who did not supply their names. It is estimated that each of these early editions was of about 300 copies, of which very few survived. This copy in the collections of the Berlin State Library was printed in Nuremberg by Hieronymus Höltzel. It was discovered in a London bookshop in 1891 by the director of the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) and presented to the Royal Library by the Prussian Ministry for Education and Culture.


  • Luther, Martin, 1483-1546 Author.

Created / Published

  • Nuremberg : Hieronymus Höltzel, 1517.


  • - Germany--Saxony-Anhalt--Wittenberg

  • - 1517

  • - Catholic Church

  • - Reformation

  • - Theology


  • Title devised, in English, by Library staff.

  • Original resource extent: 1 folio.

  • Original resource at: Berlin State Library - Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation.

  • Content in Latin.

  • Description based on data extracted from World Digital Library, which may be extracted from partner institutions.


  • 1 online resource.

Source Collection

  • World History

Digital Id


Library of Congress Control Number

  • 2021667736

Online Format

  • compressed data

  • image

LCCN Permalink


Additional Metadata Formats

  • MARCXML Record

  • MODS Record

  • Dublin Core Record

IIIF Presentation Manifest

  • Manifest (JSON/LD)

Luther, M. (1517) Ninety-Five Theses. Nuremberg: Hieronymus Höltzel. [Image] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

Kool Change Printing

(360) 794-9019

220 N. Woods Street

Monroe, WA 98272


bottom of page