Richard Abel on his New Book About the Man Who Changed the World: Johannes Gutenberg
The Daily Bell is pleased to present this exclusive interview with Richard Abel.
Introduction: Richard Abel attracted our attention because of a book entitled The Gutenberg Revolution (Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick & London, 2011). As it turns out, Mr. Abel is a man of extensive erudition, who has devoted his writing to books and history. Growing up in Montana, he conceived of a deep love of learning that took him to Reed College and then to the University of Berkeley as a history major. He later created and sold several rare book and publishing companies before settling into his current occupation, which predictably enough involves book writing. Some of the following was provided via written responses.
Daily Bell: Give us some background. Where did you grow up?
Richard Abel: I was born and raised in Montana. My father was a homesteader, lawyer and cattle rancher. In that setting I developed a strong sense of self-reliance coupled with an intense interest in philosophy and history to seek to discover the roots and evolution of human culture. Most of my early learning was carried on in the ranch bunkhouse. This study led to enrolling in a history concentration. I received my B.A. From Reed College and continued my studies for two years at the University of California, Berkeley in the late 1940s.
Daily Bell: Did you continue with history?
Richard Abel: In 1950 I entered into the world of the scholarly book as a bookseller, managing the Reed College Bookstore. In the course of these early years I also founded a publishing firm specializing in fine-print limited editions.
These ventures continued to grow and in 1960 I left Reed College and founded Richard Abel and Co., a scholarly bookseller to academic and research libraries. At its zenith this firm maintained 16 offices located in the principal regions of North America, Europe, South America and Australia. These offices were used by staff to meet with scholarly librarians in their region to resolve the inevitable problems that arise in any ongoing relationship.
Some of these offices were also used to acquire all the scholarly books published in their region as published and from their backlists. This firm was able to supply academic libraries in all parts of the developed world with any or all the books published in any part of the developed world. The firm developed a battery of computer-maintained bibliographical tools designed to get books and cataloging in upon publication and at minimal expense to the libraries upon publication.
Daily Bell: That's quite a business. What happened to it?
Richard Abel: I left book selling in 1972 and turned to book publishing, founding several publishing imprints in subsequent years. I sold all of these various imprints in the following years and in 1990 started writing for book-trade journals, principally Publishing Research Quarterly and later LOGOS: The Journal of the World Book Community.
Over these years I was involved in book-editing/writing of four titles as well. Three of these were edited with Gordon Graham, the founder and editor of LOGOS. These first appeared as articles in the journal and with the express intent of then collecting them into book form. Two were published by the polymath publisher, Irving Louis Horowitz through his publishing firm Transaction Publishers. These are The Book in the United States Today and Immigrant Publishers.
A third book, edited with Gordon Graham and written by me, was published by LOGOS: Books That Shaped the Century.
Another book co-edited with Lyman Newlin was published for the Charleston Conference by John Wiley & Sons: Scholarly Publishing: Books, Journals, Publishers & Libraries in the Twentieth Century.
Daily Bell: How did your book The Gutenberg Revolution (Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick & London, 2011) come about?
Richard Abel: In the course of book-trade writing I was surprised by the casual attitude of the histories of the late medieval and early Renaissance periods paid to Gutenberg's invention. I began to research the matter. In the early stages of this investigation I was of the view that these various historians failed to see the great paucity of hypothesis-making derived from a cultural universe of a few scattered manuscripts of a limited number of authors generously sprinkled with copyists' errors located in widely dispersed locations during the medieval period.
But as this work proceeded, augmented by reading in philosophy – particularly recent epistemology – I began to understand the extraordinary cultural differences between the impoverishment of the ideational manuscript culture and the richness of the ideational printed book culture. This outcome, I concluded, arose from the paucity of acute minds generating, debating and exchanging alternative explanatory hypotheses. This led to seeing the medieval culture as epistemologically constrained and confined. The few minds sufficiently curious and/or venturesome enough had to rely upon on a handful of manuscripts scattered across Europe some of which employed a forgotten script, usually full of copying errors, most absent any punctuation and some with interpolated glosses and notes. With such numerous shortcomings it is something of an achievement that as much productive work was accomplished as did. All the intellectual springboards of this limited body of disjunct manuscripts had long been fully utilized.
