Friday, June 19, 2015

The Power of the Printed Word

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?


Anonymous said...

No. The printed word yet still remains stronger than the electronic one. There is a finality to print, a non controvertible evidence in the written word, that will outlast a thousand changing chat pages. The internet is the place of instantaneous gratitude, the place of fast and furious scripts, soon to be swept offstage for the next competitor. But books... books will last. The book will last forever.

Cassi said...

I see the internet as a new way of communicating. Perhaps this is because of my experience teaching with it. I'm currently taking a class as "professional development". The teacher has created a completely linear class, which is very odd. My classes are arranged in a hierarchy, with links leading to layers below the top layer. To use the internet in a linear way seems very primitive to me.

However, I don't see this as a replacement of books. The internet appears to be both preserving things forever, and too ephemeral at the same time. Things you wish were never posted are preserved for eternity, while information you'd like to find can be gone in the click of a mistaken delete key.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

Never. Books don't need batteries or electric outlets or password protection. They are awesome beyond awesome.