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  • 27 décembre 2016 - 08:15
  • Joël Burri 3053 signes
Culture

La presse, une révolution dans le partage des idées

Série «L’imprimerie et la Réforme»

Réplique de la presse de Gutenberg ©atelier-musée «encre & plomb» Des caractères en plomb, moulés individuellement, que l’on peut aligner rapidement puis encrer pour marquer autant de feuilles que souhaité. Le caractère mobile de Gutenberg a révolutionné la diffusion des textes.

Photo: Réplique de la presse de Gutenberg ©atelier-musée «encre & plomb» 

Par Joël Burri

Des caractères en relief qui peuvent être placés côte à côte puis encrés et sur lesquels on vient appliquer une page. Cette invention attribuée à Jean Gutenberg, un orfèvre né vers 1400 à Mayence, dans le Saint-Empire germanique est souvent présentée comme une révolution qui a permis une diffusion rapide des idées de la Réforme. Par rapport au travail des moines-copistes, il est vrai que l’impression permettait une réduction importante des coûts de production des écrits et garantissait des copies sans erreur. Mais, plus qu’une révolution, l’invention de Gutenberg est le fruit d’une longue évolution.

«Les Chinois ont imprimé dès le IIe siècle à partir de gravures sur pierre et dès le VIIIe siècle avec des bois gravés, la xylographie. Le caractère mobile en argile cuite apparaît au XIe siècle toujours en Chine», prévient dans son matériel didactique l’équipe de l’atelier-musée «Encre et Plomb» à Chavannes-près-Renens (VD) qui a notamment construit une réplique de la presse de Gutenberg. Par ailleurs, certains artisans pratiquant la xylographie avaient déjà essayé la gravure sur des blocs séparés par lignes ou par paragraphe, ce qui permettait d’apporter des corrections à coût réduit.

Les compétences d’orfèvre de Gutenberg ont toutefois permis d’obtenir des impressions d’une précision jamais égalée. Il a mis au point le plomb typographique, un alliage suffisamment dur pour ne pas se déformer lors de la mise en presse et qui ne se déforme pas non plus en refroidissant après avoir été moulé. Il a également développé des encres plus visqueuses que celles employées alors, permettant une impression plus nette, ainsi que différentes améliorations de la presse, elle-même. «S’inspirant du pressoir du vigneron, Gutenberg construit une presse à imprimer verticale avec un levier monté sur une vis. La composition en plomb est encrée à la main, une feuille de papier ou de parchemin est placée dessus puis le pressier tire le levier à lui (d’où le terme de tirage) ce qui presse le papier contre le plomb encré», explique «Encre et Plomb».

«La presse dite de Gutenberg, d’abord fabriquée en bois est démontable et transportable, les imprimeurs se déplaçaient souvent avec leur matériel pour imprimer. Par exemple en 1481 une équipe s’arrête au monastère de Rougemont», rappelle l’atelier-musée.

La Bible a été le premier texte imprimé, Gutenberg et son associé le banquier Johann Fust y voyaient le seul écrit dont les ventes pouvaient rapidement rentabiliser les sommes considérables avancées par le second pour permettre au premier de mettre au point son invention.

Rapidement, la presse a servi à la diffusion de pamphlets. «Difficile de connaître la proportion de personnes alphabétisées à l’époque», commente Geneviève Gross, post-doc à l’Institut d’histoire de la réforme. «Ce qui est probable, c’est que les gens se retrouvaient autour des personnes qui savaient lire, pour prendre connaissance de ces textes», explique l’historienne. L’oral a donc eu également un rôle primordial dans la diffusion des idées nouvelles.

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