Print Culture and the Modern World: Class 10 Notes Made Easy

Class 10 History Chapter 5: Print Culture and the Modern World is a fascinating chapter that explores the impact of print on society and culture. From the rise of new forms of popular literature to the development of the periodical press, print has played a vital role in shaping the modern world.

If you are a Class 10 student preparing for the CBSE 2023-24 board exams, then you know that this chapter is important. But it can also be challenging. That's why we've created these easy and comprehensive notes, designed to help you understand and master the material.

In these notes, we will cover all of the key topics from Chapter 5, including:

  • The invention of the printing press and its impact on society
  • The rise of new forms of popular literature, such as chapbooks, romances, and histories
  • The development of the periodical press and its role in spreading information and ideas
  • The impact of print on literacy rates and education
  • The role of print in the spread of scientific and philosophical knowledge

So whether you're just starting out on Chapter 5 or you need a refresher before the exams, these notes are for you. Start reading today and ace your Class 10 History boards!

print culture and the modern world class 10 notes

SubjectSocial Science (History)
BoardCBSE and State Boards
Chapter No.5
Chapter NamePrint Culture and the Modern World
Weightage 7-8 marks

"Don't be afraid to fail. It's not the end of the world, and in many ways, it's the first step toward learning something and getting better at it."

- Jon Hamm

The First Printed Books

  • The earliest kind of print technology was developed in China, Japan, and Korea.
  • This was a system of hand-printing.
  • From AD 594 onwards, books in China were printed by rubbing paper against the inked surface of woodblocks.
  • As both sides of the thin, porous sheet could not be printed, the traditional Chinese ‘accordion book’ was folded and stitched at the side.
  • Superbly skilled craftsmen could duplicate, with remarkable accuracy, the beauty of calligraphy (the art of beautiful and stylized writing).
  • Buddhist missionaries from China introduced hand-printing technology into Japan around AD 768-770.
  • The oldest Japanese book, printed in AD 868, is the Buddhist Diamond Sutra, containing six sheets of text and woodcut illustrations.

Printing woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana are a Korean collection of Buddhist scriptures. They were engraved on about 80,000 woodblocks.

Kitagawa Utamaro, born in Edo in 1753, was widely known for his contributions to an art form called ukiyo (‘pictures of the floating world’) or depiction of ordinary human experiences, especially urban ones.

  • In 1295, Marco Polo, a great explorer, returned to Italy after many years of exploration in China. Marco Polo brought the knowledge of woodblock printing back with him. Now Italians began producing books with woodblocks, and soon the technology spread to other parts of Europe.
  • Luxury editions were still handwritten on very expensive vellum, meant for aristocratic circles and rich monastic libraries.
  • Merchants and students in the university towns bought the cheaper printed copies.

Factors responsible for the invention of new printing techniques:

  • Copying was an expensive, laborious, and time-consuming business.
  • The manuscripts were highly expensive, fragile, and needed careful handling.
  • The handwritten manuscripts production was not sufficient to meet the demand.

Gutenberg and the Printing Press

Johannes Gutenberg developed the first mechanical printing press.

  • Most of his childhood was spent on a large agricultural estate where he saw wine and olive presses. He learned to polish stones and created lead moulds.
  • The olive press was the model for the printing press and the moulds were used for casting the metal types for the letters of the alphabet.

The new technology did not entirely displace the existing art of producing books by hand:

  • The metal letters imitated the ornamental handwritten styles.
  • Borders were illuminated by hand with foliage and other patterns and illustrations were painted.
  • There was blank space for decoration in the books printed for the rich and the design was chosen by the buyer.

The Print Revolution and Its Impact

Print Revolution:

  • The shift from hand printing to mechanical printing led to the print revolution.
  • It changed people’s relationship with information and knowledge and with institutions and authorities.
  • It influenced people’s perceptions and opened up new ways of looking at things.

A New Reading Public

Earlier society was divided into the reading public and the hearing public. The common people had the oral culture while the rich people had the reading culture. The common people heard sacred texts read out, ballads recited and folk tales narrated.

The reading culture was only limited to the elites and they only read books individually and silently. The reasons behind this culture were:

  • The books were expensive
  • The books were produced in fewer numbers
  • The literacy rate was low in most European countries.

To bridge the gap between these two public, printers began publishing popular ballads and folk tales, and such books were illustrated with pictures. These were then sung and recited at gatherings in villages and in towns. Oral culture thus entered print and printed material was orally transmitted.

Religious Debates and the Fear of Print

Not everyone welcomed the printed book. There was widespread criticism. It was feared that if there was no control over what was printed and read, then rebellious and irreligious thoughts might spread.

Effects of print culture in the religious sphere in early modern Europe:

The print culture helped in the circulation of ideas and introduced a new culture of debate and discussion. It was used by the rebellions to let the people know the truth and take action against the established authorities. The printed books were welcomed and also people had fear due to their rebellious and irreligious thoughts.

