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The Printing Press: The Slow Progress of Science

Tsaru's eyes grew wide when she entered Ginyu's house. The wise woman had already made a beautiful meal in preparation for the shaman's visit, and she had laid the table with enough food for a small feast.

She risked a peek into the room the shaman would be staying in, and was rewarded with an empty floor and an unused bedroll.

"Ginyu!" Tsaru walked through the hallway that circled the kitchen and dining area, but the wise woman did not answer.

She paused next to a door at the far end of the house. Although she knew she wasn't allowed in there, she couldn't help but notice that the door was ajar ever so slightly.

She took a few quick breaths and ducked inside.

The room was lit by two windows that let the sun stream in, casting a glow on the most beautiful object Tsaru had ever seen. It had a wooden frame towering in the middle and a long bed stretching almost half the length of the room. White and black papers hung like sheets on lines that ran from one wall to the other, and the wet smell of ink and oil washed over her.

Tsaru touched the machine with reverence, wishing she were tall enough to see its innermost parts.

"You should not be here."

She jumped and hit her hand on the frame of the machine.

"Oniyo!" she hissed, sucking her fingers. "You scared me. And what are you doing up there?"

The phantom sat in the rafters, looking down at her through the hanging papers as though it were no more odd than sitting in a chair.

"Ginyu has forbidden you to enter this room without her permission." He looked at her calmly, but his voice held a hint of reprimand.

Tsaru looked down. "But I wanted to see the press."

Oniyo jumped to the floor, landing as though he were a feather. His black and red robe swirled as he surveyed the room carefully.

"Alright then. One look, then we should leave." He set aside his sword and lifted her by her waist.

She stared breathlessly at the printing press. Not the most complicated machine -- the watermill had lots more gears -- but the most mysterious.

Dozens of tiny letters forged from iron filled a frame set on the bed of the press. Ginyu had showed her how it worked, but she still didn't understant it. A stack of blank paper went in, and part of a book came out.

How magical, that somebody could take their thoughts and write them for hundreds of people to read. It was like putting your brain into someone else's head. There were even pictures carved from wood that could be pressed onto the paper -- like putting your eyes into someone else's head.


Few people learn how to read more than basic language. Only the middle class and the elites read for knowledge or pleasure. Still the demand for books is high among these classes and a printer enjoys a noble position.


Individual pieces are forged in a foundry or carved by carpenters and the machine is assembled at the site where it is to be used.
Access & Availability
Printing presses are expensive and usually reserved only for nobility. Ginyu has one because her husband worked for a trading company and traded a horse to a desperate merchant for it. After her husband died she became a wise woman, dedicating her research to phantoms and the shamans who studied them.
The frame of the machine is wooden, but it has many intricate metal parts. Since the language has approximately forty-five logographs (letters that represent full syllables) to write with the individual pieces of the machine can be quite extensive and expensive.
200 years previous when the False Emperor demanded the spread of his philosophy to his citizens en masse. The technology was imported from the mainland. Currently manufactured in the major cities by specialized smiths.

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