Austrian Academy of Sciences
Vienna, 6th–7th April 2017
Thirteen international speakers will analyse the simultaneity of the handwritten and printed media in post-medieval Iceland, Ireland and Great Britain. The aim of the conference is to analyse post-medieval manuscript culture systematically, to bring specialists from different fields who work on similar subject together, and to open up ways for future collaborations.
Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in or around 1450 brought about radical changes in communicative media. Printing proved to be extraordinarily influential, and within a few decades the printing press and printed books were to be found in all major European cities. Several studies emphasise this revolutionary aspects of Gutenberg‘s invention the printing press and label it as the key element of the transition from the Middle Ages to modern times: the printed word enabled, changed, enlarged and disseminated knowledge to a public audience for the first time in Europe. Thus, print enabled speedy and effective communication of new ideas of the Renaissance, the Reformation and advances in science.
Recent studies, however, prefer to portray the media change as a slow and developmental process: rather like an evolution than a revolution. Manuscript production did not cease after the invention of the printing press and contemporaries conceived no difference of media between books and manuscripts. In Iceland manuscript production increased considerably in post-medieval times. From the c. 20,000 extant Icelandic manuscripts world-wide, only c. 750 were written before the Reformation. In Ireland, where the manuscript tradition bears striking similarities to that of Iceland, around 80% of extant manuscripts were written in the 1650-1850 period.
It was not just the invention of the printing press that led to changes, though. Several factors played an important role in the development of the written word, such as the introduction of paper to the Western world and rising standards of education and literacy.
In this conference we will analyse three factors that were significant for the specific developments of print and manuscript culture: media, material aspects, and gender and social norms. Regarding media, speakers will analyse how oral, written and visual elements define the specific textuality of books and manuscripts, and what influence print had on post-medieval manuscripts. Concerning material, the introduction of paper to the Irish scribal market will be analysed. The third factor, social norms and gender, will focus on the possibilities of publication with regard to gender and literary genres, the implications of the chosen medium, and what types of texts were selected from print culture to reproduce in handwriting.