The term "Renaissance-, which is French for "rebirth- was used to describe the intellectual and economic changes that occurred in Europe from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries. During this period, Europe emerged from economic stagnation into a period of financial growth. More importantly, the Renaissance was an age where artistic, social, scientific and political thought was turned into a new direction. .
Prior to this period, bookmaking consisted of copying words and illustrations by hand on to parchment or thin animal skins. The time and labor put into this process caused books to be very expensive and to be few in number. Only a small group of privileged (often wealthy) people were able to enjoy the luxury of reading books. With the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg in 1445, more people were allowed to purchase reading material. Until the time of the invention of the printing press, books were written primarily in Latin, the language of scholarship. Now people demanded works in their own languages, as well as different varieties of books such as novels, historical books, maps, etc. .
In the past, specifically during the Middle Ages, the Church guided the teachings of scholars, while people mainly concerned themselves with actions leading to salvation. The writings of ancient Rome and Greece, known as the "classics", were ignored for many years. Humanists, who believed in a revival of old classical literature, had to learn to read Greek and Latin as they sought out ancient manuscripts that had remained untouched for thousands of years. The humanists revived writings covering science, government, rhetoric, philosophy, and art. The influence of the ancient civilizations placed emphasis on man and his intellect. The innovation and discoveries which characterized the Renaissance were based in part on recovery and the study of classical authors. Gutenberg's printing press allowed copies of works written by classical authors to reach more people than before.