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The Printing Revolution in

Early Modern Europe

Elizabeth L. Eisenstein

As presented to HU 520: The Rhetorics of a Print/Digital Culture

by Diane Keranen,
Eisenstein first began to be She found support for this conventionally associated with
concerned about the topic of view from Marshal McLuhan’s the transition from medieval to
this book in the early 1960s The Gutenberg Galaxy, where he early modern times,
after reading Carl provided additional evidence concentrating on cultural and
Bridenbaugh’s presidential of how overload could lead to intellectual movements.
address to the American incoherence. He pronounced She expresses the concern
Historical Association. The historical modes of inquiry to that it may not be wise to
“What were some of the address, entitled “The Great
Mutation,” raised alarms about
be obsolete and the age of
Gutenberg at an end. (page x)
present views that are still in
flux in a medium as fixed as
most important the extent to which a “run-
away technology” was severing
One question Eisenstein
explores is “What were some
print (the preservation powers
of print are an important
consequences of the shift all bonds with the past and
portrayed contemporary
of the most important
consequences of the shift from
element according to EE, page
xi) and she asks the reader to
from script to print?” scholars as victims of a kind of
collective amnesia (page ix).
script to print?” (page x).
This study undertaken to
keep in mind the tentative,
provisional character of her
Eisenstein felt this “lament survey the consequences of the study, and not to interpret it as
over ‘the loss of mankind’s fifteenth-century a definitive text but as an
memory’” was merely communications shift was extended essay. (page xii)
symptomatic and thought published as The Printing Press “Print culture” for the
Part I: The Emergence of Bridenbaugh’s view lacked the as an Agent of Change in 1979 in purpose of her study refers to
ability to present the alarms of two-volumes. It has since been post-Gutenberg developments
Print Culture in the West the current cultural crisis into abridged (lacking the in the West. She makes a point
the proper perspective which footnotes, citations and of clarifying that cultural
focuses on the shift from historians ought to do. references, and addition of change in Western Europe is in
Eisentstein’s experience, and illustrations) as The Printing no way due completely to the
script to print in Western that of her collegues, lead her Revolution in Early Modern changes in print and presents
to consider that recall rather Europe, first published in 1983 the study of print as one of the
Europe as she tries to than oblivion was more and reprinted 11 times since. many agents of change in the
accurately the threat and that Her study is presented in communications network used
block out the main the speed with which data was two parts; Part I: The Emergence by learned communities
features of the becoming available was much
faster than we can make order
of Print Culture in the West
focuses on the shift from script
throughout Europe that had
special effects. It is these effects
communications of and comprehend it.
“If there was a ‘run-away’
to print in Western Europe as
she tries to block out the main
of printing on the written and
on the views of already literate
revolution; technology which was leading
to a sense of cultural crisis
features of the
communications revolution;
elites and how they may be
related to other concurrent
among historians, perhaps it Part II: Interaction with Other developments that she is
has more to do with an Developments deals with the attempting to describe here.
increased rate of publication relationship between the
than with new audiovisual communications shift and
Part II: Interaction with media?” (page x) other developments

Other Developments
deals with the
relationship between the
communications shift
and other developments

associated with the
transition from medieval
to early modern times,
concentrating on cultural
and intellectual
Part I
“…although the broader The Emergence of Print Culture in the West
historical implications of An Unacknowledged out, is that “early print culture spurned the sale of printed
these data are Revolution is sufficiently uniform to
permit us to measure its
books, in his Lives of Illustrious
Men contains a reference to the
occasionally hinted at, Reproduction of written
materials began to move from
diversity.” (8-9)
The “unacknowledged
beautifully bound manuscript
books in the Duke of Urbino’s
they are never really the copyist’s desk to the
printer’s workshop and
revolution” then, is the
revolution or perhaps the
library and snobbishly implies
that a printed book would have
spelled out” although the shift from script
to print has had a drastic effect
evolution of a culture. A
culture that no longer relied
been “ashamed” in such
elegant company” (18-19). He
on our culture, Eisenstein on the scribe and the scribal was forced out of business in
found that there has been very technology of reproducing 1478, while his chief rival, who
little published study actually manuscripts, a technology that sold printed books, stayed in
applied to understanding these often resulted in (and perhaps business until his death in 1495.
“early print culture is effects. “Insofar as flesh-and- encouraged) corrupted Eisenstein uses Vespasiano’s
blood historians who turn out reproductions. It is the closing up shop as the point
sufficiently uniform to articles and books actually bear revolution of a culture that when a genuine wholesale
witness to what happened in produced printed texts and book trade was launched.
permit us to measure its the past, the effect on society who was also influenced by its Early printers tried to copy
of the development of own invention, the printing manuscripts as faithfully as
diversity.” printing, far from appearing press, in ways that have only possible and fifteenth-century
cataclysmic, is remarkably been hinted at although scribes copying from early
inconspicuous.” (3) Printed recognized as an integral part printed books also stayed true
studies of the broader of the history of our to the printed form. “Thus
implications of effect of civilization. “The effects handwork and presswork
printing on “the evolution of produced by printing have continued to appear almost
Late manuscripts and humanity” do exist, and she aroused little controversy, not indistinguishable.” (21) These
cites Rudolf Hirsch (3), Febvre
early printed books were and Martin, and Steinberg (pg
because views on the topic
coincide, but because none has
attempts at copying each other
and producing products that
very similar in 4) and states “…although the
broader historical implications
been set forth in an explicit
and systematic form” (4).
were nearly identical blurs the
distinction of the shift from
appearance…blurring the of these data are occasionally
hinted at, they are never really Defining the
script to print making it appear
gradual, although the shift was
distinction of the shift spelled out” (4).
There is much written about
Initial Shift rapid in the method of
from script to print how methods of book
production itself changed after
She begins her study where
many studies end: after the
New features available to
printers (graduated types,
making it appear the mid-fifteenth century but first dated printed products
had been issued and the
running heads, footnotes, tables
little that investigates how of contents, superior figures,
gradual, although the access to a greater abundance inventor’s immediate
successors had set to work
cross references, and others)
and variety of written records soon began to be exploited
shift was rapid in the affected ways of learning, (13). The advent of printing, and within a generation the
thinking, and perceiving as Eisenstein defines it “is commercial aspects of the
method of reproduction. among the literate elites. (5) taken to mean the booksellers trade pushed
She reasons that the establishment of presses in publication “in a new direction
difficulty of clearly defining urban centers beyond the —away from fidelity to scribal
these effects is due in part to Rhineland during an interval conventions and toward
the near impossibility of that begins in the 1460s and serving the convenience of the
understanding pre-printing coincides, very roughly, with reader.” (pg 22)
New features available to

