THIS WILL KILL THAT
OUR lady readers will forgive us if we stop for a moment to look for what thought might lie hidden behind the archdeacon's enigmatic words: 'This will kill that, the book will kill the building.'
In our view, that thought was twofold. First of all it was a priest's way of thinking. It was priestly dread in the face of a new agent: printing. It was the terror and confusion of the man of the sanctuary dazzled by the light shining from Gutenberg's press. It was the pulpit and the manuscript, the spoken and the written word, taking fright at the printed word; something like the stupefaction of a sparrow seeing the angel Legion spreading his six million wings. It was the cry of the prophet who already hears the clamorous swarming of emancipated mankind, who foresees intelligence undermining faith, opinion dethroning belief, the world shaking off Rome. The philosopher's forecast, as he sees human thought, volatilized by the printing press, evaporate out of its theological container. The soldier's terror as he examines the bronze battering ram and says: 'The tower will crumble.' It meant that one power would succeed another. It meant: the printing press will kill the Church.
But beneath that thought, no doubt the first and simplest one, there was in our view another, newer one, less easily perceived and more easily challenged, a view just as philosophical, no longer that of the priest alone, but of the scholar and the artist. It was the presentiment that in changing its form human thought was going to change its mode of expression, that the most important idea of each generation would no longer be written in the same material and in the same way, that the book of stone, so solid and durable, would give way to the book of paper, even more solid and durable. In that connection the archdeacon's vague formula had a second meaning; it signified that one