Daily Bell: So it's safe to say the Gutenberg Press was a springboard for a wider Renaissance?
Richard Abel: The monopoly currency of cultural evolution is ideas. Ideas can only be generated when an alert mind senses a further or more powerful meaning implicit in an already established idea or body of ideas. Once such an infant idea is broadcast out into the public square of reflection and debate it must be attacked, recast, or whatever to find acceptance or be overwhelmed. Only along this tortuous path may a new idea be widely accepted into the prevailing body of knowledge.
In short, the intellectual springboards necessary for a large body of minds to develop new hypotheses regarding the mystery of this world and the life therein were simply in short supply for a millennium. All the avenues necessary to developing a larger body of cultural currency in the medieval world had been largely explored.
Daily Bell: Give us a breakdown of the evolution of the Renaissance.
Richard Abel: The first proof of this hypothesis is evident in the period between the fifth century and the twelfth century when few new cultural goods were produced. Then in the twelfth century when most of the Aristotelian corpus was introduced from Arabic Spain the medieval world started minting increased cultural currency. The multitudinous intellectual springboards were seized upon by the Schoolmen, most notably Albertus Magnus and St. Thomas Aquinas. In the hands of these men and their confreres a notable renascence in medieval thought resulted offering all manner of new and useful additions to the knowledge body of the West, new insights into the understanding of the world and of humankind.
The disastrous fourteenth century – plagues, rapid global cooling, famine and the resumption of invasions from Asia largely put quits this twelfth century renascence. But under these continuing and severe existential conditions some significant cultural avenues remained open. The fifteenth century saw in the early years openings to Constantinople and the flowering of the Florentine Academy with the receipt of Plato's writings. But these cultural departures were likely to find little meaning outside of a few local settings for they were still dependent upon the rickety technology of the hand-copied manuscript.
Daily Bell: Enter Gutenberg?
Richard Abel: Meanwhile in central Europe, along the Rhine, the unplugging of the vials of knowledge, the solution to the epistemological constraint of the West was conceived and being fabricated by Johannes Gutenberg – first in Strasburg, then in Frankfurt. That great man labeled his inventions "artificial writing."
Daily Bell: Were lots of books printed right away? What were the press runs like?
Richard Abel: In the early years of print the usual press run was 500 copies of a title all sharing a common and usually well-founded text. In the course of the following 50 years the size of the typical title press run ratcheted up to 1,000 copies. Further, the number of new titles published yearly rose precipitously. With this number and quantity of new titles the printers were faced by a new and formidable marketing problem – it was quite a different matter than writing out a single manuscript on commission for a patron. The printers now had to alter their sense of the market from a small, local market to a continent-wide market. This Europe-wide distribution was accomplished by the inauguration of large book fairs in a handful of towns, all centers of widespread trade. Printers set out for these fairs with wagonloads of the titles they had published in the previous years and returned home with their wagons loaded with the titles acquired in trade with other printers for sale in their printing houses, thus assuring their local customers of a wide selection of books.
Gutenberg had introduced the knowledge generation engine to facilitate the focusing of a large and widespread cadre of minds to the generation and debate of new hypotheses and the flow of the resulting sustainable ideas into the public square.
Daily Bell: And the impact?
Richard Abel: What was the epistemological and cultural outcome of this sudden widespread circulation of numerous common texts and the recruiting of thousands of minds to the forging and distribution of a rapidly growing torrent of new hypotheses and the ensuing debates?
