For these the press is no more to be censured or condemned, than is the Book of Common Prayer, or the Holy Bible; because-in the middle ages-men, mad with too much, or too little learning-it matters not whether-applied their most hallowed texts, read backward, to the evocation of departed souls from Hades, or of evil spirits from the abyss of very Hell.
It is not, however, of the moral influences, but of the mere material powers of the press, as now existing in its wonderfully improved condition, with all appliances of marvelous time-saving machinery, that we would now speak-machinery born itself of machinery, self-eveloped from the swart, unplastic ore, with, comparatively speaking, small expense of human labor, though under the control of the all-contriving human brain, into engines of strange and mysterious potency.
It is little to say that the efficiency, and of course the utility, of the printing-press has been increased a thousand fold, that the facility and consequent cheapness, of the reproduction of books has been improved to such an extent that thousands and tens of thousands of volumes are now printed, published, and put into circulation where there was one thirty years ago; and that too at prices, which bring it easily within the means of all-but the very idlest and poorest-to become familiar with the best thoughts of the brightest geniuses of all ages-That the whole system of journalism, and journal publishing, has passed through a complete revolution, reducing individual prices to a mere nominal fraction, and referring the question of profits, and remuneration of labor, to gross sales of tens of thousands of daily copies-the consequence of which revolution is to place the whole news of the world, including all discoveries of art or science, all arguments and disputations of the first statesmen and orators, all lectures of the most prominent litterateurs and philosophers of the day, within the hand’s reach of every farmer and farm-laborer, every artisan, mechanic, clerk and shop-boy of the land, from the Aroostook to the Sacramento and Columbia.
It is little to say this-yet this is something; for it is the first step toward making those who do govern the land, fit to govern it-namely, the people-toward enabling them to judge, unlike the constituents of best European representative governments, not of men only, but, mediately , of measures; toward giving them to judge and learn for themselves, from the actual progress of recorded events, daily occuring something of the policy of foreign nations, something of the interest of their own country; lastly, toward rendering the permanent establishment of a falsehood, or the long suppression of the truth, an impossibility.
And yet all this is to say little, as compared with what may be said-namely, that the difference between the efficiency of the modern printing-press and that of Guttenberg, Faustus and Schoffer, is almost greater than the difference between that and the manuscript system, which it superseded. And all this is to be ascribed to the perfection of mechanics and machinery, brought by the aid of every branch of science to what we might well deem perfection, did not every coming day awake to perfectionate what was last night deemed perfect. In all branches of human labor, in all phases of human ingenuity, for above half a century, this vast increase- both of the application and the power of machinery- has been in progress; constantly awakening the fears and jealousies, sometimes inducing the overt opposition. and illegal violence of the working classes, as cheapening their labor, and about ultimately to subvert their trade and destroy their means of subsistence. Than these fears and jealousies, nothing can be more erroneous, not to say absurd. For it is no longer a theory, but an established fact that consumption of, and demand for, any article grows almost in arithmetical progression from the reduction of its price, to such a degree, as to render it available to all classes.
Two examples, alone, will be sufficient to make this clear :- Some twenty years ago, the renewal of the English East India Company’s charter was refused by Parliament, and the tea-trade of Great Britain opened to all British bottoms. The price of tea was reduced by above one-half, and the company exclaimed loudly, as companies ever do, against the unjust legislation, which must needs ruin them. Mark the result, however. The price of tea fell one-half; the consumption of tea increased-we speak generally-almost ten-fold.
The company never were more prosperous than now. Again-within the same period, inland postage in Great Britain was reduced to a uniform rate of one penny sterling, not without much opposition and strenuous contest, the opponents insisting that the department mnst become a burden on the state, from sheer inability to do the work of transportation at prices merely nominal. The results are before the public, and not a boy but knows that they precisely reverse the prediction. The same thing is true of the growth of the cotton trade; of the growth of agricultural productions: and last, not least, and most of all to the purpose, of the growth of the so-called penny-press of New York, and the United States in general.
We use the term so-called, because though nominally penny, most, if not all, of the very paying papers of this class are really two-penny papers. ground plan While we were considering these matters, to which consideration we were led by a visit to the extraordinary machine-works of Messrs. Hoe & Co., the inventors and manufacturers of the great fast power presses, which have effected the revolution of which we have spoken, we accidentally stumbled upon the following article from the columns of the New York Tribune; and it is so entirely germane to the matter, that we have no hesitation in quoting the former portion of it, without alteration or comment.