The Printing Press part II


The Tempest and Improvement as Restoration to the Past and to Nature:

Eisenstein, 290:

“The assumption that ‘the ancientest must needs be the right, as nearer to the Fountain the purer the streams and the errors sprang up as the ages succeeded’ conformed so completely to the experience of the learned man throughout the age of scribes that it was simply taken for granted. Only after that age came to an end would the superior position of the ancients require a defense.”

Eisenstein, 292-3:

For a period during the Renaissance, then, “’Back to the classics and ‘back to nature’ [were] . . . seen as two separate themes which the humanists managed to intertwine . . . . Retrieving the writings of the ancients went together with the idea of restoring forms to their natural state.”

Petrarch, quoted in Eisenstein, 296:

“The slumber of forgetfulness will not last forever. After the darkness has been dispelled, our grandsons will be able to walk back into the pure radiance of the past.”

Eisenstein, 292:

“What had been ‘unknown to previous generations’ was so obscured before printing that finding [it—i.e. what had been lost and thus become unknown–] . . . was often equivalent to devising ‘a new solution” . . . .  Even the ‘invention’ of central perspective may have been sparked by efforts to reconstruct lost illustrations to an ancient Alexandrian text. Only after ancient texts had been more permanently fixed to printed pages would the  . . . search for primary sources” come to seem a restraint on new writers and thinkers rather than an inspiration to them.

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