Sunday Book-Thought 25

Ease of use is only one measure of a writing technology. The great advantage of the first printed books was not that you could read them in bed. Gutenberg right well have been appalled at the thought of someone taking his beautiful folio-sized Bible to bed. For generations, most important printed books remained imposing volumes that had to be read on bookstands, so that people often read (and wrote) standing up. Mass production by printing did eventually make books cheaper and more plentiful, and this change was important. However, the fixity and permanence that printing gave to the written word were just as important in changing the nature of literacy. The book in whatever form is an intellectual tool rather than a means of relaxation. If the tool is powerful, writers and readers will put up with inconveniences to use it.
Jay David Bolter

Sunday Book-Thought 24

The demise of the marginal tradition might be attributed to the printing press, which used repeatable blocks to frame pages of Books of Hours and limited the newly discovered Grotesque decorations to another ‘modern’ invention, the title page. As Samuel Kinser notes, compared to the manuscript book the printed book ‘has small margins just wide enough for a word or two, an emendation, an exclamation.’ The urge to have clean edges often resulted in medieval manuscripts being cruelly cropped down, a practice typical of the increasing disrespect for everything but the text in subsequent centuries. The great religious upheaval of the Reformation also had its effect on the eradication of the medieval image-world. A great rift opens up between words and images. Language is now in a separate realm, written in discrete boxes or in fields hanging in the picture space.
Focusing all representation in the middle, the centre where man stood resplendent, Renaissance thinkers pretended that they no longer required this space of ‘otherness,’ unless it be the new edges of the World being discovered by Columbus.
Michael Camille