Manifestly it simply led to the tumult of knowledge concepts and ethical precepts of all kinds, some of which cascaded into the cultural economy of the West – astronomy, mathematics, shipbuilding, navigation, construction, commerce, energy production, anthropology, botany, zoology and on and on. The succeeding sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are awash with the fruits of this new knowledge culture.
In my book, The Gutenberg Revolution, I have compared the failed cultural renascences of the eighth century (Carolingian), twelfth century (Schoolman) and the continuing vitality of newly inaugurated fifteenth/sixteenth centuries tradition (the print revolution). I have sought to briefly depict all the cultural fruits fostered by the latter and the long-term failures of the first two. All the benefits accruing to the West as the result of Gutenberg's genius have influenced to a greater or lesser degree the cultures of the balance of the world.
Daily Bell: Wow ... strong statement. He was a pretty important man yet in a sense he is treated as a historical afterthought. We can't help but think his artificial writing wasn't welcomed by the elites of the day.
Richard Abel: Yes, this is a fair issue to raise ... the matter of elites in the history of the West. It seems to me that elites have always gathered about centers of power – governing bodies, religious institutions, the venues of commerce, etc. – and almost as commonly cells of opposition to these centers of power. In recent times the extraordinary growth and intrusiveness of the enormous bureaucratic state have consumed much of each generation's talent while centers of opposition (not possessed of the monopoly of force as held by the state) is considerably beleaguered.
With respect to elites in relation to Gutenberg, he and the various supporters he succeeded in recruiting for support were like the great man himself, operating in a purely private venture the ultimate aim of which was to accumulate wealth.
Daily Bell: Can you please speak to the pamphlet wars waged at times of great public debate?
Richard Abel: The Archbishops war in Frankfurt about the time of Gutenberg's first successes, followed by such as that of the Lutheran/Catholic debate or that of the English Revolution, were all conducted by committed protagonists of one side or another. Printing continues to be co-opted in every serious cultural debate arising in the various scarcities of the world.
Daily Bell: Can you comment on the Internet within this context?
Richard Abel: Turning to your question with respect to the place of the rapid rise of information technology I would submit the following. It appears that at this point in the evolution of IT that it is all about information not knowledge. IT simply does not provide the space or the content organizational structures found in virtually every serious printed book.
This a priori assessment is now beginning to find some preliminary confirmation in connection with the e-book. Early research has indicated that something on the order of 20 to 25 percent of the textual content in such books is lost to readers of the e-book. It simply takes a good deal of continuous, well organized length, accompanied by all the apparatus introduced to assist comprehension (footnotes, references to topics already dealt with or to be dealt with, etc.) together with the discreet and readily identifiable physical dimensions of the codex ('I think I read this back about here' where "here" is defined simply by continuing estimates as to where in the physical makeup of the book certain aspects of the hypothesis being explicated have been placed) to convey a complex narrative or exposition of an hypothesis.
Daily Bell: OK, a fair if disturbing point. Where do you think we're headed at this juncture?
Richard Abel: As might be evident from a close reading of The Gutenberg Revolution, I am a strong supporter of the freedom of the citizen from all political power centers. I am deeply concerned by the staggering growth of the bureaucratic state and greatly worried that human beings with their limited understandings and total ignorance of the future outcomes of their power dictates have been elevated to such levels of power as obtain virtually around the globe seeking to manage increasing aspects of our lives.
I have over the years tracked the history of the occasional emergence of limited power structures – the Greek polis, the Roman Republic and the Italian city-states – and witnessed their decline into financial decay and the arrival of the "man on horseback." I find the observation of the eighteenth century English historian, Fraser-Tyler, most appropriate to the present:
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always vote for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by a dictatorship.
The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. Great nations rise and fall. The people go from bondage to spiritual truth, to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependence, from dependence back again to bondage.
Daily Bell: Where can your book on Gutenberg be found?
Richard Abel: Copies of my book may be obtained in bookstores in North America and Europe.
Daily Bell: Thanks for sitting down with us.
