Typographical fixity

A Reading Note

“Until a half century after Copernicus’ death, no potentially revolutionary changes occurred in the data available to astronomers.” But Copernicus’ life (1473–1543) spanned the very decades when a great many changes, now barely visible to modern eyes, were transforming “the data available” to all book-readers. A closer study of these changes could help to explain why systems of charting the planets, mapping the earth, synchronizing chronologies, codifying laws and compiling bibliographies were all revolutionized before the end of the sixteenth century. In each instance, one notes, Hellenistic achievements were first reduplicated and then, in a remarkably short time, surpassed. In each instance, the new schemes once published remained available for correction, development, and refinement. Successive generations could build on the work left by sixteenth-century polymaths instead of trying to retrieve scattered fragments of it.…the great tomes, charts, and maps that are now seen as “milestones” might have proved insubstantial had not the preservative powers of print also been called into play. Typographical fixity is a basic prerequisite for the rapid advancement of learning.

Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, page 113

Emphasis mine.

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