The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print

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In the 15th century AD, there was a 'rebirth' of European civilisation. Although the Renaissance saw an improvement in medical knowledge, particularly of anatomy and physiology, many people rejected the new ideas. Further, doctors still did not manage to use their discoveries to develop better cures for their patients, because they had still not discovered the role that germs play in causing disease.

The Renaissance Computer | Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print | Taylor & Francis Group

Six key changes Some knowledge of Western civilisation at the time of the Renaissance will help you understand the medicine of the Early Modern Age. The economy boomed and trade prospered.

Gutenberg Printing Press vs Digital Revolution

People could afford doctors. Artists, such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Titian, revolutionised painting - this led them to study the body in more detail, and was connected to improved knowledge of anatomy , eg the fabulous illustrations in Vesailus' Fabric of the Human Body by John Stephen of Calcar, one of Titian's students. There was a revival of learning. The printing press drastically cut the cost of producing books and other printed materials.

The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print

The materials involved were also costly: Monks wrote on treated skins, known as vellum, and a single copy of the Bible could require sheepskins or calfskins. Printing onto paper made copying cheaper and faster. The first books Gutenberg printed with his press were copies of the Bible. The Gutenberg Bibles were immensely popular, and all copies were sold even before the copying was complete.

The Renaissance Computer

The text of the Bible has changed through time, and Gutenberg based his version on documents used in the Rhine area of Germany in the 14th and 15th centuries. The newly printed version Gutenberg created became the standard version and the basis for most future Bible texts. Protestant thinkers used the printing press to spread their ideas across Europe, mainly through pamphlets.


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In the very early years of the Reformation, German-language printing presses produced hundreds of pamphlets by Reformation leader Martin Luther, outnumbering Catholic writers five to three and making up 20 percent of all pamphlets published between and The invention of the printing press removed control of written material from the Catholic Church and made it difficult for the church to inhibit the spread of what it regarded as heretical ideas. Rita Kennedy is a writer and researcher based in the United Kingdom.