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The Body of the Book: The Media Transition from Manuscript to Print

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Diana Brown

on 4 May 2014

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Transcript of The Body of the Book: The Media Transition from Manuscript to Print

Manuscript copies were never identical
Identical copies were now possible
They proofread each copy!
It's Identical
Transition from early missals to printed copies.
The generation of 1550 realized a loss of tradition.
Conrad Gesner
Biblioteca Universalis
4 volumes 1545-49
Writing depends on material conditions even after the invention of print
1. Today's society has a constantly growing reserve of writings

2. Books are no longer written "monuments"

3. Numerous institutions select from the
writings and allow them to be effective

4. Longevity guaranteed by new methods

Longevity of the text
Manuscript pages
The Perfect Teacher
1. The invention of writing allowed ideas and experiences to be conveyed into the future
2. Philosophy of immortality, truth and permanence in the written word
3. Writing was a serious endeavor with a highly selective process which resulted in highly prized texts
4. For the most part, only the elite were immortalized in writing
The Written Aura
Changing mediums and technology -( Print)
Changing mediums and technology - (Digital)
The Body of the Book:

The Media Transition from
Manuscript to Print

1. With the onset of printing textual variants were less of a concern.

2. Printing allowed for identical missals.

3. Previously this was impossible.

1. The concept of the book as an individual did not disappear.

2. Bishops required each copy to be compared to the original as in old manuscript culture.

3. This was to justify the standard cost that was still carried over from manuscript proofreading.
1. In time the Bishops realized that it was not necessary to proof read every copy in a printed batch.

2. The cost of proofreading was adjusted.
1. Originally Bishops carefully selected the texts to be copied by the Scribes.
2. When printing began, whatever was available was printed, it was a matter of chance.
3. Once copied, the original manuscripts were discarded.
4. They soon saw the importance of reviewing and being selective of text.
5. Each copy was improved in an effort to reach the ideal text and often the new text was better than the original.
6. In time, they realized the need to preserve the tradition by keeping the originals.

1. Nicolaus Mameranus said everybody stupidly trusts the first best print.

2. He said that all available copies must be collected.

3. Guard them as treasure, even if they are printed a thousand times over.

4. Libraries must be placed under public oversight via the nobility and government.
1. He compiled the first truly comprehensive "universal" listing of all the books of the first century of printing.

2. By listing the books the concern for maintaining the original diminished.

3. Writing finally loses any analogy to face-to-face interaction, as was characterized by medieval manuscript culture.


1. Books can come to anyone but they are no longer individuals in which the absent speaker is embodied.

2. A books longevity is no longer dependent on its material characteristics.

3. A books longevity depends on societies new methods of keeping things public and present.
1. Authentic text was highly prized.

2. Transmission of truth was therefore a moral problem.

3. If the scribe was honest the truth was preserved.

4. If he was lazy or a counterfeiter then the truth was lost.

1. Writing becomes more ubiquitous and affordable

2. Intellectual era to give immortality and
knowledge to all

3. Production of triviality, dilution of content and dwindling respect for the art
1. Transition from writing to print parallels transition from print to digital

2. Early digital era expected Multiplication – explosion of easily reproduced texts

3. Dumbing down of the art, diminished authority for aged texts, print for profit

4. Loss of the divine “Aura” - printers print in a day what used to take scribes months
1. Printed word will continue to teach long after the writer dies.

2. A manuscript written on parchment can last for a thousand years.
1. Manuscripts were written on either vellum (calf skin) or parchment (sheep or goat skin).

2. The skins were cleaned, stretched, scraped, and whitened with chalk to provide bright, strong, and smooth pages for writing.

3.Printing uses paper that will not last as long but is less expensive and more people could afford to buy a copy of the written word.
1. They used to think of books as living beings, that is the perfect teacher or
living partner, because it would pass on information but would never be in a bad mood.

2. The knowledge that the author writes down will continue for many generations.
1. Writing seems to be losing its eminent position.

2. Pictures, gestures, and sounds are used to simulate a "presence" reminiscent of what scribes experienced in the book.
The transition continues
Presented by
Diana Brown
Jenel Cohen
Joan Holt
Nathan McTamaney
Erik Ringen
Josh Turner
Kathryn Christopher
Stephen Palermini

April 2014 WSUV
DTC375 Language, texts, and technology class
by Jan-Dirk Muller
Steinberg's Perspective
1. A Change in Print

2. The Role of the Scribe

3. Authenticity of a Text
How important is it to maintain a physical copy of a book. Why or why not?
With the emergence of the ebook, has that reduced the imagination used by either the author or the reader? Why or why not?
Questions for class members
Full transcript