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Printing, Writers and Readers in Renaissance…
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Printing, Writers and Readers in Renaissance Italy

by Brian Richardson

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It's been well over a year since I read this book, and what I'm struck by in memory is that while I remember having some difficulty with the tone of the text, the overwhelming sense of control and innovation of the time has stayed with me.

One of the more distancing elements of writing about books and printers and printing is that it almost always involves a cataloging of names and dates and sizes and materials, etc. It can often seem to defeat the purpose of whatever narrative is being relayed - like the relationships between people and books in Italy during the Renaissance.

There is an almost physical relationship, like children on a see-saw, between the technological advances that made books far less expensive and accessible to people well outside the educated upper classes, and the efforts of the Church and her Inquisitors to control access to and the information in those texts. Seen at a distance, it is clear as day that the authorities scrambled to establish new laws and close old loopholes almost every time a new type of book came out. The violence and suppression were almost shocking, though that could easily have been because of my own ignorance, rather than any presentation of the time.

We do forget how much of the explosion of creativity and scientific study happened under the threat of ex-communication, death, and worse. The Renaissance was not a time of life filled with oil paints and curvaceous models just waiting for their block of marble. Every innovation was a challenge to the established order. And it was the stability of such an establishment that nurtured the possibilities for these developments.

The ability of books to silently challenge the way of things is always in evidence, here no less than anywhere else.

I was particularly struck by the two lines that told of a young man who was taken off to the Inquistors because it was said that he read too much. Everything that I learned from this book revolves around that story. It is an important read, and well worth it. ( )
  WaxPoetic | Feb 28, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0521576938, Paperback)

This is a full-length study of a topic of central importance to the development of Italian and European culture. The spread of printing to Renaissance Italy had a dramatic impact on all users of books. As works came to be diffused more widely and cheaply, and reading became a more popular activity, so authors adapted their writing and methods of publishing to the demands and opportunities of the new medium. Brian Richardson focuses on the interaction between the book industry and written culture at this crucial period.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:14 -0400)

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