culture. Because we learn and the era of incunabula. (13). “Title pages became increas-
try to understand the script Late manuscripts and early ingly common, facilitating the
printers…pushed culture through printed printed books were very production of book lists and
historical records, our similar in appearance.
publication “in a new understanding is undoubtedly Florentine bibliophiles were
catalogues...hand drawn
illustrations were replaced by
sending to Rome for printed
direction—away from skewed. The varied manner in
which script reproductions books as early as 1470 and
easily duplicated woodcuts and
engravings—an innovation
some printed editions were
fidelity to scribal occurred also makes
generalizations of the culture actually bound with the same
which eventually helped to
revolutionize technological
conventions and toward ineffective, however, “a major
difference between the last
magnificent covers as
manuscripts (19).
literature by introducing
‘exactly repeatable pictorial
serving the convenience century of scribal culture and
the first century after
Vespasiano da Bisticci, the
most celebrated Florentine
statements’ into all kinds of
reference works.” (22) By
of the reader.” Gutenberg” Eisenstein points manuscript book merchant who employing various devices such
as banderoles (small inscrip- Reckon masters and immemorial antiquity whereby
tion), letter-number keys and instrument makers along with a “thing” is immediately
indication lines “was important professors and preachers invested with an image and
for technical literature because profited when their fame stored in the places of
they expressed the relationship spread beyond shops and memory. (35) As learning by
between words and things.” (24) lecture halls. reading books took on new
The usage of woodcuts Due to the fragmentary importance, the role played by
rather than hand drawn evidence Eisenstein sees it as mnemonic aids was dimin-
illuminations sealed the fate of prudent to bypass the ished. The nature of the
the illuminator in the same problems associated with the collective memory was
way that printing sealed the spread of literacy until other transformed. (35) Defenders
fate of the scribe. (24) issues have been explored with of the image note Gregory the
The advent of printing led more care. She writes, “When Great’s dictum that statues
to the creation of a new kind considering the initial served as “books of the
of shop structure; to a transformations wrought by illiterate.” (36)
regrouping which entailed print, at all events, changes “…it may seem plausible to
A closer contacts among
diversely skilled workers and
undergone by groups who were
already literate ought to
suggest that printing fostered a
movement “from image
encouraged new forms of receive priority over the culture to word culture”. (36)
cross-cultural interchange. (24) undeniable fascinating The cultural metamorphosis
Financing large publications problem of how rapidly such produced by printing was really
brought together rich groups were enlarged.” (31) much more complicated than
merchants and local scholars. “It is probable that only a any single formula can possibly
Previously divided cultural very small portion of the entire express. (36) For instance,
segments began to have population was affected by the engraved images became even
regular direct contact. The initial shift… nevertheless…a more abundant after the
printer bridged many worlds, fairly wide social spectrum may establishment of print shops
he needed to obtain money, have been involved. (32) To throughout Western Europe.
supplies and labor, develop describe the early reading Many fundamental texts that
complex production public is difficult. Simply lost their illustrations in the
schedules, cope with strikes, matching genres of books with course of being copied for
estimate book markets, and groups of readers can not be centuries by scribes only
B line up learned assistants. He taken for granted, “popular” regained them after script was
also needed to be on good works were those that appealed replaced by print. The printed
A. Script from a hand-copied Bible terms with officials while to diverse groups. Latin and image was the savior of
B. Early printed piece
cultivating talented authors vernacular-reading publics, Western science. Images were
and artists who might bring his pages and apprentices, landed indispensible and “more
firm profits or prestige. (25) gentry, courtiers, shopkeepers, valuable than many printed
In places where the printers clerks and plebes alike were all words” according to a Chinese
enterprise prospered his work- targets of the bookseller, as maxim. We need to think
shop became a veritable cultural well as tutors of the princes, beyond the simple formula
center that attracted local literati church school instructors, and “image to word.”
and celebrated foreigners, was chaplains. Translations of Latin The purpose of this
The advent of printing both a meeting place and a biblical readings for the “poor preliminary discussion has
message center for an expand- preachers” not schooled in been simply to demonstrate
led to the creation of a ing cosmopolitan Common- Latin found the picture bibles that the shift from script to
wealth of Learning. (25) to be good guides. Also, book print entailed a large ensemble
new kind of shop The shift from scribe to ownership did not relate of changes. (41) Much had
printer represented a genuine directly to actual readership changed!
structure; to a regrouping occupational mutation. (29) but for display, or read not by
For a while the trade in the target audience but by
which entailed closer printed books flowed within other publishers and authors Some Features of
the narrow channels of the who were wide-ranging
contacts among diversely manuscript book market. But readers.
Print Culture
soon the stream could no After the advent of During the first centuries of
skilled workers and