We thought this was a most interesting book. We have noted that mainstream history rarely talks about the impact of the Gutenberg Press but that does not lessen its impact nor the impact of what we call the Internet Reformation.
Richard Abel came to a realization about the impact of the Gutenberg Press and wrote about it. We came to some similar conclusions. He doesn't share our perspective regarding the Internet necessarily but we've writen regularly about what we see as the parallels.
We've found an audience for this view. In fact, our perspective on this issue has been cited on various 'Net search engines no less than 100,000 times. And we believe it continues to have a good deal of relevance to what's happening today. Here's how we describe it:
There is a new Reformation taking place throughout the world, led by electronic communication technology. It is not being commented on by the nightly news nor written about in the mainstream media. But if you understand the trends and look closely, you can see it playing out every day in every part of human culture. It is already convulsing the world. Out of these labor pains a new and freer society is being born.
A new enlightenment is taking place – a fundamental reforming of societies' knowledge base. It is far more important and fundamental than a "technology revolution." It is rewriting the basic relationship that human beings have with their knowledge base and with its impact on their lives. The centralizing architecture erected by the Anglo-American elites is even now being undermined. The darkness is lifting as it lifted long ago during the Renaissance. An Internet Reformation is coming. It will have numerous unpredictable ramifications. In fact, its dawn is already here.
We don't think there's much that can derail what's happening at this point. In fact, censorship and other activities merely draw attention to the 'Net and the information it contains. The insights that the 'Net has offered to those willing to look shall continue to reveberate no matter what actions the powers-that-be undertake.
Posted by John the Just on 04/25/12 11:43 AM
You pointed out that, rather than a 200 year run, the united States of America has had a 120 year run. In either case, would you agree that it's over? Or do you really think that just electing a new batch of politicians can return us to a pre-1913 American Dream?
You had earlier said, "Democracy is suited for making decisons among a small group of people, likeminded enough to live in the same community. Any arrangement for government above the local level should be representative government as provided in the original U.S. Constitution."
I disagreed and invited you to visit Click to view link and specificly read the *MLG Challenge: Stop the War with Iran* piece, but my link didn't
Your invitation has been reissued herein. I would like to hear your opinion of my suggestions.
Posted by Bischoff on 04/25/12 03:19 AM
J: "We've done that. It worked pretty well for 200 years, but as you probably know - the American Dream has increasingly become a nightmare for not just its own, but for a growing number of the world's populations."
B: No we haven't. We have done it pretty much for a 120 years. Then we loused it up in 1913 with the 16th and 17th Amendments.
Posted by davidnrobyn on 04/23/12 09:30 PM
Good point, but most of us knew that. The Chinese brilliance however was stymied by a very key lack--that of an alphabet. The two working together is what made the 1450 breakthrough what it was.
Posted by davidnrobyn on 04/23/12 09:28 PM
Excellent interview with a very erudite scholar. I agree with his take on the internet for serious, lengthy reads--if I'm embarking on one, it's almost always in the print version. The online versions are (currently) too cumbersome and frustrating to deal with compared to the simplicity and usefulness (e.g., marginal notes) of paper.
Posted by John the Just on 04/23/12 08:42 PM
B asked, 'It may be theoretically possible to find large numbers of likeminded folks, but to do what... ???'
As I say, to do whatever they hold in common as an important project. As soon as enough people develop the passion to do something about their problems, given an alternative to Government, they just might decide to handle those problems themselves.
The MultiLevel Governance system, obviates the problem of needing to have a complete working infrastructure in place to do away with traditional Government. The whole of whatever existing Government doesn't need to be overthrown, to eventually be replaced. Whenever Government fails to get whatever job done, people can independently associate, determine the best solution, what it will cost, and if that solution and its costs are agreeable to enough people, they can self-assess themselves to raise the money to do the job.
