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The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe

(Canto Classics)

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  348 ratings  ·  31 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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In this autumn season I was at first inclined to see this book as a belligerent boxing squirrel keen to defend its gathered nuts against all comers, but then it struck me that it was more of a kangaroo, moving rapidly across the landscape, pausing to box and kick at rivals before bounding ever onwards.

This is an abridged version of Eisenstein's two volume The Printing Press as an agent of Change, the chief difference she tells us, is that the two volume version has the footnotes. Her story is th
Aug 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Saggio imperdibile per chi vuole capire perché il Rinascimento ha preso piede e ancora ne parliamo, mentre le rinascite dei secoli precedenti sono finite nel cestino della carta straccia della Storia. E per chi ama i libri. È strano dirlo per un saggio storico, ma chi ama i libri non dovrebbe perdersi questo. C'è praticamente scritta la ragion d'essere dei libri (e dei lettori); non dal punto di vista sentimentale, che quello altri libri e non questo lo spiegano, ma dal punto di vista pratico.

Mar 26, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Kevin O'Brien
Mar 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
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
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
Masatoshi Nishimura
Sep 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
It has profound ideas: she states printing and reading culture promoted temporary isolation. That in turn made us start to see individual as discrete unit instead of groups. I guess that was the foreshadow of the European individualism in the following 5 centuries. Jeez. What a profound invention.

Also, she mentions Protestants are the ones who's made the first use of mass propaganda through printing press. Coupled with German nationalism (of 16h century equivalent), the invention of literary dev
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Das Buch ist nicht für interessierte Laien als Einstiegswerk in die Geschichte des Buchdruckes geeignet. Man gewinnt die meisten Erkenntnisse erst, wenn man bereits Vorwissen hat. Idealerweise kennt man auch einige der am häufigsten zitierten Arbeiten.

Aber dann dringt das Buch in eine Tiefe der wissenschaftlichen Arbeit vor, die ihresgleichen sucht. Es ist dann definitiv ein Gewinn. Man gewinnt viele Sichtweisen und Informationen, die man so noch nicht hatte.

Freilich sind die für jeden verschied
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Printing Revolution in Modern Europe, Elizabeth Eisenstein (3.5)
While I found quite a few interesting points made in this book, it was quite difficult to read. As one should expect from an expert on books and printing, every word and sentence was pithy and meaningful, thus I lost a lot of comprehension if I started to skim. This is an abridged version of Ms. Eisenstein’s more detailed research on how printing affected life in the 15th century. After summarizing the initial changes, and intro
Feb 14, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
Charles Taylor
Jun 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
More interesting than I expected, this book emphasizes the role that printing had on the success of the Protestant and Anglican separations from papal authority, and also the enabling role it took in the scientific revolution.
Jun 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A little dense at times but by far the best text on printing history I've read to date.
Much better than the earlier, 2-volume version. Save yourself some time and just read this.
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: universit
Per chi, come lo scrivente, è tutto sommato digiuno di Storia del libro, il volume risulta molto interessante ed al contempo pienamente comprensibile. Se è indubitabilmente lodevole l'idea dell'autrice di fornire al lettore un'opera divulgativa senza per questo perdere il taglio specialistico, nè abbandonare il linguaggio tecnico, certo lo è molto meno l'aver qua e là trascritto pari pari interi stralci della sua precedente produzione senza farne menzione alcuna. L'unica altra critica che mi sen ...more
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating look at the shift from a scribal culture to a printed culture and how it changed and expanded the bounds of intellectual life in Europe. I'd love to see a contrasting in depth look at the effects of printing on other cultures.
Joseph Millo
Mar 29, 2019 rated it liked it
I gave up reading one-third of way into the book. The subject is important and fascinating but the author’s style turns the fascinating history to a dull, rambling story.
David Fandel
Feb 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Interesting analysis of the birth of printing 1540-1640
Hannah (Hannah’s Library)
Read select chapters for a class on early printing so while I can't rate the entire book, I will say it was very informative and had a lot of great information.
Sep 30, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jessica Gordon
Jun 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent book that explains the way the printing press changed literacy, religion, and the world as a whole forever. Specifically, the author describes the effects on the reformation and the scientific revolution. This book goes into a LOT of detail.
Brook Finlayson
Aug 20, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 25, 2010 rated it it was ok 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 (StacksandCats)
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.
Jan 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
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.
Abigail Hilton
Sep 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. I thought it was fascinating and well-written.
May 10, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.
Oct 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fascinating treatment of not just the history of printing, but how printing changes the way we think and the cultures we create.
rated it liked it
Aug 12, 2010
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Elizabeth Lewisohn Eisenstein was an American historian of the French Revolution and early 19th century France. She was best known for her work on the history of early printing, writing on the transition in media between the era of 'manuscript culture' and that of 'print culture', as well as the role of the printing press in effecting broad cultural change in Western civilization.

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