To describe the world before or after the spread of print was
child’s play; those dates were safely distanced from upheaval. But what
was happening in 1500? The hard question Eisenstein’s book asks is “How
did we get from the world before the printing press to the world after
it? What was the revolution itself like?”
Chaotic, as it turns out. The Bible was translated into local
languages; was this an educational boon or the work of the devil?
Erotic novels appeared, prompting the same set of questions. Copies of
Aristotle and Galen circulated widely, but direct encounter with the
relevant texts revealed that the two sources clashed, tarnishing faith
in the Ancients. As novelty spread, old institutions seemed exhausted
while new ones seemed untrustworthy; as a result, people almost
literally didn’t know what to think. If you can’t trust Aristotle, who
can you trust?
During the wrenching transition to print, experiments were only revealed in retrospect to be turning points.–Clay Shirky