Currently *World Peace* should attract folks' attention. As I point out in *MLG Challenge: Stop the War with Iran*, MLG Challenge: Stop the War with Iran in little over 4 months the protestors who took to the streets to stop George Bush II's attack on Iraq could have raised $360,000,000 at just $10 a head; they wouldn't even have had to miss a day of work. Using the approach I outline, they could have organized themselves via cellphones and the Internet - never having to be more than 7 people - 7 other people with whom they had come to an agreement - away from their representative. Likewise that representative would work with 7 others to reach an agreement, etc, etc. The 36 million protestors could conceivably have organized themselves within 8 levels, and then determined how $360 million could best be used to stop the war.
B said, 'People live in communities all over this planet. Their existence depends on at least a minimum of government at this local level.'
Do you really believe that anybody's existence depends on Government? Cleanse yourself of that thought. That is the basic Statist meme: 'You need someone to tell you what to do. You can't exist without us!' The truth is that there is absolutely nothing that the Market can't currently handle better than Government.
B said, 'Only there is where democracy works, not among a large number of likeminded people spread across the planet.'
I disagree. There are all manner of organizations which successfully raise money from all corners of the world: *Save the (fill in the blank)* organizations, *(Fill in the blank)'s Rights* organizations, religious organizations, charity organizations, etc. They raise money and do many things to forward their commonly held goals.
B said, 'Democracy is suited for making decisions among a small group of people, likeminded enough to live in the same community. Any arrangement for government above the local level should be representative government as provided in the original U.S. Constitution.'
We've done that. It worked pretty well for 200 years, but as you probably know - the American Dream has increasingly become a nightmare for not just its own, but for a growing number of the world's populations.
I am pessimistic about the probability of salvaging Western Civilization through 'throwing the bums out,' and electing a crew of new bums to take over the reigns of power. What is wrong with our current situation is that the bulk of the world's populations think that their existence depends on government at *all* levels. It is going to take a broad association of folks who disagree that Government is necessary on any level, to turn things around. All traditional Governments suck up power from the People and then turn it back on them as Force. You can't solve the problem of Government with Government. And Government *is* the problem. Such organizing systems as traditional Representative Democratic Republics are outmoded by modern communications technologies. It's time for a real change!
Posted by DrFun on 04/23/12 06:30 PM
I don't mean to burst Mr. Richard Abel bubble, like many westerners who think mistankely Guttenburg "invented" the printing Click to view link was invented several centuries earlier in 593 C.E. in China.
Posted by Bischoff on 04/23/12 12:31 AM
"it is theoretically possible that large numbers of likeminded folks either locally or worldwide can associate via the Internet, and democratically reach solutions for whatever problem has caused them to associate in the first place. Once the solution is approved by enough participants willing to self-assess themselves to raise the cash to get whatever done - the solution could be realized."
It maybe theoretically possible to find large numbers of likeminded folks, but to do what... ???
People live in communities all over this planet. Their existence depends on at least a minimum of government at this local level. It's great to have the internet with access to the mass of data available to people throughout the world, but government takes place at the local level. Only there is where democracy works, not among a large number of likeminded people spread across the planet. Democracy is suited for making decisons among a small group of people, likeminded enough to live in the same community. Any arrangement for government above the local level should be representative government as provided in the original U.S. Constitution.
Wealth, money and taxes should, and by the U.S. Constitution where designed to originate at the local level. Then by travel and trade throughout the world, thanks to United Airlines and Lufthansa, and thanks to UPS and Federal Express, there can be plenty of likeminded people found with whom to do business. What could be more democratic than that to keep the world peaceful... ???
... and the internet makes it all possible.
Posted by John the Just on 04/22/12 06:43 PM
I too, found it hard to grok Mr. Abel's denigration of the Internet's power provide Knowledge vis a vis hard books. It would seem that his actual observation has more to do with the innovation of the Internet's tsunami of data on just about any subject, which has changed modern research methods. The modern researcher, faced with the relative ease of unearthing data, has learned to approach his subject differently.