  • Martin Luther was a religious reformer. He wrote Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 criticizing the practices and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church.
  • Menocchio, a miller in Italy, interpreted the message of the Bible and formulated a view of God and Creation that enraged the Roman Catholic Church.
  • The Roman Catholic Church started identifying such ideas, beliefs, and persons who wrote against the Church and thus Menocchio was hauled up twice and finally executed.
  • Several restrictions were put over the publishers and the booksellers by the church and also the church began to maintain an Index of Prohibited Books from 1558.

Importance of the printing press in the spread of the Protestant Reformation:

  • In 1517, the religious reformer Martin Luther wrote Ninety-Five Theses criticizing many of the practices of the Catholic Church.
  • A printed copy of this was posted on a church door in Wittenberg.
  • His writings were read and reproduced in vast numbers using the printing press.
  • This print brought about a new intellectual atmosphere, which helped in the spread of new ideas. This also paved the way for the reformation of the practices of the church.
  • This led to a division within the Church and to the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
  • Print encouraged people to think reasonably and question the customs followed in the Church, which enraged the Roman Catholics.

‘Printing is the ultimate gift of God and the greatest one'.

- Martin Luther

The Reading Mania

  • As literacy and schools spread in European countries, there was a virtual reading mania.
  • New forms of popular literature appeared in print, targeting new audiences.
  • In England, penny chapbooks were carried by petty pedlars known as chapmen, and sold for a penny, so that even the poor could buy them.
  • In France, were the “Biliotheque Bleue”, which were low-priced small books printed on poor-quality paper, and bound in cheap blue covers.
  • Then there were the romances, printed on four to six pages, and the more substantial ‘histories’ which were stories about the past.
  • Similarly, the ideas of scientists and philosophers now became more accessible to the common people.

'Tremble, therefore, tyrants of the world! Tremble before the virtual writer!’

- Louise-Sebastien Mercier

The print culture created the conditions within which the French Revolution occurred:

  • Print popularized the ideas of enlightened thinkers like Voltaire and Rousseau. They attacked the sacred authority of the Church and the despotic power of the state. They wanted the rule of reason, questioning, and rationality.
  • Print created a new culture of dialogue and debate. This resulted in the re-evaluation of the values, norms, and institutions. Within this public culture, new ideas of social revolution came into being.
  • By the 1780s there was an outpouring of literature that mocked the royalty and criticized their morality. Cartoons and caricatures typically suggested that the monarchy remained only in sensual pleasures while the common people suffered immense hardships.

The Nineteenth Century

Children, Women, and Workers


  • As primary education became compulsory in the late nineteenth century, children became an important category of readers.
  • A children’s press, devoted to literature for children alone, was set up in France in 1857. This press published new works as well as old fairy tales and folk tales.
  • The Grimm Brothers in Germany spent years compiling traditional folk tales gathered from peasants.


  • Women became important as readers as well as writers.
  • Penny magazines were specially meant for women, as were manuals teaching proper behavior and housekeeping.
  • Women read as well as wrote novels.
  • Some of the best-known novelists were women: Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and George Eliot.
  • Their writings became important in defining a new type of woman: a person with will, strength of personality, determination, and the power to think.


The impact of the printing press on the lives of women in Europe was:

  • In the nineteenth century, lending libraries in England became instruments for educating white-collar workers, artisans, and lower-middle-class people.
  • After the working day was gradually shortened from the mid-nineteenth century, workers had some time for self-improvement and self-expression.
  • They wrote political tracts and autobiographies in large numbers.

Further Innovations

  • By the mid-nineteenth century, Richard M. Hoe of New York had perfected the power-driven cylindrical press. This was capable of printing 8,000 sheets per hour. This press was particularly useful for printing newspapers.
  • In the late nineteenth century, the offset press was developed which could print up to six colors at a time.

Printers and publishers continuously developed new strategies to sell their products:

  • 19th-century periodicals serialized important novels, which gave birth to a particular way of writing novels.
  • In the 1920s in England, popular works were sold in cheap series, called the Shilling Series.
  • The dust cover or the book jacket is also a twentieth-century innovation.
  • To reduce the cost of books, publishers brought out cheap paperback editions.

India and the World of Print

Manuscripts Before the Age of Print

Indian Manuscripts

  • India had a rich tradition of handwritten manuscripts in Sanskrit, Arabic, and Persian as well as vernacular languages.
  • Manuscripts were copied on palm leaves or on handmade paper and were sometimes beautifully illustrated.
  • They were pressed between wooden covers or sewn together to ensure preservation.


  • Manuscripts were highly expensive and fragile.
  • They had to be handled carefully.
  • They could not be read easily as the script was written in different styles.
  • So manuscripts were not used widely in daily life.

