Through a detailed examination of the emergence of printing in Iran, this essay argues that the diffusion of printing through Islamic Asia in the early 1820s took place as part of a printing global revolution initiated by the mass production of iron handpresses of the kind invented by Charles, Earl Stanhope in 1800. Unlike the cumbrous wooden presses of early modern Europe and its settler populations overseas, the durable, mass-produced, transportable, and easy-to-operate presses of the early 1800s were able to reach regions where printing was unknown and penetrate deeper into reading markets only scratched by the limited print runs of the older wooden presses. Whereas the Gutenberg revolution was effectively confined to Europe and its settler communities in the Americas and Asia, this “Stanhope revolution” was truly global in scale, enabling printing to develop in Iran no less than in Australia, India, Malaya, and large parts of the Americas at the same time. By documenting the contemporaneous appearance in Iran and a series of other regions of iron handpresses and the products on which they depended, the essay argues for the repositioning of Iranian printing as part of a larger global process. Rather than view Iran and other Middle Eastern nations as problematically “late developers” of printing, the essay argues for a reframing of the process in terms of two distinct printing revolutions: Gutenberg's and Stanhope's.

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