'IT simply does not provide the space or the content organizational structures found in virtually every serious printed book,' just doesn't make sense to me. As Don from the Republic of Lakotah pointed out, the ebook experience only lacks the musty smell of a library - the data is the same. Actually the data is the same only if the reader stays locked within the limited framework of the original hard copy of the book in question. As NAPpy points out, links from a re-edited ebook would open an unending surfing potential along any tangential line the reader wished to pursue.
Another point of contention I wish to take up is Mr. Abel's pessimism regarding the future of Democracy. I agree with the following quote only as it relates to traditional Democratic Representative Government:
"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always vote for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy always followed by a dictatorship."
BUT… I maintain that the Internet is the key to sustainable Democratic Representative *Governance*. As I have proposed at Project MultiLevel Governance, Click to view link it is theoretically possible that large numbers of likeminded folks either locally or worldwide can associate via the Internet, and democratically reach solutions for whatever problem has caused them to associate in the first place. Once the solution is approved by enough participants willing to self-assess themselves to raise the cash to get whatever done - the solution could be realized.
This arrangement would not devolve into 'the voters vot[ing] themselves largesse from the public treasury,' because there would be no Public Treasury to pillage. The cash for any project would be raised by those willing to fund it through a pay-as-you-go one-time self-assessment - not by continuous traditional taxation creating a general fund for future projects, those funds held in a Public Treasury.
Posted by nithsdale on 04/22/12 06:42 PM
Good presentation. I loved Abel's assertions re Guttenburg printing books to make money and then again re the Book Fairs organized to sell the continually expanding books available for the public to buy, his description of the "barter" involved in those early exchanges!
With Abel's experience now in all phases of book marketting, from writing to the reader's hands, it would be interesting if he would catalogue the necessary changes he knows about re the free market exchanges then and what has evolved since to service the multitudes needing books and information. It would give a better structure to economics than a lot of what is presented now, espcially when it comes to the definition of eites, their motives!
Posted by NAPpy on 04/22/12 05:55 PM
"IT simply does not provide the space or the content organizational structures found in virtually every serious printed book."
I'm not sure about this assertion. I'll agree that the average ebook can be cumbersome. However, the above average ebook now has a side index that can link you directly to a certain chapter. Chapters have drop downs so you can look at smaller subsets of information. Therefore, the technology IS present to alleviate search difficulties, it's just not widespread yet.
I'll also offer the hypothesis that the most useful learning tool for me is the whitepaper. Follow a hyperlink and you're brought to a few page summary of an area of knowledge. Include a list of references in the whitepaper, and you can follow-up the summary with more details, if necessary.
Finally, homemade wiki's are going to change the education paradigm. Is the educational bureaucracy suppressing your ideas? Start up a wiki on the web. Invite like-minded people to contribute. If you're ideas are right, they will out-compete a cumbersome bureaucracy like the traditional college.
I think the author is underestimating the efficacy of the web.
Posted by John the Just on 04/22/12 04:33 PM
Posted by Bischoff on 04/22/12 04:19 PM
The rest, as they say, "is history"
You forget the very important part Martin Luther played in the education of the masses through the Gutenberg Bible. The Gutenberg Bible was printed in German.
On his return to Eisleben from the Diet of Worms, at which Martin Luther was condemned for committing "heresy" against the catholic church's teachings by publishing his 95 theses, he was "kidnapped" by friendly nobelmen who feared for his life.
They sequestered him at Wartburg Castle near Eisenach as Junker Jorg. While at Wartburg Castle, Martin Luther translated the bible from the Latin and Greek into the German language. It is the bible printed in German which educated the masses and eventually led to the protestant reformation in Europe.
... and the rest is history.
It was the influence of Protestanism which brought many of the emigrants to North America. The U.S. Constitution, based on Anglo-Saxon principles, is totally in line with the ideas of the Reformation. The U.S. Constitution expressly bans aristocratic titles. It was written to prevent European "Feudalism", promoted by the Church of Rome, from gaining hold in America.
