Friday, September 02, 2016

Sci-tech watch, 30: The power of the Book, of good quality paper, and that of the printing press

A working model of Gutenberg's Press,
on which the famous 42 line Bible was printed
Yesterday, as I went to the library to do some work, I noticed a group of primary school age lads, looking like they had been more or less instructed to read some books.

Something prompted me, and I paused.

I asked them, what was the first book printed.

They looked quite puzzled, and one guessed, Wikipedia?

They did not know about the Gutenberg 42-line Bible of c. 1455:

A page from the Gutenberg 42-line Bible, 1455 (first full book printed, with a Latin-alphabet Text on
a press capable of not only movable type -- the Chinese had that --
but also of rapid, high volume production [1000's of impressions/day])
I had a bit of a back and forth, went to fetch the Library's copy of that first ever published full book, The Bible, and read 2 Tim 2:15 and 3:10 - 17:
2 Tim 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

2 Tim 3:10 You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, 11 my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. 

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(The former is the inscription that my Dad wrote in the very first Bible he gave me, which I still have. The latter, is my passage for life.)

These were quite unfamiliar to these lads, but at least they knew John 3:16. 

The incident was a revelation to me.

I cannot blame so many lads, for utter ignorance of the revolution triggered by printing and by the book in the hands of the ordinary man, then of the newspaper in the hands of the ordinary man, too. And, of course, the power of paper -- the main medium for printing. (Where, durable paper is very important for cultural survival, Gutenberg's first printed full book is approaching 600 years old.) 

No wonder, they have so little value on books and reading, they don't know their value, their history and impact, the price paid for getting books in our hands and libraries that we can freely go to stocked with a treasure-house of books. They mainly know of books as those heavy things inflicted on them by schools that they are forced to read and do problems from.

Our education system and media culture are to blame instead. And, our churches. (Families by and large simply reflect the gaps in general knowledge base.)

This is policy failure.

We need to stop, and teach and demonstrate by example.

Our children need to learn the story of books, of the Bible, of printing, of publishing, of newspapers, of the transforming impact of these things on civilisation and on how we can make a living. We must not forget, it is books, circulating correspondence and journals that carry scientific knowledge, so they were a major factor in triggering the Scientific Revolution. Not to mention the wave of reforms from the 1700's on.

It is time to take stock and do better. END