Before the Industrial Revolution, books were copied – mainly in monasteries, or, as in the 13th century, by paid scribes. The Gutenberg press diminished the scarcity of books by enabling at least 700 – 800 books to be printed per year, despite the fact that many materials that were printed still had to be fed by hand, and the process of printing was very time consuming. Around the Industrial Revolution, a sudden interest for literature flourished, partially due to the Renaissance and The Enlightenment. This boost of interest led to an increase in literacy, which induced mass production of books and pamphlets. In a sense, an old invention was “retrieved”. The Gutenberg press, met with little enthusiasm at first due to the lack of demand, however later became a necessity to publicize findings and promote inventions.
Widespread literacy also led to the formation of many educational societies within Britain. The Lunar Society of Birmingham, for example, discussed scientific theories and published new ideas in non-periodic volumes. Similarly, the society of Arts in London published volumes on inventions. Important works during the 18 th and 19 th centuries included encyclopedias, such as the Lexicon Technicum (1704) and Dr. Abraham Rees's Encyclopedia. Foreign encyclopedias from authors like Diderot were also popular in Britain .