Nevertheless, there have always been attempts to establish feudalism in North America. To establish European feudalism wasn't possible in colonial North America, because the wide open spaces of land and forests to the West protected the escape and freedom of any white serf. Therefore, it was black slavery, started by British/Norman feudalists in the Southern states which took the place of Feudalism with white servitude. It took a bloody Civil War to eliminate the scourge of "Black Slavery" from the United States.
Now the "feudalists" are at it again by pushing the "New World Order". They are doing everything they can to undermine the U.S. Constitution which by divine providence protects the American people from servitude under a feudalitic system. They have made unbelievable progress so far.
However, try as they might, natural law will not let the "New World Order" elite succeed in their plans in the long run. We, as Americans are certainly capable of understand natural law and human nature as did our forefathers. It is up to us to act in accordance with natural law, and to peacefully create a society as the one envisioned by the framers, or we can let ourselves be propagandized and stick our heads into the sand, until we are as rudely awakend to the requirements of natural law as were the people fighting Civil War, the bloodiest war in American history.
It is all up to us...
One thing I do know, sanctimoneous proclamations are no substitute for acknowledging the existence of natural law and the need to conform to it.
Posted by Charlie on 04/22/12 02:46 PM
The Industrial Revolution had a lot to do with it. There was a boom in literacy back in the 1800's, literacy was valued and encouraged. It wasn't until the co-option of church schooling by government schooling that the drive to decrease literacy arose promoted by John Dewey and his denigration of the public "fetish" of reading and the need for an uneducated class that would not balk at serving the interests of "society" rather than their own. That was the beginning of "look-say" reading instruction in government schools to DECREASE literacy among the masses. It has worked very well.
Posted by Charlie on 04/22/12 02:35 PM
It was an awakening but a controlled awakening. The Reformation was used to serve other elite interests. Increased access to scripture was a good thing but access was still controllable as was opinion about the issue. So the Reformation became a looting of the Church that served elites and further concentrated wealth away from the masses. In some ways the Gutenberg simply provided a more sophisticated means of controlling opinion and understanding while maintaining an illusion of freedom of thinking/opinion.
Posted by Don from the Republic of Lakotah on 04/22/12 01:11 PM
Thank you, oh great Bell, for entertaining my low-brow engineer's cookbook perspective.
The origin of the saying "better to rule in hell than serve in heaven" recently caught my attention. (Although, for me, it's infinity preferable to serve in heaven rather than rule in hell.) Apparently the former phrase comes from "Paradise Lost."
Dartmouth College's Milton reading room hosts an e-book.
Click to view link~milton/reading_room/pl/book_1/index.shtml
Dartmouth's e-book seems superior to a conventional book. Its hyper-linked annotations conveniently display pertinent information at the bottom of the page, which proves extremely helpful to autodidacts such as me.
It's hard for me to imagine how making a pilgrimage to Hanover, to sit in a library surrounded by a rampart of books, adds any additional knowledge to the experience.
Posted by rossbcan on 04/22/12 11:26 AM
"Readily available Bibles opened up to the common man the Divine revelations of God!"
Printing of the bible, was the "smoking gun", alerting intelligence (difference engine) that the then current social order (priesthood) was fraudulently misrepresenting biblical teachings to establish the "fact" that THEY "were master", by divine decree.
The rest, as they say, "is history".
Just like today, where some self-decreed "sciences", mainly in the humanities and economics are replacing fact with dogma to make the same fraudulent "we are in control, you are serfs" point. The exact same thing is and must happen. REALITY will prevail, with escalating attrition costs until it DOES.
Posted by rossbcan on 04/22/12 11:16 AM
RA: "IT simply does not provide the space or the content organizational structures found in virtually every serious printed book."
... nothing is totally good, nor, bad, but having attributes of each, dependent on perspective.