longer be contained. (29) printing…the transmission of print, old texts were duplicated
more rapidly that new ones,
encouraged new forms of The drive to tap markets
went together with efforts to
written information became
much more efficient. Gifted and authorities conclude that
“printing did not speed up the
cross-cultural interchange. hold competitors at bay by
offering better products or, at
students could acquire the
same knowledge that was once adoption of new theories.” E.E.
least, by printing a prospectus learned after many years at the suggests that maybe other
advertising the firm’s “more foot of a master. The Gothic features, such as the increased
…the transmission of readable” texts, “more
complete and better arranged”
cathedral, the “encyclopedia in
stone”, was threatened by the
output and dissemination of
old texts and also that which
written information indexes, “more careful proof- printed book which would distinguished the new mode of
book production from the old
reading” and editing. (29) make such “things”, crowded
became much more Promotional and advertising with memories, unnecessary. one contributed to [new]
theories. (42)
techniques contributed to new [The printed book] will do
efficient forms of personal celebrity. away with habits of
A closer look at wide diffusion, E.E. stresses that, brought the more standardized
dissemination: increased output moreover, individual access to image, which in turn led to
and altered intake diverse texts is a different recognition of the apparent
matter from bringing many diversity of individuals. 60)
More available books at Although the printer dupli-
cated a seemingly antiquated minds to bear on a single Circulation of royal portraits
“standardized” text. (51) and engravings of royal entries
a lower cost provided the backlist, more available books
at a lower cost provided the made it possible for a reigning
Considering some effects dynasty to impress a personal
purchaser a more varied purchaser a more varied
literary diet than had been
produced by standardization presence in a new way upon the
consciousness of all subjects in
literary diet than had provided by the scribe. (43)
It was no longer essential to
Early printing was not as
standard as today’s printing, an “exactly repeatable” and
been provided by the be a wandering scholar to countless errata (corrections)
had to be issued, which, in
recognizable “image”
Standardization and the
consult different books, the era
scribe. Merely by making of intense cross referencing itself, demonstrated the ability
to locate textual errors with
routines of the printer of
efficient planning, methodical
between one book and
more scrambled data another began. (43) More precision. (51) attention to detail, and
rational calculation in the
abundantly stocked Early printed copies were
available…printers bookshelves obviously sufficiently uniform for production process(and the
many how-to manuals
increased opportunities to scholars in different regions to
encouraged efforts to consult and compare different correspond with each other produced at the time) was
texts. Merely by making more about the same citation and conducive to a “spirit of the
unscramble these data scrambled data available… for the same emendations and system,” It’s much easier to
printers encouraged efforts to errors to be spotted by many find things when they are each
which resulted in new unscramble these data. eyes. (52) disposed in place and not
Increased output also One subliminal scattered haphazardly.” (64)
combinations of old ideas created conditions that favored impact…style books, which Some effects produced by
new combinations of old ideas stripped scribal “hands” of reorganizing texts and reference
at first and then, later on, the personal identity, the very guides: rationalizing, codifying,
concept of a “style” underwent
individual access to creation of entirely new
systems of thought (44) transformation with the
and cataloguing data

standardized impressions made Basic changes in book

diverse texts is a Printing encouraged forms
of combinatory activity such as by pieces of type, idiosyncrasies format might well lead to
changes in thought patterns,
different matter from interchanges between artists
and scholars or practitioners
of the individual had of the
scribe were clear, as were the for example, the order of
alphabetization did not exist
bringing many minds to and theorists in early modern
science, which were social as
contrasts between the woodcut
and original re-drawings (53) before printing. (64)
The competitive commercial
bear on a single well as intellectual exchanges, The process of
standardization also brought character of the printed book
changing relationships trade when, to attract
“standardized” text. between men of learning as out more clearly all deviations
from classical canons reflected purchasers while keeping
well as between systems of competitors at bay, coupled
ideas. (45) in diverse buildings, statues,
paintings, and objects d’art , with typographic
Cross-cultural interchange standardization made more
stimulated mental activities in creating two categories of
the more standardization, contradictory ways: magical history, the classical and the systematic cataloguing and
indexing highly desirable. (66)
arts were closely associated nonclassical.(53)
the more compelling is with mechanical crafts and Disappearance of variations These utilities of
in bookhands brought about a cataloguing, cross-referencing,
the sense of individual mathematical wizardry;
“technology” went to press, but polarization of two distinct and indexing reflected new
type fonts “gothic” and opportunities among
self, resulting in a so did a backlog of mystery
lore; few readers could “roman”, a polarization that clergymen and clerks to realize
also affected other aspects of old scholarly goals. (68)
polarization that also discriminate between the two.
A new form of enlightenment culture. A heightened The desire to have
“everything in its right place”
affected other aspects of as well as a new mystification
accompanied the advent of
consciousness of the three
orders in architectural prints, (68) a dis-order previously
concealed by oral presentation
culture and produced a new treatises and old texts,

