The Changes of the Process of Printing

by wobelina on October 20, 2016 - 4:14am


    During my trip to the Osler Library at the McGill University, I had to observe an old book that was published and translated in 1691. This book was called “The Works of Ambrose Parey”. It was a translated work book with dimensions of approximately 25×35 cm and the weight was estimated to be around 5 kilograms. This nearly 400-year-old book was very worn down; the hinges were broken which led the front board of the cover of the book to detach itself completely from the book, the corners of the pages were deteriorating either from being so old and fragile or from rodents and bugs that could have possibly nibbled on the corners of the book, and the pages themselves were yellowing and were covered with brownish water stains due to humidity or contact with water. The leather covering the book that became dry over time was giving away leaving little pieces behind it. Through my observations of this particular book, I have come to realize that the production of medical knowledge was different in the early modern period from today through vernacular-translations of books and cooperation between the workers in the printing field.

    First of all, the production of medical knowledge was different in the early modern period since the reasoning behind translating books was different. A translated book meant that less educated people were getting access to these books because they never learned or got the opportunity to learn and practice Latin which was considered to be a scholarly language. “Insofar as the vernacular-translation movement was aimed at readers who were unlearned in Latin, it was often designed to appeal to pages as well as to apprentices; to landed gentry, cavaliers, and courtiers as well as to shopkeepers and clerks” (Eisenstein p.36). However, in the case of Ambrose Parey being a famous French surgeon, he was so recognized for his findings on anatomy and physiology that it was translated from French to English so other surgeons and students of a lower caliber and such could gain access to his work. His book didn't necessarily have to be in Latin because of the recognition he received and the fact that he was the surgeon to the king of France. Today, we translate books into multiple languages to give anyone the opportunity to learn in the particular language that they use. It isn't based on intelligence since one language isn't considered to be more scholarly than the other.

    Second of all, the production of medical knowledge was different in the early modern period since the printing process use to bring people of different skills closer together. In “The Work of Ambrose Parey”, there are letters and numbers at the bottom of each page such as A3, A4, etc. The presence of these letters and numbers were there to indicate the person who was stacking each page together to just put every page in the right order at a much faster pace instead of reading the whole book to put it back together. Thanks to the person who wrote down the letter-number combination, the job of stacking the book is done more efficiently which helps the whole printing process in the end and saves a lot of time. The advent of printing led to the creation of a new kind of shop structure; to a regrouping which entailed closer contacts among diversely skilled workers and encourage new forms of cross-cultural interchange” (Eisenstein p.27). This cooperation between the different types of workers creates a bond between themselves and also gives more meaning to the whole process of printing in the early modern period. Today, books are usually made by machines so there is barely any contact between different workers of the printing field although machines produce a lot more books at a much faster rate than doing everything by hand.

    In conclusion, the production of medical knowledge was different in the early modern period from today since vernacular-translations were usually done for the purpose of educating people of a lower grade in the early modern period while today, translations are done for the purpose of educating everyone no matter the language. Also, during the printing process, bonds were created between different groups of workers while today workers barely have any contact with each other since the books are printed by machines.


Word count: 720




Eisenstein, Elizabeth. “Defining the Initial Shift,” The Printing Revolution in Early Modern Europe, 2nd Edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, pp. 27, 36.