Pros: The organized information seeker currently "has it all" without imposed organization. If information "order" is imposed, by definition, information would be rigiourously categatorized and, not obvious, but crucial linkages between topic "a" and topic "b" would be harder to find, hampering intelligence which is basically "making connections".
Cons: Information is overwhelming to less competent thinkers, making it harder to find "truth".
Consider: If internet presentation of information is EVER rigorously "organized", would it not, inevitably, be organized to the advantage of the "organizers", to the detriment of discovery of "some truths" which are to "disadvantage" of the "organizers", whom, inevitably would have to "cut a deal" with "vested interests", in order to acquire resources for the "organizing"? It is for this reason, IMHO, that major "search engines" are "compromized".
NEVER tolerate ANYYONE to CONTROL your information, which determines your CHOICES and, thus SURVIVAL, for reasons PROVEN in my links above.
Posted by c.martel on 04/22/12 11:10 AM
My attention was attracted as well at the mention of this new book "The Gutenberg Revolution", however I went away somewhat disappointed! Author Richard Abel never really seemed to touch on the central theme of the Gutenberg Revolution, which simply and straightforwardly put is that the Gutenberg press made the Holy Bible available to all men, not just the Catholic priests.
Readily available Bibles opened up to the common man the Divine revelations of God! This was the game changer; access to Divine knowledge and the Gospel through the scriptures freed any man, who might be so-disposed, to achieve levels of creativity and individual productivity that was until that time unheard of.
The Gutenberg Press added fuel to the flames of the Reformation, which basically was a massive spiritual awakening. Western civilization, along with the Renaissance, went along for the ride.
Posted by Lawrence on 04/22/12 11:06 AM
Thanks. Good links, great website. Well thought out and expressed articles without being obtuse.
Posted by Don from the Republic of Lakotah on 04/22/12 11:04 AM
Mr Abel's point about IT delivering information not knowledge eludes me.
I recently fixed a garage door opener after reading about in on the Inet, watching the youtube video, and ordering the necessary parts from a list with handy hyperlinks to Amazon. Is that entire corpus of "garage door fixing" merely information, nothing more?
Wikipedia provided me with my first decent understanding of wave motion:
Click to view link
(Be sure to scroll down to see the animations.)
Allow me to share some background. Among other books, my personal library contains "Euclid's Elements in Greek", Einstein's papers (in German), Feynman's red books, and English translations of both Euclid and Einstein. Yet, despite all that knowledge, it took an animation from a Wikipedia page for the concept of Group Velocity to truly sink into me.
At last, my "Eureka!" moment. After spending many wasted nights over the years sitting, staring at a two dimensional static drawing of Group Velocity. With a firm belief that it would all finally fall into place this time. This time would be different. Only to face inevitable disappointment once more.
In all fairness, physics is a hobby. Feynman more or less says that great physicists such as Einstein intuitively "see" movement from equations (and therefore don't need Wiki animations). But what about us mere mortals? Is Wiki's animation just another form form of information (for slower people)?
Doesn't Wikipedia's dynamic footnote hyperlink make it superior to static footnotes found in conventional knowledge?
Doesn't Wikipedia's thumb (the rectangular window control that one drags with a mouse to vertically scroll through a document) function in the same manner as a human thumb with a codex? (As a matter of fact, isn't that where the control name "thumb" originates from in the first place?)
What am I missing?
Reply from The Daily Bell
We simply don't agree with him on this issue. Books, especially, are great because they provide an elongated frame of reference, gradually building to a conclusion after much marshaling of facts.
Most information on the Internet is shorter than a long book. But the result is the same if one reads enough available literature. Books present a pattern, an argument and a conclusion. It is the pattern, especially, that matters, the concretization of facts and their extensive revelation.
The Internet can provide the same experience simply via the amount of thematic information available. After a while, if one follows certain themes and arguments, the result is surprisingly similar.