Monday, March 17, 2014


A Long Decadence

R.W. Chapman (1881-1960), "Old Books and Modern Reprints," The Portrait of a Scholar and other Essays written in Macedonia 1916-1918 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1922), pp. 48-65 (at 50):
It is a melancholy and humiliating truth that the history of printing is a long decadence. Even in the mechanics of printing we cannot to-day surpass the pioneers of the fifteenth century. We cannot achieve a finer paper or a cleaner impression. Our best types are modelled on theirs; and in the use of our tools, in all the rules of the art, we toil painfully in their wake. A great scholar and accomplished collector used to say that his study of early printing had cured him of the vulgar Radicalism of his youth. The early printers had the tradition of the scribes in their souls, and so the new art found its perfection at a spring. It has been in a slow decline for four centuries; and the best that we can do now is to follow the old models, and adapt the old methods, with what intelligence we may command.

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