Divine Art/Infernal Machine: Exploring Attitudes toward Printing in the Age of the Hand Press (seminar)

For more past programming from the Folger Institute, please see the article Folger Institute scholarly programs archive.

This was a fall 1999 semester seminar led by Elizabeth L. Eisenstein.

Keeping in mind current speculation about present day communications technologies, this seminar explored earlier reactions (positive and negative) to the use of the printing press. It surveyed objections to the propagation of error, the dissemination of heresy, the output of trash as well as the celebration of the advancement of learning and the spread of the Gospel. Mythical representations of Gutenberg, Fust, Caxton et al. and fictions pertaining to good authors/bad booksellers were taken into account. Secondary literature, such as recent debates about the "stigma of print" thesis, were sampled, but the main emphasis was on using the Folger collections to look over a wide range of views expressed by different groups in diverse regions over the course of several centuries. Selection of materials depended, in part, on the special interests of participants.

Director: Elizabeth L. Eisenstein is Emerita Professor of History at the University of Michigan. She is the author of the seminal The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe (1979) and Grub Street Abroad: Aspects of the French Cosmopolitan Press from the Age of Louis XIV to the French Revolution (1992).