The printing presses of the London Missionary Society among the Chinese
China became subject to various Western influences in the nineteenth century. Conspicuous in the realm of technology was the transformation of printing from xylography to Western typography. The new method was introduced by Protestant missionaries and mainly by those of the London Missionary Society (LMS). The motive behind this transformation was their hope to print the Bible and by an adequate method, but later the impact of this technological change extended widely beyond religion, resulting in the burgeoning and rapid development of modern Chinese publishing enterprises, including newspapers, periodicals and books. Based mainly upon the LMS archives and the Chinese works printed by LMS missionaries, this study is a history of the LMS's printing presses, beginning with their establishment in the very early nineteenth century until their closure in 1873. The two principal themes in this study are: first, the missionaries' application of Western technology to Chinese printing; and secondly, the role and response of the Chinese to this transformation. Whilst trying to demonstrate the interaction between missionaries and natives in the process of change, an attempt is also made, in the context of contemporary China, to interpret how Western printing technology gradually gained influence in native minds. The printing press did not achieve as much as expected in helping to spread Christianity in China. However, the LMS missionaries were able to produce the first fount of Chinese type and raised Chinese awareness of its greater efficiency, compared with their thousand-year-old blocks, as an agent for the introduction of modern knowledge and as a means to transform their old society.