From Notre-Dame de Paris by Victor Hugo
Book V Chapter 2 This Will Kill That
Our readers must excuse us if we stop a moment to investigate the enigmatic words of the archdeacon: “This will kill that. The book will kill the edifice.” (p 174)
... How precarious is the immortality of the manuscript! How far more solid, lasting, and resistant is the edifice, the book in stone! To destroy the written word, you need only a torch and a Turk. To demolish the constructed word, you need a social revolution or an earthquake. Barbarism swept over the Colosseum; a deluge, perhaps, over the pyramids.
In the fifteenth century everything changed.
Human intelligence discovered a way of perpetuating itself, one not only more durable and more resistant than architecture, but also simpler and easier. Architecture was dethroned. The stone letters of Orpheus gave way to the lead letters of Gutenberg.
The book will kill the edifice.
The invention of printing was the greatest event in history. It was the parent revolution; it was the fundamental change in mankind’s mode of expression, it was human thought doffing one garment to clothe itself in another; it was the complete and definitive sloughing off of the skin of a serpent, which, since the time of Adam, has symbolized intelligence.
When put into print, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, intangible, indestructible; it mingles with the air. (p 182)
Translated by Walter Cobb
Will the internet kill the book?