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Divine art, infernal machine : the reception of printing in the West from first impressions to the sense of an ending /
Elizabeth L. Eisenstein.
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2011.
xiii, 368 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
9780812242805 (acid-free paper)
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series title
Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, c2011.
9780812242805 (acid-free paper)
contents note
First impressions -- After Luther : civil war in Christendom -- After Erasmus : propelling the knowledge industry -- Eighteenth-century attitudes -- Zenith of print culture (nineteenth century) -- The newspaper press : the end of books? -- Toward the sense of an ending : fin de siècle to the present.
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. [247]-346) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2011-07-01:
Is printing a divine art or the product of an infernal machine. Eisenstein (emer., history, Michigan; The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, CH, Sep'79) explores these questions in this readable, well-documented account of printing's spread and reception throughout the Western world over five centuries. Controversy existed from the beginning. During the 15th-16th centuries, printers often were seen as mere tradesmen, without taste or appreciation for the beauty of the word as reproduced by the scribes. The Catholic Church, however, welcomed the new art as a way to spread its doctrines. Additionally, scholars were pleased to see learning advanced as their writings began to appear in quantity. Despite their poor editing and what some would call vulgarization, the products of the early press were met with acclimation rather than rejection, Eisenstein believes. As part of 16th-century religious controversies, the widespread dissemination of the writings of John Foxe, Martin Luther, John Milton, and others became a Protestant weapon. By mid-19th century, pushed forward by high-speed presses, printing became less an art and more a powerful engine.Throughout, Eisenstein stresses the conflict between the achievement of learning and the dangers of overload, i.e., the uneasy balance between the literary and the commercial. She bases her historical approach on comparison and contrast, often setting up a strongly held opinion on an issue against a contradictory view. The book makes clear that, despite arguments concerning the future of the printed word, Eisenstein, not surprisingly, prefers the book to digital devices. In her final brief chapter, "Toward a Sense of Ending," she rejects the notion that such devices spell the death of the book. Those interested in the spread of printing, or in social and technological change, will enjoy this closely reasoned work. Summing Up: Recommended. Graduate students and researchers/faculty. D. C. Dickinson emeritus, University of Arizona
Appeared in Library Journal on 2010-11-15:
Eisenstein's seminal The Printing Press as an Agent of Change traces the history and effects of early printing in western Europe. Now Eisenstein explores Western attitudes toward the evolution of print over the centuries, starting with responses to Gutenberg's invention and continuing through the advent of the ebook. Just how little opinions about publication, in its evolving forms, have changed over the centuries both startles and amuses. Eisenstein reveals 16th-century texts that complain of information overload and of readers preferring lurid entertainment. Glorifying the best of a previous era by condemning the worst of one's own age is not new. Critics have long prematurely buried the book as a moribund media, a trope familiar to us today. While Eisenstein's previous work was crucial to historians of the printed book, her new one has a metafocus on reactions to publishing rather than on the spread of printing from movable type. Taken together, the books paint a robust historical portrait of our greatest invention. VERDICT This not only makes for fine survey material for undergraduate mass media or cultural history classes but is recommended for all serious readers in media history and the history of cultural opinion and all concerned with placing today's concerns over print vs. digital in their historical context.-Megan Curran, Univ. of Southern California Lib., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, November 2010
Choice, July 2011
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Table of Contents
List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xi
First Impressionsp. 1
Prologue: Some Foundation Mythsp. 2
Initial Reactions: Pros and Consp. 4
After Luther: Civil War in Christendomp. 34
Printing as a Protestant Weaponp. 34
Pamphlet Warfare: "The Media Explosion" of the 1640sp. 52
After Erasmus: Propelling the Knowledge Industryp. 62
Celebrating Technology/Advancement of Learningp. 62
Overload: Lost in the Crowdp. 86
Eighteenth-Century Attitudesp. 98
Prelude and Previewp. 98
Literary Responses: Mystic Art/Mercenary Tradep. 99
Politics in a New Key: The Atlantic Revolutionsp. 130
The Zenith of Print Culture (Nineteenth Century)p. 153
The Revolutionary Aftermathp. 153
Tories and Radicals in Great Britainp. 178
Steam Presses, Railway Fictionp. 184
The Newspaper Press: The End of Books?p. 198
Toward the Sense of an Ending (Fin de Siècle to the Present)p. 215
Notesp. 247
Bibliographyp. 311
Indexp. 347
Acknowledgmentsp. 367
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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