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April 5, 2022
9781421443683
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85001
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9781421443683
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85001
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$55.00 USD, £40.50 GBP
v2.1 Reference

Loath to Print

The Reluctant Scientific Author, 1500–1750

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.

About the Author

Nicole Howard is a professor of history at Eastern Oregon University. She is the author of The Book: The Life Story of a Technology.

Endorsements

"Loath to Print is an engrossing story of how learned authors, often skeptical of sharing knowledge beyond elite coteries, tried to make printing work for them. In this nuanced tale, people manipulate technologies and technological systems, both materially and socially, and those technologies—and the bigger systems of which they are a part, composed of people, customs, laws, and practices—bend only partially to their manipulation. This book has lessons for anyone seeking to understand (or surveying with dismay) today's landscape of scientific publishing."

- Elizabeth E. Yale, University of Iowa, author of Sociable Knowledge: Natural History and the Nation in Early Modern Britain

"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."

- Domenico Bertoloni Meli, Indiana University, Bloomington, author of Mechanism: A Visual, Lexical, and Conceptual History

"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."

- Anita Guerrini, Oregon State University and University of California, Santa Barbara

"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."

- Denise Phillips, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Johns Hopkins University Press
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