young King Arthur grew in wisdom and the Kingdom of Camelot flourished the
economy improved and people enjoyed greater wealth throughout the land.
Education improved too as people learnt to read and write and teach their
children to play truant instead.
In those days writing was done mainly by monks who spent hours writing beautifully handwritten manuscripts using quills made of goose and swan feathers sharpened with a knife and dipped in various coloured inks. This gave rise to the phrase “pen-knife” to denote the sharp instruments used to sharpen the feathers. Also the now not so well-known phrase “as bold as a goose”, (or swan), denoting these un-feathered birds who could neither fly nor swim and ended up being eaten instead.
The Church and Monasteries at the time made money by employing monks to write mail order catalogues for a lot of merchants, who promised to deliver the goods clients bought to their clients’ homes direct. Unfortunately, the beautiful calligraphy writing style of the monks took so long to write that by the time the catalogue was finished, either the price of the goods had changed, or the goods were no longer available because they were out of style, or perishable if they were edible goods.
A faster method of writing had to be invented, declared King Arthur, which was good news to every goose and swan in the land. Ironically, it was the King himself who was instrumental in the very objective which he had set his people.
One day Arthur was visiting the Monastery of Poverty, so named because it had lost its contract to produce mail-order catalogues. There he discovered that the monks were starving because of lack of money with which to buy food. Even the mice were as poor as church mice, only they lived in a monastery instead.
King Arthur was filled with pity for the poor monks, as well as filled with a sumptuous meal of swan pie and ale which he had earlier that day. He took out of his pocket a half-eaten swan sandwich and handed it to the Head Friar. So called because he was the one who fried the potato chips in the days of plenty when they had money and potatoes to eat. This is coincidentally, how fish and chips became a favourite meal in the Kingdom, since the monastery made extra money by selling fish and chips to the people of Camelot. You could also have meat pie and chips, mashed peas and chips, fried chicken and chips, fried sausage and chips, chips and chips, and even a fried Mars bar and chips. But I digress.
Anyway, the Head Friar, now known as the Chief Beggar on account that he was so poor, stretched out his hand in gratitude to take the half-eaten swan sandwich from King Arthur. As he did so the sandwich slipped and fell to the floor. The friar bent down to pick it up and suddenly a mouse came out of a hole in the wall and grabbed the sandwich. A fight ensued which resulted in the friar losing by a fall, a submission and a knock-out. And that’s how wrestling was invented in Camelot all those years ago.
The King was so horrified at the plight of the poor monks having to fight for food that he decreed that enough food be brought in daily to feed the mice and so avoid any further fights with the monks. Remember … he was growing in wisdom … but not that quickly.
To get back to the declaration that a faster method of writing be found.
The King was discussing with a monk of foreign origin, called Kopy, how calligraphy was done, and he accidentally lent on a table and put his hand in some ink. By the way, if I may digress again, this is how the word copyright originated. It came from monk Kopy whose manuscripts were so perfect that it was almost impossible to copy them. Unless you had a photocopier which was not invented at the time anyway.
So, to get back to the story … this is taking longer than I thought. The King lent on the table and put his hand in some ink. Can’t remember what colour it was, but that’s not important. He then moved his hand on a piece of paper and discovered that he had made an imprint of his hand on the parchment paper.
He scratched his head and got ink in his hair. Stupid or what? Anyway, he tried the experiment again, but this time with his other hand. Again he had made a different print. He tried again with different parts of his body, until the monks stopped him as the exercise was getting a little inappropriate, especially in a monastery.
And that is how the printing press was invented. By accident, King Arthur was instrumental in this brilliant invention which served the word for many years thereafter.
Slowly, then faster, but surely people started to write posters to stick on the walls advertising various events. People never realised how it felt to be wanted until they saw their names on a Police Notice Board.
From posters people progressed to writing and printing newspapers and magazines and so invented lying and half-truths and bad news to sell more newspapers and tawdry publications.
People started writing and printing books on all kinds of subjects, like the sex habits of the silver fish, and other esoteric topics on which to write many books to fill many libraries that no one visits anyway; nor read their shelves-full of books and tomes collected therein for the sole purpose of gathering dust.
But with the invention of the printing press, thanks to King Arthur, people started writing and printing anything on everything regardless as to whether it was needed or not.
People started writing to each other. They started to keep diaries of their daily boring uneventful lives. They wrote shopping lists with just one word, like bread, or milk, because that’s all they could afford anyway. They wrote graffiti on the walls just to show they could write. Some got careless and wrote love letters which came back to bite them in the backside when they eventually but surely had a row with their spouses.
But all this writing and printing was good. Because it created work for everybody. The ink makers, the paper makers, the people who made printing machines, the printers, reporters, editors, publishers, news-agents, booksellers … you get the idea. Everyone benefited by the invention originating from King Arthur making an impression of his derrière on a sheet or parchment paper.
And all was well in the Kingdom of Camelot.
The moral of the story, (so far), is: My uncle used to say, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. Then one day a printing press fell on him.