In Defence of Letters

In Defence of Letters

In Defence of Letters

In Defence of Letters

Excerpt

Our system of culture is founded on printing. Thus it is not very old, for that astonishing discovery, which turned the world upside down, has been in operation for only five centuries. Books were in existence before the invention of movable type, but they were rare and costly. They were accessible only to a very small minority. Under these conditions they could secure the conservation of knowledge (not without errors), but they could not diffuse it. Then came printing, books began at once to circulate among the nations, and humanity almost immediately changed its aspect, and assumed new power and new purpose.

The man of liberal mind and clear judgment, who claims or exercises the right to criticize the destiny of the species, cannot but admire, as a whole, the work accomplished, thanks to the book, during that fragment of time which constitutes half a millennium. The book is one of the springs of creative individualism, that individualism which, in these uncertain times, remains the guardian angel of human society. For five hundred years the book has been, for the solitary mind, an incomparable instrument of uplift and liberation. A few decades ago there was reason to hope that, thanks . . .

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