printing. (45) and piecemeal copying became
Duplication of primers, ABC uniform maps and a
more visible to copy editors
heightened awareness of books, catechisms, calendars, heightened awareness of
boundaries both in place and and idexers and more
and devotional literature (a offensive to publishers who
boundaries both in place new wide-angled, unfocused customs, a general recognition
of diversity, concepts of valued systematic routines.
scholarship together with a (70)The Ramist doctrine,
and customs, a general new single-minded piety). At uniformity and diversity are
treating everything topically,
the same time practical interdependent—two sides of
recognition of diversity… guidebooks and manuals the same coin—the more owed its popularity to the fact
that printing made of textbooks
became more abundant standardization, the more
concepts of uniformity making it easier to plan getting compelling is the sense of a profitable genre. (71)
Increasing familiarity with
ahead in this world. (48) individual self. (56)
and diversity are All of these features (Increasingly precise and regularly numbered pages,
punctuation marks, section
changed patterns of cultural detailed recording of
interdependent observations in visible form breaks, running head, indexes,
and so forth helped to reorder powers of print, preservation is priests with a sixteenth-century
the thought of all readers, possible the most important, breviary—its text having been
whatever their profession or no manuscript could be slightly altered from the
craft .(73) preserved for long without version authorized by post-
undergoing corruption by Tridentine Rome (83)
[Alphabetization] was so The new process of data copyists, (to be transmitted Fixity also made possible
little the case before collection: from corrupted copy to
the improved edition
from one generation to the
next information had to be
more explicit recognition of
individual innovation and
printing that a Genoese The succession of Latin conveyed by drifting texts and
vanishing manuscripts) (79),
encouraged the staking of
claims to inventions,
Bibles turned out by Robert
compiler of thirteenth- Estienne and atlases turned preservation could be achieved
by using abundant supplies of
discoveries, and creations (84)
Printing forced legal
out by Ortelius “suggest how
century encyclopedia the immemorial drift of scribal paper, quantity counted for
more than quality. (See
definition of what belonged in
the public domain (84), only
culture had been not merely
could write that “ ‘amo’ arrested but actually reversed.” Jefferson’s letter to Feorge Wythe, after printing did plagerism
(73). In the hands of ignorant page 80) “the lost cannot be and copyright begin to hold
comes befor ‘bibo’ printers driving to make quick recovered; but let us save what significance for the author.
profits, data tended to get remains; not by vaults and A thirteenth-century
because ‘a’ is the first garbled at an ever more rapid locks which fence them from Franciscan, Saint Bonaventura,
pace, but under the guidance the public eye and use, in said that there were four ways
letter of the former and of technically proficient masters, consigning them to the waste of “making books,”(85)
of time but by such a (curiously absent is original
‘b’ is the first letter of the new technology also
provided a way of transcending multiplication of copies, as composition):
shall place them beyond the 1. scriptor, writing the work of
the latter and ‘a’ comes the limits which scribal
procedures had imposed upon reach of accident.” (81) others, adding and changing
The notion that valuable nothing
before ‘b’ …by the technically proficient masters in
the past, under proper super- data could be preserved best 2. compiler, writes the work of
by being made public, rather others with additions which
grace of God working in vision, fresh observations
could at long last be duplicated than by being kept secret, ran are not his own
counter to tradition, led to 3. commentator, writes others
me, I have devised this without being blurred or
blotted over the course of clashes with new censors, and work as principle, adds own
order.” time. (74) Thus a knowledge was central both to early modern
science and to Enlightenment
for explanation
4. author, self as principle
explosion was set off. (75)
Some sixteenth-century editors thought. (pg 81) work, with others for
and publishers…created vast Once Greek type fonts had confirmation
networks of correspondents been cut, neither the disruption Veneration for the wisdom
and solicited criticism of each of civil order in Italy, the of the ages retrospectively cast
edition, sometimes publicly conquest of Greek lands by ancient sages as individual
promising to mention the Islam, nor even the translation authors. Early printers were
Fresh observations could names of readers who sent in into Latin of all major Greek primarily responsible for
new information or who texts saw knowledge of Greek forcing definition of literary
at long last be duplicated spotted errors which would be wither again in the West. This property rights, for shaping
weeded out. (74) Within three fixity involves the whole new concepts of authorship,
without being blurred or years Ortelius acquired so modern “knowledge industry” for exploiting bestsellers and
many new maps that he issued itself. (81) trying to tap new markets. (86)
blotted over the course a supplement of 17 maps Typography arrested There was no was of
linguistic drift, enriched as well recognizing unprecedented
of time. Thus a which were later incorporated
in to his Theatrum. In his as standardized vernaculars, and innovations before the advent
paved the way for the more of print. Steady advance
knowledge explosion was lifetime he published 28
editions of the atlas. (75) deliberate purification and codi- implies exact determination of
fication of all major European every previous step...printing
set off. The ability to gain this kind
of feedback helps define the languages, duplication of made this determination
difference between data vernacular primers and “incomparably easier.”
collection before and after the translations contributed in Progressive refinement was
other ways to nationalism. made possible. (87)

