The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

January 31, 2017

January 31, 2016

Let's look at a  JSTOR writeup on Elizabeth Eisenstein (October 11, 1923 to January 31, 2016) since it is probably behind a paywall.

Elizabeth L. Eisenstein... 
[was] a scholar who helped shape our understanding of the printing revolution in 15th century Europe....

A historian of early modern Europe, she taught mainly at American University and the University of Michigan. While Marshall McLuhan and others popularized the notion of what we now call the Gutenberg Revolution, it was Eisenstein who aimed her wide-ranging scholarly eye on the subject. In her 1979 opus,
The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early-Modern Europe, she supported her underlying thesis with exhaustive archival evidence. The two-volume work has had a significant influence in the fields of book history and print culture and scholars continue to critically engage with her ideas, a testament to her lasting influence.
Past & Present, Eisenstein summed up her thesis:

The advent of printing was, quite literally, an epoch-making event. The shift from script to print revolutionized Western culture. It altered the way things changed and the way they stayed the same. It affected all forms of survival and revival.

She argued that the revolutionary transition from a culture of manuscripts to a culture of print had a fundamental influence on the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and the rise of the Scientific Revolution.

Eisenstein revisited her thesis in the American Historical Review, noting that “everyone seemed to agree that the consequences of the advent of printing were of great importance” but “all stopped short of telling us just what those consequences were.” She suggested that “to offer a full account far exceeded the capacities of any one individual. But even though the task could not be completed, I thought it should at least be begun. A beginning is what I attempted to provide.”

And what a beginning it was.

Thus the significance from a scholarly perspective of Eisenstein. We quote from one of her books, The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe (first edition, 1983).

Lutheran propagandists pioneered with caricatures and cartoons aimed at a mass audience. The example of antipapist propaganda shown here is a title page woodcut from a pamphlet usually attributed to Joachim von Watt.....It attacks Thomas Murner, one of Luther's opponents and the Catholic clergy. The pope flanked by cardinals and bishops, all with wolves' heads, catch geese in a net they are holding. A monk with the head of a cat, plays a musical accompaniment....This is the earliest known caricature of Murner who from 1520 on was depicted with a cat's head.

Below is a different drawing of Murner post the caricature Eisenstein describes, and as she indicated, he is portrayed with a cat's head. This is 1522. The context suggests that both those pro and con on Lutheranism saw Murner with a cat's head, since that is Luther on the ground with the fool's garb. Unless there is some subtlety I am missing:

And who is this historian who undertook to explicitly unravel the effects of the printing press on European civilization. Her New York Times obituary gives a glimpse:

The third of four daughters of Sam A. Lewisohn and the former Margaret Seligman, Elizabeth Ann Lewisohn was born in Manhattan....

Hers was an eminent family: Her paternal grandfather was the industrialist and philanthropist Adolph Lewisohn, for whom Lewisohn Hall at Columbia University and Lewisohn Stadium in Upper Manhattan were named. Her father was prominent in business and civic affairs, her mother active in the education reform movement.
Reared in a mansion on Fifth Avenue, Elizabeth Lewisohn attended Vassar College, from which she received a bachelor’s degree in 1944. She went on to earn master’s and doctoral degrees in history from Harvard.

Professor Eisenstein taught at American University in Washington before joining the faculty at Michigan, where she was the Alice Freeman Palmer professor of history, in 1975. She taught there until her retirement in 1988.

Besides her daughter, Professor Eisenstein’s survivors include her husband, Julian Calvert Eisenstein; a son, Edward Lewisohn Eisenstein; a sister, Virginia Kahn... Her first child, a son, died at birth in 1949; another son, John Calvert Eisenstein, died in 1974.

The recipient of Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation fellowships, Professor Eisenstein was appointed, in 1979, the inaugural scholar in residence at the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Her laurels also include the Gutenberg Award from the International Gutenberg Society in 2012.

Among her other books are “The First Professional Revolutionist” (1959), about the utopian socialist Philippe Buonarroti; “Grub Street Abroad: Aspects of the French Cosmopolitan Press From the Age of Louis XIV to the French Revolution” (1992); and “Divine Art, Infernal Machine” (2011), which charts the public reception of the printed word in its various incarnations from the age of Gutenberg to the present.

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