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Loath to Print

The Reluctant Scientific Author, 1500–1750

Nicole Howard

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Why did so many early modern scientific authors dislike and distrust the printing press?

While there is no denying the importance of the printing press to the scientific and medical advances of the early modern era, a closer look at authorial attitudes toward this technology refutes simplistic interpretations of how print was viewed at the time. Rather than embracing the press, scientific authors often disliked and distrusted it. In many cases, they sought to avoid putting their work into print altogether.

In Loath to Print, Nicole Howard takes a fresh look at early modern printing technology…

Why did so many early modern scientific authors dislike and distrust the printing press?

While there is no denying the importance of the printing press to the scientific and medical advances of the early modern era, a closer look at authorial attitudes toward this technology refutes simplistic interpretations of how print was viewed at the time. Rather than embracing the press, scientific authors often disliked and distrusted it. In many cases, they sought to avoid putting their work into print altogether.

In Loath to Print, Nicole Howard takes a fresh look at early modern printing technology from the perspective of the natural philosophers and physicians who relied on it to share ideas. She offers a new perspective on scientific publishing in the early modern period, one that turns the celebration of print on its head. Exploring both these scholars' attitudes and their strategies for navigating the publishing world, Howard argues that scientists had many concerns, including the potential for errors to be introduced into their works by printers, the prospect of having their work pirated, and most worrisome, the likelihood that their works would be misunderstood by an audience ill-prepared to negotiate the complexities of the ideas, particularly those that were mathematical or philosophical.

Revealing how these concerns led authors in the sciences to develop strategies for controlling, circumventing, or altogether avoiding the broad readership that print afforded, Loath to Print explains how quickly a gap opened between those with scientific knowledge and a lay public—and how such a gap persists today. Scholars of the early modern period and the history of the book, as well as those interested in communication and technology studies, will find this an accessible and engaging look at the complexities of sharing scientific ideas in this rich period.

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Loath to Print

Nicole Howard

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Reviews

Engagingly written and deftly argued, Nicole Howard's Loath to Print takes the reader through printing and reading practices in the history of the sciences from Regiomontanus to Newton. Texts and images, authors and printers, editors and readers jockey for attention while shedding light on the early modern world of learning.

Lucidly written and employing the latest scholarship, Loath to Print demonstrates that print was a double-edged sword for practitioners of the new science: it could disseminate their ideas but also provoke conflict and misunderstanding. Howard masterfully immerses the reader in the early modern Republic of Letters.

Nicole Howard's well-crafted book offers a perceptive analysis of early modern scientific authors' ambivalence about putting their work into print. Her fascinating study illuminates underexplored facets of this time period's scientific networks, from the emergence of editors to the diverse strategies authors used to attract their desired audience.

About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
232
ISBN
9781421443683
Illustration Description
12 b&w photos
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction. "A Vast Ocean of Books"
1. Authorial Attitudes toward Print
2. "To the Unprejudiced Reader": The Rhetoric of Prefaces in Early Modern Science
3. The Controlled Distribution

Acknowledgments
Introduction. "A Vast Ocean of Books"
1. Authorial Attitudes toward Print
2. "To the Unprejudiced Reader": The Rhetoric of Prefaces in Early Modern Science
3. The Controlled Distribution of Scientific Works
4. "A True and Ingenious Discovery": New Print Technologies and the Sciences
5. Silent Midwives: The Role of Editors in Early Modern Science
Conclusion. Reluctance Overcome
Notes
Index

Author Bio