communications shift. (76)
The ability to continually linguistic “roots” and New, improved editions of
The ability to continually improve successive editions rootedness in one’s homeland
would be entangled. (82)
ancient texts also began to
accumulate, uncovering more
made the future seem to hold
improve successive more promise of enlighten- Printing contributed to
permanent fragmentation of
schools of ancient philosophy
than had been dreamed of
ment than the past (78)
editions made the future Typographical fixity is a Latin Christendon by the
duplication of documents
before, scattered attacks on one
authority...provided ammu-
basic prerequisite for the rapid
seem to hold more advancement of learning. (78) pertaining to ritual, liturgy, or
canon law, local printing firms
nition for a wholesale assault
on all received opinion. (87)
promise of Considering the preservative
powers of print: fixity and
were not under the pope’s Claims of having inherited
control but served national their magic mantel were put
enlightenment than the cumulative change clergies, an Antwerp printer forth by new romanticists
Of all the new features joined forces with a king of trying to resurrect scribal arts
past. introduced by the duplicative Spain to supply all Spanish in the age of print. Even the
“decay-of-nature” theme, once “typographical man”), more became subject of the
intimately associated with the historically and concretely, duplicative powers of print.
erosion and corruption of about the sorts of social and Fear of expanded states
scribal writing, would be psychological effects that were provoked countermeasures
reworked and reoriented by entailed and how different from parliaments and
gloomy modern prophets who groups were affected. (92) assemblies. Propaganda wars
envisaged a “run-away Although concern about exacerbated the traditional
technology” and felt regress, how silent reading and “silent tensions between court and
not progress, characterized instructors” “carry farther than country, crown and estates.
their age. (89) do public lectures” was
apparent to a sixteenth-century The rise of a new class of
Amplification and reinforcement: professor of medicine, (92) “men of letters”
The more reading, the the persistence of stereotypes and
of sociolinguistic divisions
silent reading and “silent
instruction” has become Were the new groups who
more likely one is to With ever more frequent increasingly more pervasive engaged in the production
and distribution of printed
repetition of identical and ever more elaborately
encounter familiar messages, one passing institutionalized after the shift materials part of a new social
class of intellectuals? (98)
reference could lead to a from script to print. (93), the
quotations, describing hundred-fold encounter for recourse to the spoken word From the “low-life of
literature” of eighteenth-
the well-read individual, cannot be assumed to have
familiar episodes, therefore having an impression diminished. To the contrary, century France’s frustrated
priests and orators both literary careerist in translating
originating symbols or on the mind of the reader. The
more reading, the more likely benefited from the way their Enlightenment doctrines into
personal charisma could be radical political action to the
stereotypes. one is to encounter familiar
quotations, describing familiar augmented and amplified by profitable clandestine book
the printed word. trade and black market books,
episodes, originating symbols smuggling of vernacular Bibles
or stereotypes. (89) Recourse to silent
publication undoubtedly and Galileo’s evasion of the
The frequency with which all officials who placed him under
messages were transmitted was altered the character of some
spoken words, affected house arrest, the story of the
Silent reading and “silent primarily channeled by the
exchange between members of “fourth estate” remains to be
fixing of literary linguistic told. (99)
instruction” has become frontiers. A reinforcement was parliament due to their
printed debates, altered the Paradoxically enough, the
involved in relearning mother same presses which fanned the
increasingly more tongues when learning to read, way poetry and song were
recited: this literary culture flames of religious controversy
which went together with the also created a new vested
pervasive and ever more progressive amplification of created by typography was
conveyed to the ear. Most rural interest in ecumenical concord
diversely oriented national
elaborately “memories.” (90) villagers were exclusively a
hearing public up until the
and toleration (100); during
the sixteenth century, such
Even more than the learned
institutionalized after Latin journals that were read nineteenth century, even printing shops represented
miniature “international
by a limited segment of the though what they heard had
the shift from script to population, the fixing of been transformed by printing houses,” they provided
wandering scholars with a
religious frontiers that cut two centuries earlier. (93)
print. across linguistic ones in the Sermons had at one time meeting place, message center,
sanctuary, and cultural center
sixteenth century had a been coupled with news about
local and foreign affairs, real all in one, encouraging a
powerful effect on the formation of an ethos which
frequency with which certain estate transactions and other
mundane matters. (94) The was specifically associated with
messages were transmitted. the Commonwealth of
printing of newspapers offered
Print houses provided (Catholic church Latin vs
vernacular biblical translations and alternative news source, Learning. (101)
this decentralization from the This was the era when men
wandering scholars with of Protestant regions area a
good example of diverse pulpit has a significant of letters and learning were
connection with the weakening likely to be familiar with print
a meeting place, messages within linguistic
groups.) (90) of local community ties, it was technology and commercial
no longer necessary to come trade routes and the simplicity
message center,

