Nova Reperta,-Jan-van-der-%28Giovanni-Stradano%29/Frontispiece-to-Nova-Reperta-New-Discoveries-engraved-by-Theodor-Galle-1571-1633-c.1600.html

Johannes Stradanus [Jan van der Straet]

Nova Reperta [New Discoveries] (c.1580)

This series of 24 engravings celebrated the new discoveries—both technological and geographical—that made the Renaissance world modern and distinguished it from that of the ancients.  Stradanus devoted no less than 9 images to the ‘discovery’ of the New World, and his encyclopedic frontispiece contained most of the other inventions depicted in the remaining plates, including gunpowder, the printing press, the compass, the clock, stirrups, (al)chemical distillation, the cultivation of silkworms, and the treatment of syphilis with the tropical wood guaiacum.

Francis Bacon, from Novum Organuum (Aphorism 29), 1620

We should note the force, effect, and consequences of inventions which are nowhere more conspicuous than in those three which were unknown to the ancients, namely, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these three have changed the appearance and the state of the whole world . . .

The Printing  Press, from Nova Reperta (The printing press was invented by Johannes Gutenberg, c 1440-50.),-Jan-van-der-%28Giovanni-Stradano%29/The-Development-of-Printing,-plate-5-from-Nova-Reperta-New-Discoveries-engraved-by-Philip-Galle-1537-1612-c.1600.html

From Elizabeth Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

Some ideas about why medieval inventions did not make a large cumulative impact on society, as did the ones after the printing press:

New techniques or inventions might be mentioned in writing, but this was usually in a sermon . . .  Before the advent of printing, events of significance, when reported at all, were usually conveyed from the pulpit. [For example] ‘Lenses were already known in the thirteenth century . . . . For three centuries a kind of conspiracy of silence was entered into concerning them . . . they became an object of theoretical study only in the sixteenth century.” [But] News of the invention of spectacles was not suppressed by ‘a conspiracy’ in the later middle ages [though guilds did try to keep secret the secrets of their trades]. [Rather] it was conveyed by word of mouth . . . . It was not that such technical inventions were despised or even undervalued until a new class of capitalists came along; it was rather that in the late fifteenth century, functions of the pulpit [used to spread news as well as religion] began to be taken over by the press. The advent of printing lessened reliance on oral transmission even while providing powerful new incentives to . . . publicize the tricks of various trades. The result was an avalanche of technical treatises and teach-yourself books . . . .

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