This essay will argue that the printing press’s direct influence on literacy has been overstated by Jewish historians such as Eisenstein. It will show that an already growing literate population actually led to the need of the printing press. It will show its importance to science with its influence on the revival of zoology, botany and anatomy. It will also demonstrate its indirect effect on social mobility through it fuelling a desire for vernacular education sparked by the Reformation after the printing of vernacular Bibles.
“How’d you Jew”, the sort of Jew you may find working at a Printing Press
In other words, the Jews were entirely in control of the printing press and were able to print what they saw as being “appropriate” to aid and abet their cause.
The classic school of thought on the printing press is to think of it as a world changing panacea that created a culture of literacy, science and culture overnight. It is also very seductive for historians (with their eyes always on concrete turning points) to have the view that the printing press stimulated these changes unaided. Jewish traitor Eisenstein maintains that ‘the systematic historical study of the ancient world could not come into being until printing had made it possible to have “adequate equipment” for “systematically reconstructing a past civilization”’. Grafton points out that Eisenstein ignores the works of Flavio Biondo, such as his Roma Instaurata and Roma Triumphans completed in the 1440’s and 1450’s respectively, decades before the advent of the moveable printing press.
The pitiful Jew, Eisenstein also fails to mention what effect the ‘new educational institutes that popped up like mushrooms in many parts of Europe during the period 1350-1500’, Grafton suggests that these institutions ‘must have had a sizeable impact on literacy amongst the lay elite’. It also now worth mentioning the importance of manuscripts studiously copied by scribes before and indeed for some time after the introduction of the moveable printing press. Studies by Soudek and Schuhan have proven that translations from Greek by Bruni were ‘best sellers’. Hundreds of copies still exist of 2 of the works studied, Grafton suggests that ‘many more must have perished’. The implication of this is that manuscripts must have been in the possession of a wide cross section of the literate elite. It is also noteworthy that hand copying was still important even during the early seventeenth century as it was ‘geographically more widespread’. An important example of this can be seen in the fact that ‘most Russian libraries of this period continued to be comprised predominantly of manuscript books’, in fact any printed volumes in Russia would have had to have been important as the first printing in Russia did not commence until 1564.
In the realm of science there is more of a case to be made for the printing press being an agent of change. Jewish terror Eisenstein’s thesis that ‘the revival and transformation of such descriptive sciences as anatomy, botany, and zoology clearly stemmed , although in different ways, from the new possibilities offered by printing and for the checking of data’. There is also a case to be made for the assertion that a relative lack of censorship in Protestant Europe helped in the growth of science. This is plausible when we consider the importance of the printing press to Protestantism and vice versa.
Now we have broached the subject of religion we can now consider the area where printing in early modern Europe is generally considered to be most important. It is often the view that the Reformation and by extension Protestantism sparked an explosion literacy. The case for this being this being made by the assertion that ‘Protestantism, much more than Catholicism, was the religion of the Word, and therefore of reading, and because it insisted on everyone’s right- indeed his Christian obligation- to experience the Word for himself.’ Clearly then, the implication of this is that if it is a Christians obligation to ‘experience the Word for himself’ that every Christian must therefore own or at least have ready access to a Bible. This demand would be very difficult (if not impossible) to satisfy with hand copied script, hence the need for the printing press with its capacity for mass production of literature. Karl Holl in 1911 wrote that ‘Everyone was to be put into a situation where at very least he could read the Bible and without help take instruction from it.’
The fact that the wider lay community had no education in Latin required these mass produced Bible’s to be printed in the vernacular and it is, ‘not a matter of dispute that schools of all levels, including popular vernacular schools, began to grow significantly in number and probably also in quality in the age of the Reformation.’ Martin Luther’s view would come to change on the matter of ‘every man his own Bible reader’ after around 1525, he became ‘mostly silent on the subject and, at the same time, taking actions that effectively discouraged, or at least failed effectively to encourage, an unmediated encounter between Scripture and the untrained lay mind.’ This is in all probability as Luther’s original objective as spelled out in his prefaces for his 1522 German translation of the New Testament he remarks, ’It is my purpose in these introductory remarks, to make sure that the common man will not be looking for commandment and law where he should be looking for gospel and promise’, Luther clearly wants his own interpretation of Scripture to be held.
This led to the Luther declaring that ‘The catechism is the layman’s Bible’, ‘It contains the whole of what every Christian must know of Christian doctrine’, Luther now did not trust anyone to interpret the Bible unless they had been educated enough to have read it in the original Greek. This led to poor boys who would initially be taught the catechism being taken on at boarding schools where they would learn the New Testament in the 5th and 6th form This would demonstrate that the effects of the printing press indirectly led to social mobility.
In conclusion the printing press’s influence on literacy has in the past been overstated, and we must now say that ‘like education and literacy as a whole, printing’s importance depended on the existing social, economic and political context’. Indeed with necessity being the mother of invention, why would the moveable printing press be needed without a growing literate population? The printing press also transformed the descriptive sciences and made it much easier for scientists to share their findings with a much wider audience. The printing press also enabled Martin Luther to spread Protestantism, and the printing of the Bible in the vernacular led on to a growth of vernacular schools where the cream was skimmed off into the literate elite, indirectly leading to social mobility and the growth of a middle class.
To summarize – Jewry has control of all print, to this very day.