together get the news. A of the early press made it
The Expanding possible for American men of
sanctuary, and cultural Republic of Letters
people assembled (oral
tradition) vs a people letters to act as their own
printers. (Mark Twain and
center all in one, The rise of the reading public
dispersed (men of letters,)
changed what it mean to Benjamin Franklin). (102)
The historical and social
encouraging a formation The replacement of
discourse by silent scanning, of
participate in public affairs,
(95) links to larger collective consciousness of men of letters
of an ethos which was face-to-face contacts by more
impersonal interactions,
units were being forged (96),
new forms of group identity,
in early modern Europe was
well in advance of that of other
specifically associated probably did have important
consequences, it follows that
vicarious participation and a groups. (103)
mass consciousness.(97)
with the Commonwealth we need to think less The power of officials and
metaphorically and abstractly bureaucrates were extended
of Learning. (than McLuhan’s once government regulations
It should also be noted Part II
that the full flowering Interaction With Other Developments
of high Renaissance Eisenstein provides, in Part the cultural movement It helps to explain the
culture, where the first II, a basis for some tentative
conclusions concerning the
initiated by Italian literati and
artists in the age of scribes
enthusiastic welcome given to
the press by the fifteenth-
Grub Street subculture effects of the communications
shift upon three movements
and expanded to encompass
many regions and field of
century Roman church. Not
only did the church legitimate
thrived, owed much to which seem strategic in the
shaping of the modern mind.
study in the age of print, but
it doesn’t cover the ensemble
the art of printing, it provided
a most important market for
early printers. The new The specific relationship
between the advent of
of changes which were
ushered in by with the major
the infant industry. For fifty
years before the Protestant
medium had a printing and fifteenth-century
cultural change involves a
communications revolution
ushered in by print. (145)
Revolt, churchmen in most
regions welcomed an
stimulating effect on complex ensemble of many
interrelated changes. (111)
It should also be noted that
the full flowering of high
invention which served both
priests (liturgical lessons) and
inventive and The Permanent
Renaissance culture, where
the first Grub Street
laymen (prosperous
businesses). (158)
imaginative faculties Renaissance subculture thrived, owed
much to early printers. The
The priest may have
claimed the sacred office of
Mutation of a Classical
and contributed to a Revival new medium had a stimulating
effect on inventive and
mediating between God and
man, but when it came to
heightened sense of Do we really know in which
century Western culture
imaginative faculties and scriptural exegesis many
contributed to a heightened editors and publishers felt
individuality and moved from the Middle Ages,
through the Renaissance, to
sense of individuality and that Greek and Hebrew
personality which continues to scholars were better equipped
personality which become modern? E.E. begins
to answer this question by
distinguish Western for the task. (159) It was
civilization from other printing which introduced a
continues to distinguish asking, more directly, “What
was peculiar to the
cultures even now. (146) new drive to tap mass markets.
It took at least a century of (159)
Western civilization from transitional age itself?,” and
believes that printing deserves
printing before the multiform Luther himself described
maps and tangled printing as “God’s highest and
other cultures even now. to be put first. (113) New
[printing] trades…are being
chronologies inherited from extremist act of grace,
scribal records were sorted whereby the business of the
created…traditional skills out, and more uniform Gospel is driven forward.”
(metalworkers and systems for arranging English Protestants pointed
The preaching of merchants) are being directed materials developed. Before the way to later trends… “The
toward new ends.(114) The then, there was no fixed art of Printing will so spread
sermons is speaking to a advent of printing… brought spatiotemporal reference knowledge, that the common
about the most radical from which men of learning people, knowing their own
few of mankind… transformation in the shared. rights and liberties will not be
conditions of intellectual life in It is not “since the governed by way of
printing books is talking the history of Western Renaissance,” but since the oppression…” (150)
civilization. (115) advent of printing and Printing was a device which
to the whole world. It is clear that the literary engraving, that “the antique ended forever a priestly
diet of a given sixteenth- has ben continually been with monopoly of learning,
century reader was us.” (122) overcame ignorance and
qualitatively different from his superstition, pushed back the
“The art of Printing will fourteenth-century Western Christendom evil forces commanded by
counterpart. His staple diet Disrupted Italian popes, and in general,
so spread knowledge, had been enriched, and
Resetting the Stage for the brought Western Europe out
intellectual ferment had been of the Dark Ages.
that the common

