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Daniel Hobbins
Ohio State University (Columbus, OH 43210-1132)

Fellowships for University Teachers
Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2013 – 6/30/2014

The Origins of Print in Medieval Culture

The story of print usually goes something like this: in an age of faith, a great invention appears, sweeping aside ignorance and conjuring science from its slumber. So the printing press changes the course of human history. Unhappy with this triumphalist account, medieval historians have sometimes stressed the continuities of print with manuscript culture. But we still have no account that puts the early world of print in its fifteenth-century context. In “Origins of Print,” I argue that the technology of print represents not only a cause for future change but a consequence of changing attitudes to writing that stretch back centuries before Gutenberg. I trace the roots of print in the technologies and institutions of the late middle ages, and then describe the transition to print as it occurred. The story that emerges is no less refreshing than surprising: the cultural and intellectual transformation of late medieval Europe as a necessary prerequisite for the birth of the modern world.