Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, author of the influential “The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe” (1979), offers an authoritative and highly readable account of five centuries of ambivalent attitudes toward printing and printers in her new book, “Divine Art, Infernal Machine: The Reception of Printing in the West from First Impressions to the Sense of an Ending” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).
Eisenstein will discuss and sign her book on Tuesday, March 8, at 1:30 p.m
. in the West Dining Room, located on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The event, sponsored by the Center for the Book as part of its Books & Beyond author series, is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. The Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Division is co-sponsoring this program.
In her book, Eisenstein makes a compelling case for the ways in which technological developments and cultural shifts are intimately related. She notes how, in the 19th century, the steam press was seen as a giant engine of progress and as signaling the end of a golden age. Predictions that the newspaper would supersede the book proved to be false, and Eisenstein is equally skeptical of pronouncements that digital will supersede print. Whatever the multimedia future may hold, Eisenstein notes, attitudes toward print will never be monolithic. For now, reports of print’s death are greatly exaggerated, she contends.
Eisenstein is professor emerita of history at the University of Michigan. In 1979, she spent six months at the Library of Congress as the Center for the Book’s first scholar-in-residence. In addition to “The Printing Press as an Agent of Change,” her books include “The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe” (1983) and “Grub Street Abroad: Aspects of the French Cosmopolitan Press from the Age of Louis XIV to the French Revolution” (1992). In 2007, the University of Massachusetts Press, in association with the Center for the Book, published “Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies After Elizabeth Eisenstein,” edited by Sabrina Alcorn Baron, Eric N. Lindquist and Eleanor F. Shevlin.
Eisenstein’s new book is also the subject of a discussion on Facebook. The Books & Beyond Book Club is available at www.facebook.com/booksandbeyond/
. Here readers can discuss books, the authors of which have appeared or will appear in this series. The site also offers links to webcasts of these events and asks readers to talk about what they have seen and heard.
Since its creation by Congress in 1977 to "stimulate public interest in books and reading," the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress (www.Read.gov/cfb/
) has become a major national force for reading and literacy promotion. A public-private partnership, it sponsors educational programs that reach readers of all ages, nationally and internationally. The center provides leadership for 52 affiliated state centers for the book (including the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands) and nonprofit reading-promotion partners and plays a key role in the Library’s annual National Book Festival. It also oversees the Library’s www.Read.gov
website and administers the Library’s Young Readers Center