encouraged, whether he Reformation
The activities of the
consulted living authors or Western Christendom was
people, knowing their dead ones, “new” books or clearly disrupted by the
printers, translators, and
distributors…acted as agents
“old” ones. (116) printing revolution.
own rights and liberties Augmented book The notion of an
of the change. (152)
The roman Catholic policy
production altered patterns of “apostolate of the pen” ( The
will not be governed by consumption and changed preaching of sermons is
was to uphold the medieval
Latin Version of the Bible in
the nature of individual speaking to a few of
way of oppression”…and intake. (116) mankind… printing books is
the attempt to withstand two
different threats emanating
“Something important and talking to the whole world.
in general, brought revolutionary had occurred,” 157) points to the high value
from Greek and Hebrew
studies on the one hand and
not adequately covered by the assigned to the written word
Western Europe out of term “Renaissance.” It makes as a means of accomplishing
from vernacular translations
on the other. (160) However,
the Dark Ages. sense to employ the term to the church’s mission on earth. it was still threatened by lay
erudition on the part of a (177) Printers became look at the evidence
scholarly elite and by lay Bible independent agents, a “third recommended itself to all
reading among the public at force,” not affiliated with any manner of curious men. (194)
large of the Greek and one church or state, but Classical authors had
A sixteenth-century Hebrew studies that forced
their way into the schools and
clearly affiliated with the
interests of early modern
warned against trusting hand-
copied books and especially
vernacular-translation the expanded market of
vernacular catechisms. Latin
capitalism. (178)
The demand for vernacular
hand-copied pictures for the
excellent reason that they
movement affected no longer served as a sacred Scriptures, Psalters, and degenerated over time, (195)
language veiling sacred service books among enclaves In duplicating crude
many secular trends mysteries. (161) of Protestants of foreign soil woodcuts, publishers were
A sixteenth-century also encouraged an simply carrying on where
vernacular-translation interchange between printers fifteenth-century copyists left
Possibly the most movement affected many
secular trends. Nicholas
and “communities of
strangers.” (180) In the late
off. It was not so much a new
awareness of the
fundamental divergence Culpeper, accused the college
of Physicians of being papist
sixteenth-century, for the first
time in history of any
“Inadequacies of purely verbal
description” as it was the new
between Catholic and because they resisted using civilization, the concept means of implementing this
vernaculars in medical texts. of…the “family of man” on a awareness that explains the
Protestant cultures can (164) John Lilburn held that truly global scale, was being “sixteenth-century revolution.”
the law of the land should not extended to encompass all the For the first time the work of
be found closest to be hidden in Latin and old peoples of the world. (182) skilled draftsmen could be
home. The Protestant French, but instead should be
in English so that “every Free-
Perhaps civil war in
Christendom was not
preserved intact in hundreds
of copies of a given book. It
theme that “Masters in man may reade it as well as
the lawyers.” (165)
inevitable, but the advent of
printing did, at the very least,
was the printing of books that
paved the way and provided
their houses ought to be Possibly the most rule out the possibility of the indispensible step for the
fundamental divergence perpetuating the status quo. rise of modern science. (196)
as preachers to their between Catholic and (186) The “process of feedback”
Protestant cultures can be was an important consequence
families that from the found closest to home. The The Book of Nature of printed editions. This kind
highest to the lowest Protestant theme that
“Masters in their houses ought
Transformed of checking could not occur
until uniform [printed data]
Printing and the Rise of
they may obey the will to be as preachers to their
families that from the highest
Modern Science encouraged exchange of
information between
of God,” diverged from to the lowest they may obey Because the exploitation of
the mass medium was more
[discoverers] and publishers.
the will of God,” diverged (200)
the Catholic’s warning from the Catholic’s warning common among However, natural barriers to
“You should nott be your pseudoscientists and quacks knowledge were less of an
“You should nott be owne masters…household than among Latin-writing obstacle than “notions of the
professional scientists, who
your owne masters… religion is a seed-bed of
subversion.” (167) but offered often withheld their work from
world” were. (201)
Manuscript maps were
household religion is a no effective substitute to
ensure religious observances
the press, (187) it appears
plausible to play down the
“secretly and well wrapped so
that no man could see it”. To
seed-bed of subversion.” within the family circle. (168) importance of printing. (187)
The “spread of new
make multiple copies would
Printers therefore tended to not lead to improvement…”
(167) but offered no expand and diversify more ideas,”through print deserves (201)
rapidly under Protestant than consideration, textual Before the outlines of a
effective substitute to Catholic rule. (171) the traditions were no more likely comprehensive and uniform
to continue unchanged after
ensure religious incentive to learn to read was
eliminated among lay the shift from script to print
world picture could emerge,
incongruous images had to be
observances within the Catholics and officially
enjoined upon Protestants.
than were scriptural
traditions. (188)
duplicated in sufficient
quantities to be brought into
family circle. (173) How could the “great book
of Nature” be investigated
contact, compared and
Roman Catholic censorship contrasted. (204) This
efforts backfired when it without exchanging scholarly computation and

published the Index librorum information by means of “the cross-referencing was formerly
Perhaps civil war in prohibitorum that listed anti- little books of men” (188) unthinkable.
Roman passages that made it In my (Eisentstein’s) view, The flow of information
Christendom was not easier for Protestant the movement reflected had been reoriented, and this
disenchantment with those
inevitable, but the propagandists to locate them.
(173) It was the profit-seeking forms of teaching and book
had an effect on natural
philosophy that should not go
advent of printing did, printer and not the Protestant learning which had been
inherited from the age of
ignored. (206)
divine who were on the
at the very least, rule Catholic censored list. (177) scribes…inconsistencies and Resetting the stage for the
Eager to expand markets anomolaies became more Copernican revolution
out the possibility of and diversify production, the apparent after printed
Astronomers have to study
enterprising publisher materials began to be
perpetuating the status preferred the Protestant produced, a distrust of observations made at different
intervals over long periods of
received opinion and a fresh
quo. Rome over the Catholic one. time. Copernicus’s failure to
supply the kind of fresh him, two separate sets of literature, and provided
findings that were later computations based on two encouragement and group
proved by Tych Brahe needs different theories, compiled support to Italian virtuoso
to be balanced against his several centuries apart, which which they lacked at home.
sustained efforts to could compare with each (243) Being condemned by
unscramble dusty records by other. (215) Italian censors for engaging in
observers in the past. (207) He was the first careful “commerce with Protestants”
Until half a century after observer who took full was sometimes advantageous
Copernicus’ death no advantage of the new powers to the Commonwealth of
potentially revolutionary of the press—correctable Learning. Often banned
changes occurred in the data successive editions. (216) material, once printed, was
available to astronomers. (208) After 1543 commentaries, quite popular.
Copernicus interpreted epitomes, or addenda devoted The Royal Society was aware
Ptolemy, rather than perform to one master’s work had been of the special service the press
In Eisentstein’s view, the astrological study, and opened
Tycho’s eyes to the need for
superseded by a confrontation
with alternatives that forced
was rendering to scientific
advance. Anxious authors
movement reflected fresh data. (209)
Contradictory predictions
some sort of choice, which
pointed to a cognitive
were encouraged to publish
and “bring out the opinion of
disenchantment with concerning the conjunction of
planets encouraged him to
breakthrough of
unprecedented kind.
all the learned, and perhaps
where you have not yet seen,
those forms of teaching reexamine the “writing in the
skies.” (211)
Challenges were being issued
in the form of open letters
they will shed a fuller light.”
and book learning which The desire to find an orbit
for a purely transitory, ephemeral
alerting all European
astronomers to observe a
Galileo’s Dialogue on Two
World Systems was such a
had been inherited from phenomenon marked an
important shift in the
particular event and recheck
their findings against different
provocative and polemic
treatise it almost seemed to
the age of scribes… theoretical interpretation of
comets.” (212)
predictions, (225) a practice
in regions where there was a
court censorship in a way that
is quite typical of most serious
inconsistencies and Observed details could not
be dislodged from their
free trade in ideas. scientific work. (250-251)
New opportunities to profit
anomolaies became more appointed places until scribal Another look at Galileo’s trial from banned titles were
transmissions had come to an Three alternative planetary extended to Protestant firms,
apparent after printed end. (212) models and six sets of at the same time, new risks
Tycho set out to become an conflicting tables were in and uncertainties were posed
materials began to be astronomer by defying his circulation. The shifting for scientific publishers in
tutor and teaching himself. fortunes of war altered Catholic lands. (250) The
produced, a distrust of He bypassed the traditional activities of publishers, and continuous operation of
master-apprentice relationship science went underground printing firms beyond the
received opinion and a by taking advantage of printed and even abroad thanks to the reach of Rome was of vital
materials. He had at his help of the Royal Society, who concern to Western European
fresh look at the disposal, as few had before were publishers of technical scientists.