James Augustus Hickey was persecuted by Governor General Warren Hastings because he published a lot of gossip about the East India Company’s officials in India.

The first printed Indian newspaper to appear was the weekly Bengal Gazette, brought out by Gangadhar Bhattacharya, who was close to Rammohun Roy.

Religious Reform and Public Debates

Printed tracts and newspapers not only spread new ideas, but they shaped the nature of the debate.

This was a time of intense controversies between social and religious reformers and the Hindu orthodoxy over matters like widow immolation, monotheism, Brahmanical priesthood, and idolatry. Rammohun Roy published the Sambad Kaumudi in 1821 and the Hindu orthodoxy commissioned the Samachar Chandrika to oppose his opinions.

In north India, the ulama feared that colonial rulers would encourage conversion, and change the Muslim personal laws. To counter this, they used cheap lithographic presses, published Persian and Urdu translations of holy scriptures, and printed religious newspapers and tracts. The Deoband Seminary, founded in 1867, published thousands upon thousands of fatwas telling Muslim readers how to conduct themselves in their everyday lives, and explaining the meanings of Islamic doctrines.

New Forms of Publication

The printing press led to a new visual culture in India:

  • Painters like Raja Ravi Verma produced images for mass circulation.
  • Cheap prints and calendars became easily available and could be bought even by the poor to decorate their homes.
  • These prints began shaping popular ideas about modernity and tradition, religion and politics, and society and culture.
  • By the 1870s caricatures and cartoons were being published in journals and newspapers commenting on social and political issues.
  • Some cartoons made fun of Indians blindly copying the West and criticized British rule over India while imperial caricatures made fun of Indian nationalists.

Women and Print

Print culture and its impact on women:

  • Rashundari Devi, a young married girl in a very orthodox household, learned to read in the secrecy of her kitchen. Later she wrote her autobiography Amar Jiban which was published in 1876. It was the first full-length autobiography in Bengali.
  • Many other women writers, like Kailashbhashini Debi, highlighted experiences of women like their imprisonment at home, ignorance, and unjust treatment in their writings.
  • Tarabai Shinde and Pandita Ramabai narrated the plight of upper-caste Hindu women, especially widows.
  • Tamil writers expressed the poor status of women.
  • By the early 20th century, journals written by women became popular, which highlighted issues like women's education, widowhood, and widow remarriage. Some of them highlighted fashion lessons to women and entertainment through short stories and serialized novels.

Ram Chaddha published the fast-selling Istri Dharm Vichar to teach women how to be obedient wives.

  • From the late nineteenth century, issues of caste discrimination began to be written about in many printed tracts and essays.
  • Jyotiba Phule wrote about the injustices of the caste system in his Gulamgiri (1871).
  • In the twentieth century, B.R. Ambedkar in Maharashtra and E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker in Madras, better known as Periyar, wrote powerfully on caste, and their writings were read by people all over India.
  • Kashibaba, a Kanpur millworker, wrote and published Chhote Aur Bade Ka Sawal in 1938 to show the links between caste and class exploitation.

Vernacular Press Act

  • In 1878, the Vernacular Press Act was passed, modeled on the Irish Press Laws.
  • It provided the government with extensive rights to censor reports and editorials in the vernacular press.
  • From now on the government kept regular track of the vernacular newspapers published in different provinces.
  • When a report was judged as seditious, the newspaper was warned, and if the warning was ignored, the press was liable to be seized and the printing machinery confiscated.

Despite repressive measures, nationalist newspapers grew in numbers in all parts of India.

When Punjab revolutionaries were deported in 1907, Balgangadhar Tilak wrote with great sympathy about them in his Kesari.

Key Terms
Calligraphy The art of beautiful and stylised writing
VellumA parchment made from the skin of animals
BalladA historical account or folk tale in verse, usually sung or recited
An annual publication giving astronomical data, information about the movements of the sun and moon, timing of full tides and eclipses, and much else that was of importance in the everyday life of people.
ChapbookA term used to describe pocket-size books that are sold by traveling pedlars called chapmen. These became popular from the time of the sixteenth-century print revolution.

Note: Picture-based questions are asked from this chapter. You must prepare those questions from the important questions and answers of this chapter.

Must Read: Print Culture and the Modern World Class 10 Important Questions Answers
Print Culture and the Modern World Class 10 NCERT Underlined PDF
Must Read:
Class 10 Revision Notes
Class 10 Important Questions

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5 thoughts on “Print Culture and the Modern World: Class 10 Notes Made Easy”

  1. Sir, some links are not click-able, they are of black colour and couldn’t be opened, like political parties revision notes of class 10 and previous year questions of class 10. Please resolve this problem 🙏

  2. Sir in the topic 19th century there is a subtopic namely workers which had the information of women and there is an copying or typing error please try to resolve it asap.
    Otherwise this was one of the best website for my exam revision

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