The Impact of the Printing Press

It is to the press we owe the possibility of spreading those publications which the emergency of the moment, or the transient fluctuations of opinion, may require, and of interesting thereby in any question, treated in a single point of view, whole communities of men reading and understanding the same language.

All those means which render the progress of the human mind more easy, more rapid, more certain, are also the benefits of the press. Without the instrumentality of this art, such books could not have been multiplied as are adapted to every class of readers, and every degree of instruction. To the press we owe those continued discussions which alone can enlighten doubtful questions, and six upon an immoveable basis, truths too abstract, too subtile, too remote from the prejudices of the people or the common opinion of the learned, not to be soon forgotten and lost. To the press we owe those books purely elementary, dictionaries, works in which are collected, with all their details, a multitude of facts, observations, and experiments, in which all their proofs are developed, all their difficulties investigated. To the press we owe those valuable compilations, containing sometimes all that has been discovered, written, thought, upon a particular branch of science, and sometimes the result of the annual labours of all the literati of a country. To the press we owe those tables, those catalogues, those pictures of every kind, of which some exhibit a view of inductions which the mind could only have acquired by the most tedious operations; others present at will the fact, the discovery, the number, the method, the object which we are desirous of ascertaining; while others again furnish, in a more commodious form and a more arranged order, the materials from which genius may fashion and derive new truths.

To these benefits we shall have occasion to add others, when we proceed to analyse the effects that have arisen from the substitution of the vernacular tongue of each country, in the room of the almost exclusive application, which had preceded, so far as relates to the sciences, of one language, the common medium of communication between the learned of all nations.

In short, is it not the press that has freed the instruction of the people from every political and religious chain? In vain might either despotism invade our schools; in vain might it attempt, by rigid institutions, invariably to six what truths shall be preserved in them, what errors inculcated on the mind; in vain might chairs, consecrated to the moral instruction of the people, and the tuition of youth in philosophy and the sciences, be obliged to deliver no doctrines but such as are favourable to this double tyranny: the press can diffuse at the same time a pure and independent light. That instruction which is to be acquired from books in silence and solitude, can never be universally corrupted: a single corner of the earth free to commit their leaves to the press, would be a sufficient security. How admist that variety of productions, amidst that multitude of existing copies of the same book, amidst impressions continually renewed, will it be possible to shut so closely all the doors of truth, as to leave no opening, no crack or crevice by which it may enter? If it was difficult even when the business was to destroy a few copies only of a manuscript, to prevent for ever its revival, when it was sufficient to proscribe a truth, or opinion, for a certain number of years to devote it to eternal oblivion, is not this difficulty now rendered impossible, when it would require a vigilance incessantly occupied, and an activity that should never slumber? And even should success attend the suppression of those too palpable truths, that wound directly the interests of inquisitors, how are others to be prevented from penetrating and spreading, which include those proscribed truths without suffering them to be perceived, which prepare the way, and must one day infallibly lead to them? Could it be done without obliging the personages in question to throw off that mask of hypocrisy, the fall of which would prove no less fatal than truth itself to the reign of error? We shall accordingly see reason triumphing over these vain efforts: we shall see her in this war, a war continually reviving, and frequently cruel, successful alike against violence and stratagem; braving the flames, and resisting seduction; crushing in turn, under its mighty hand, both the fanatical hypocrisy which requires for its dogmas a sincere adoration, and the political hypocrisy imploring on its knees that it may be allowed to enjoy in peace the profit of errors, in which, if you will take its word, it is no less advantageous to the people than to itself, that they should for ever be plunged.


It prevented authority from closing off access to truth.

Folksonomies: enlightenment media truth

press (0.916455 (negative:-0.105749)), Printing Press (0.812517 (negative:-0.548487)), new truths (0.806139 (positive:0.409429)), palpable truths (0.795880 (positive:0.358895)), vain might chairs (0.795631 (negative:-0.445552)), transient fluctuations (0.793668 (negative:-0.214875)), vain efforts (0.788579 (neutral:0.000000)), single point (0.783724 (positive:0.461450)), fanatical hypocrisy (0.783190 (neutral:0.000000)), doubtful questions (0.779899 (neutral:0.000000)), despotism invade (0.775553 (negative:-0.746313)), annual labours (0.774246 (neutral:0.000000)), political hypocrisy (0.773790 (neutral:0.000000)), human mind (0.773727 (positive:0.555310)), tedious operations (0.772219 (negative:-0.345463)), particular branch (0.769441 (neutral:0.000000)), immoveable basis (0.766734 (negative:-0.322690)), commodious form (0.766493 (positive:0.363663)), valuable compilations (0.766171 (positive:0.279798)), sufficient security (0.764701 (positive:0.333603)), common opinion (0.763931 (neutral:0.000000)), vernacular tongue (0.763578 (neutral:0.000000)), double tyranny (0.763244 (neutral:0.000000)), religious chain (0.762208 (neutral:0.000000)), arranged order (0.760840 (positive:0.363664)), common medium (0.759936 (neutral:0.000000)), independent light (0.759320 (positive:0.225824)), exclusive application (0.757866 (positive:0.309838)), rigid institutions (0.756326 (negative:-0.473590)), moral instruction (0.754963 (positive:0.325965))

Mind (0.970152): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Printing press (0.819769): dbpedia | freebase
MIND (0.795673): geo

 Outlines of an Historical View of the Progress of the Human Mind
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Condorcet, Jean-Antoine-Nicolas de Caritat (1795), Outlines of an Historical View of the Progress of the Human Mind, Retrieved on 2012-08-06
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: philosophy


    07 FEB 2014

     The Printing Press Upsets Authority

    The Invention of Printing Threatens the Church > Additional Support/Evidence > The Impact of the Printing Press
    Folksonomies: authority
    Folksonomies: authority
    07 FEB 2014

     Printing Press as Freedom

    The Printing Press is the Messiah > Additional Support/Evidence > The Impact of the Printing Press