The Printing Press as an Agent of Change


Elizabeth Lewisohn Eisenstein

The first comprehensive study of the impact of technology in moving Western civilisation from manuscript to print culture.


Elizabeth Lewisohn Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and cultural transformations in early-modern Europe, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979. First Edition. Jacket designs by Sebastian Carter. Volume I: xxi + 450 pages, Preface, Part One: Introduction to an Elusive Transformation, Part Two: Classical and Christian Traditions reoriented; Renaissance and Reformation Reappraised. Jacket illustration: Un Atelier Typographique, 16th century French manuscript in the Bibliothèque Nationale. Volume II: Part Three, The Book of Nature Transformed, through-paginated from pages 453 to 794, Bibliographical Index, General Index. Jacket illustration: Engraved detail from Nova Reperta, by Vasari’s pupil Stradamus, 1580s. With reviews and related clippings protectively inserted at the end of both volumes.

Condition: Near Fine, faint flecks on a few page edges, minor wear to tops of jacket spines and top corners of dust jackets, otherwise very clean and bright.

On its publication in 1979 after 15 years’ research and discussions with other scholars and historians, Professor Eisenstein’s hugely influential book was immediately acclaimed as the first comprehensive study of the impact of technology in moving Western civilisation from manuscript to print culture. The Printing Press as an Agent of Change illuminated the processes underlying the intimate relationships of technological development and cultural shifts. It greatly advanced the study of the book as a material object of cultural production and fostered a massive reshaping and integration of the historiography of intellectual, book and cultural histories. In 1978 Elizabeth Eisenstein was a resident consultant for the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. She subsequently received Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Eisenstein’s academic career spanned several institutions, including the University of Michigan, Vassar, Radcliff College and the American University in Washington. In 1993 the U.S. National Council for Independent Scholars established the Eisenstein Prize, which is awarded annually.

Professor Eisenstein, born in 1923, is the granddaughter of a German-Jewish immigrant, Adolph Lewisohn (1849-1938), a New York investment banker, mining magnate and philanthropist. She is the great-granddaughter of Joseph Seligman (1819-1880), the New York banker, business magnate and investor in the railroad, steel, shipbuilding, mining and oil industries. In the 1870s Seligman joined the Vanderbilt family in creating public utilities in New York.