The Printing Press

Gutenberg printing press



In the nineteenth century people used to think of the invention of printing as the lynchpin in the history of civilisation. I’m not so sure. … Still, on balance I suppose that printing has done more good than harm….
—Kenneth Clark, Civilisation

What?? Clark’s comments about printing grabbed my attention when I watched his Civilisation series recently. It sounds as if he thinks civilization was coarsened/dumbed down with the spread of books and literacy. But he doesn’t elaborate. Can you think of another interpretation? Do you care?

As you know, I’m a book lover. So I think the printing press was one of the greatest inventions in the history of mankind — whatever its effects on civilization.

How important are books to you? How have they affected your life? What are some of your favorites?

This entry was posted in Lifelong Learning. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Printing Press

  1. Rummuser says:

    I cannot imagine living without books. My list of favourites is not too long. The topmost on the list is Bhagwat Geeta, followed by Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. Other books that I go back again again to are by Joseph Campbell, Fritjof Kapra and Erich Fromm. When I want to lighten my mood, I go to P G Wodehouse often too. A bunch of new Indian authors have started to write Indian mythology driven fiction which I find fascinating. I also subscribe to the National Geographic and Readers Digest beside some Indian periodicals. I read four newspapers a day too. Quite involved with reading as you can see and I think that more good has come out of the invention than bad.
    Rummuser´s last blog post ..Raksha Bandhan II

    • bikehikebabe says:

      I was impressed with the couple of thick books Tom reads in a week–nothing educational except the magazines & newspaper—not now there’s YOU. Wow!

    • Jean says:

      Because of my eyes I’ve had to learn to pace my reading, but I would have gone bonkers as a kid without books and other reading material. Fierce headaches, dizziness, eyes watering and about to fall out? A small price to pay.

  2. Cathy in NZ says:

    The ancient scribes, the story tellers, the life play directors would not have been happy…instead of writing sometimes a lot of hogwash directed at other scribes and scholars; less street and life shows…people reading at home at leisure, comfy chair, nibbles and maybe a good glass of port.

    It meant that ordinary people who learnt the art of writing and of course reading could become authors with best sellers, newspapers could expand but they would have to have less pictures and more words. And so on

    Was it a good idea?

    Well for you and me it was because we had the “choice” as to my favourites, I don’t feel I have any in particular and will read/browse a wide range as my ideals change. Sometimes for pleasure and many times for study.

    However, with study especially research I don’t necessarily read the whole book but dip in and out – usually with the aid of the index or the chapter titles.

    I suppose some of my favourite books are the one that show me how to bake a chocolate cake with the right amount of ingredients; how to make a craft item that has a pattern (was that slip one or knit two together); how-to fix xyz; get inspiration to do abc or continue….and then there is the dictionary, what the heck does that mean!

    Some of those items are not hard print “paper” but rather this software with so many wondrous other things to find. Yesterday at Uni, a word that I couldn’t even pronounce (but I can’t tell you it or meaning, as it’s on paper at Uni)….
    Cathy in NZ´s last blog post ..Week 3 coming up

    • Jean says:

      I do a lot of dipping here and there and mulling over what I’ve read. I used to use our dictionary a lot, but Google is so much easier. It’s especially great for checking my spelling. I regard the internet as an extension of the printing press — a mind boggling extension.

      A lot of the books I keep are reference books, say about Photoshop, WordPress, etc. I’ll dip into one, read a bit, then spend hours practicing to get it down in my process memory.

  3. Evan says:

    I think Clark’s point was probably that civilisation existed before printing. And things like readily available soap and public sanitation had saved lives.

    Books have been hugely important to me. In adolescence they showed me a world beyond the one I was growing up in. Several have changed my life fundamentally.
    Evan´s last blog post ..I won’t be around much for the next week or two

    • Jean says:

      “…they showed me a world beyond the one I was growing up in. Several have changed my life fundamentally.”

      Amen to that!

  4. tammyj says:

    in each of the comments is some of my own truth.
    i could not live without them. oh. i guess of course i could. but it would not be what i call a life.
    i hate to think it . . . but kenneth clark’s statement sounds a bit elitist. which of course for years was the norm. you know . . . education. reading. thinking. . . . not for the lowly masses! LOL.
    i’m so glad the printing press appeared on the scene. it has made all the difference.
    in my formative years i think henry david thoreau’s writing was what meant the most.
    and emerson. and samuel johnson. and gladys taber! uh oh. i’m starting a list! LOL.
    and later anais nin and all of the ‘lost generation’… hemingway, fitzgerald, durrell, …
    and i love now the cozy English mystery series of m.c. beaton. LOVE them! pure escapism. i love the poetry of auden and ee commings. oh STOP tammy!!!
    and all the writings of thich nhat hanh and lao tzu.
    i love your posts monk! xo
    tammyj´s last blog post ..thankful thursday for my marine

  5. tammyj says:

    typo. ee cummings.
    tammyj´s last blog post ..thankful thursday for my marine

    • Jean says:

      Again, I didn’t even see the typo. Thank you for sharing your enthusiasms! It feeds my soul. 🙂

      About escapism: At the moment I’m watching Planet Earth on DVD. They did a fantastic job filming it, and there are beautiful pictures, but it’s about nature in the raw — a lot of killing and eating. Let’s face it, reality often sucks. Yay for escapism!

  6. bikehikebabe says:

    Paper books will go the way of the dinosaur what with Kindle, electronic tablets, computers. Someday words may be projected on the wall, on special eye glasses.

    • Jean says:

      I’m not sure. I am sure we won’t be around to find out!

    • bikehikebabe says:

      Melanie Mitchell internationally known for her computer expertise, says we have glasses that project the words into our eyes now, but they’re expensive. I want ones that translate those words into thoughts. (How lazy can I be?)

    • Jean says:

      I’ve read about that technology, but given the way my crazy eyes (don’t) work, I have a feeling it would make things worse. I do much better using large type on the computer and standing back a couple of feet. I do like my Kindle because it lets me use larger type and I can read from a greater distance.

Comments are closed.