evidence recommended
itself to all manner of
curious men.

After 1543
commentaries, epitomes,
or addenda devoted to
one master’s work had

been superseded by a
confrontation with
alternatives that forced
some sort of choice,
which pointed to a
cognitive breakthrough
of unprecedented kind.
One cannot treat Scripture and Nature Transformed
printing as just one Within the space of a and more receptive to My Comments
among many elements century and a half a innovating trends. (261) This is a very extensive
revolution had occurred in Both Copernicus (in an study of her topic, and I
in a complex causal the way in which men attempt to preserve and would say it is valuable
regarded the universe. emend Ptolomy’s astrological reading for anyone interested
nexus, for the Eisenstein seeks to understand work) and St. Jerome (to in an such study of historical
“how it all came about” by protect the scripture from cultural change relative to
communications shift considering the effects of a further corruption) used print technology.
definite communications shift untraditional means to I would, however, suggest
transformed the nature that occurred in the move propell their work, which sent that the student choose the
from a script culture to print it in and unconventional original work, The Printing
of the causal nexus one that moved man from the direction, so that they broke Press as an Agent of Change,
Middle Ages to early new paths in the very act of unless they are widely studied
itself. “modernity.” (255) seeking to achieve old goals. in the history of culture,
Her approach is to discuss (265) scripture and science. The
movements (the Renaissance, The vernacular-translation lack of the footnotes in this
the Reformation, a knowledge movement not only enabled version leaves many valuable
revolution) and discern evangelists to bring the details and insights out of the
features which were not Gospel to everyman but also
The vernacular- present in earlier epocs which tapped a vast reservoir of
altered the textual traditions latent scientific talent by
translation movement upon which each movement eliciting contributions from
relied. This approach showed reckon masters, instrument
not only enabled how movements aimed at makers, and artist-engineers.
returning to a golden past Protestant encouragement of
evangelists to bring the were reoriented in a manner lay reading and self-help was
that pointed them away from especially favorable for
Gospel to everyman but their initial goal and led lay interchanges between readers
humanists, priests and natural and publishers—which led to
also tapped a vast philosophers to a division of the quiet displacement of
reservoir of latent opinion (because of the
permanence of print, and the
ancient authorities and to
expansive data collection of a
scientific talent by ability to compare and
contrast texts) and ultimately
new kind. Finally, the same
censorship policies and elitist
eliciting contributions to a reassessment of inherited
views. (256) By placing more
tendencies that discouraged
Catholic Bible printers (the
from reckon masters, emphasis on the shift from
script to print, many diverse
Catholic leadership stand that
laypersons should not seek
instrument makers, and trends could be
accommodated without
knowledge themselves but to
rely on the mystery decifering
artist-engineers. resorting to extending
intellectual feuds. (257) The
Latin church) eventually
closed down scientific
Protestant novelty of being able to
assemble diverse records and
publication outlets in Catholic
lands. (265-266)
encouragement of lay reference guides and of being
able to study them without
Open the book of nature.
Bring out the opinion of
reading and self-help having to transcribe them
helped to heighten awareness
the learned.
One cannot treat printing as
was especially favorable of anomalies in these just one among many

inherited views. elements in a complex causal
for interchanges Changes wrought by nexus, for the
printing had a more communications shift
between readers and immediate effect on cerebral transformed the nature of the
activities and on the learned causal nexus itself.
publishers—which led to professions than did many
other kinds of “external” Some final remarks
the quiet displacement events. Previous relations The unevenly phased
between masters and disciples continuous process of
of ancient authorities were altered. Students who recovery and innovation that
took advantage of technical began in the second half of
and to expansive data texts which served as silent the fifteenth century are
instructors were less likely to
collection of a new kind. defer to traditional authority
impossible to gauge at present
and remain to be described.