Thursday, June 14, 2012

Invention of the Printing Press

With all the current discussion about the internet and how it should (or should not) be used for enhancing Jewish life, I thought it would be interesting to look at another invention which had perhaps an even bigger influence on Judaism, and how it was received. I refer to the printing press, which allowed exiled communities to have access to Torah even if they did not have access to a learned Rabbi. It began the proces which led to the democratisation of knowledge, and which enabled every person (who could afford a book) to become knowledgeable on a topic. It was also decried by many for spreading all sorts of ideas, images and concepts that were not appropriate.

Here is David Gans writing in Tzemach David in 1592:

1440 דפוס הספרים נמצא בעיר מענץ ע״י איש נוצרי שמו יוהניש גוטנבערג
משטראסבורג והיה זה בשנה ראשונה לקיסר החסיל קיסר פרידריך בשנת ה״א ומאתים אלף ות״מ לנוצרים ברוך החונן לאדם לעת ומלמל לאנוש בינה ברוך אשר דבר עלינו בחסדו בתחבולה רבה כזו לתועלת כל יושבי תבל אין עוד מלבדה ולא נמצא ערך לה בכל החכמית והתחבולות למן היום אשר ברא ה׳ אדם על הארץ לא לבד לחכמות תלמודיות האלהיות ולשאר שבע חכמות הלא גם לשאר חכמות זמניות אומנים פועלי יד צורפים בנאים חרשי עץ חרשי אבן וזולתם נתגלו ונתפרסמו על ידי הדפוס בכל יום ובכל עת תועלת ותחבולות רבות אשר נדפסו לכל פועלי אומנות ספרים הרבה אין קץ .

Here is a translation that i have taken from Jewish Thought and the Scientific Revolution of the Sixteenth Century: David Gans (1541-1613) and His Times (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization)
by Andre Neher.

Printing was invented in Mainz by the Christian Johannes Gutenberg of Strasbourg in the first year of the reign of the Emperor Frederick the Pious (the Jewish year 5200). Blessed be He who endows man with intelligence and teaches him knowledge. Blessed be He who in His goodness has granted us such an invention, of universal benefit and unique of its kind. No other invention, no other discover can be compared to it since God created man upon the earth. I tis not only the metaphysical sciences and the seven secular sciences which have profited from this invention, but all the applied sciences – metalworking, architecture, wood-engraving and lithography – have also benefited. Each day reveals some new aspect and innumerable books are published with benefit all professions whatever they may be.

Quite the opposite of the Citi-Field Asifa!

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