The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe
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The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe

3.47 of 5 stars 3.47  ·  rating details  ·  155 ratings  ·  17 reviews
What difference did printing make? Although the importance of the advent of printing for the Western world has long been recognized, it was Elizabeth Eisenstein in her monumental, two-volume work, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, who provided the first full-scale treatment of the subject. This illustrated and abridged edition provides a stimulating survey of the c...more
Paperback, Abridged, 384 pages
Published September 12th 2005 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1983)
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Kevin O'Brien
Harry Truman once said "The only thing new in this world is the history you don't know." He was guided throughout his political career by the lessons of history, a subject in which he was very well read. And studying history shows us how much our current issues can be better understood by their antecedents. As Mark Twain said, "History doesn't repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes." Why does any of this matter? Well, right now we are going through a revolution in media known as the Internet. Th...more
Victoria
I derived particular enjoyment from the afterword, in which Eisenstein went after everyone who reviewed her book and told her it was wrong. Ah, academic bitchslaps. v. enjoyable.

Anyway: argues that printing led to the formation of new ideas not because it encouragement the printing and therefore dissemination of those new ideas (it didn't, necessarily) but because it encouraged the wide diffusion of many older, competing ideas that fuelled curiosity and the desire to make sense of it all. Respon...more
Peter
Really enjoyed this, and I see why it became a must-read for the digerati.

The book is fueled by the frustration that, on the one hand, historians say that printing led to immense changes in Europea's culture, and on the other hand, ignore the specifics of printing's impact in more detailed histories of the Reformation, later Renaissance, and scientific revolution.

What makes it so thought provoking is that she has a real sensibility to network effects (avant la lettre), understanding how books...more
Jon
Mar 26, 2008 Jon rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people that want to bore other people at parties
Eisenstein's primary thrust is that the invention of the printing press was a major, causal factor in the Reformation, the (later) Renaissance, and what would become the Western scientific tradition. The emphasis on causality has, ahem, caused her to come under fire from numerous angles, primarily because it seems to deemphasize the social/political/economic/cultural context of the period. I agree with this point, although concede that the invention certainly altered the landscape. Beyond her ma...more
Kjirstin
This book is a fascinating look at the changes that took place in Europe because of the invention of the printing press. Eisenstein explores how printing -- assuring accurate copies that could be spread to anyone who desired one -- changed the entire society from medieval into the earliest version of our own modern age.

Instead of vanishingly scarce and locked away in monasteries and libraries (where a great fire, like at the library in Alexandria, could wipe out a measurable portion of world kn...more
Molly Olusunmade Corlett
An "important" book: transforms the story of learning in early modern Europe, but also provides a set of questions & theories which can be usefully considered in regard to any period's "print culture". I thought her hypotheses were lucidly explained, theoretical without abandoning history in their abstraction (always a danger for books bringing a grand & novel argument to the field). What happens when scholars have access to enough texts from antiquity to see their inconsistencies and co...more
sillopillo
La rivoluzione e' rimandata.
Tutto il libro puo' essere compreso nelle venti pagine dell'epilogo. Nonostante una serie di buoni spunti che compaiono qua e la' nel corso della trattazione non c'e' un vero filo conduttore. L'autrice lamenta spesso una mancanza di opere e studi che trattino un'analisi sistematica sull' impatto che l'avvento della stampa ha avuto nel periodo a partire dalla fine del 1400 ma poi non riesce a sviluppare lei stessa con sistematicita' l'argomento e continua a citare font...more
Diane
I enjoy reading about the history of printing, but this book is dense and dry and is more focused on being scholarly than on being readable. It does contain dozens of illustrations of early printing, which helped lighten the weight of the prose. Another drawback is that the author used the afterword to carry on with an academic spat, which some people find lively but I thought it was obnoxious and silly.

A better book about the history of printing is "Out of the Flames" by Lawrence and Nancy Gold...more
Mariah
While Eisenstein's argument has some holes including a lack of primary sources, an absolutist stance, and a denial of the continued importance of manuscripts alongside print, my biggest problem with this book is her writing style. She is a rambling author who intersperses every chapter with block quotes from other scholars without giving the quotes any context. She is so concerned with comparing her argument to other scholars' in the field that she looses the attention of the reader.
Jean
ok...so i never finished it. shame on me since it was assigned class reading. but i'm sure if you're a major history buff this is pretty fascinating. however, my history is very lacking and most of the references went over my head. i'm not going to finish it if i don't have to. sorry.
Emily Kudeviz
Eisenstein is, first and foremost, a horrible writer. The information was interesting but she tries so hard to remain separate from book history that it is hard to take this book seriously.

Unfortunately I was not impressed.
April
I never would have finished (or started) this book if it weren't for a class. It would have been much better if it were half as long and half as redundant. Interesting ideas buried in the blah-blah of academic writing.
Brook Finlayson
One volume edition of Eisenstein's prior two volume study of the impact of the printing press on fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe. An academic rather than popular treatment, which is fine by me.
Wysterria
Read for my History of Books and Printing class. Definitely had some interesting information in it, but a lot of it was really dry and boring.
Katie
Much better than the earlier, 2-volume version. Save yourself some time and just read this.
Tim Lepczyk
Used a couple of chapters for a class I taught. Informative but dry.
Abigail Hilton
I loved this book. I thought it was fascinating and well-written.
Andrew
Andrew marked it as to-read
Jul 27, 2014
Joe Antognini
Joe Antognini marked it as to-read
Jul 09, 2014
Ashley
Ashley marked it as to-read
Jul 08, 2014
Jerome
Jerome marked it as to-read
Jul 04, 2014
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The Printing Press as an Agent of Change Divine Art, Infernal Machine: The Reception of Printing in the West from First Impressions to the Sense of an Ending The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Volume II: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-Modern Europe Print Culture and Enlightenment Thought The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Volume I: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-Modern Europe

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