In Johns’ The Nature of the Book, he attempts to explain print as a culture by using various scientists as examples. Johns believes print culture is created and discusses the importance of its historical making and the effects it has on knowledge.
The first important aspect in the text is on page five; Johns explains the impact piracy has on print by giving the example of De Natura Libri. According to Johns, piracy “…threatened the credibility of all printed products” (5). This is important to his argument because without credible printed products the entire print culture (and the author as well) would suffer. This can be applied to our class because any form of piracy on the collegiate is frowned upon and could end a student’s scholastic career─just like it could end an author’s career.
The second important aspect in the text is on pages ten and eleven. Johns introduces Tycho Brahe (famous scientist) and Eisenstein. He argues that Eisenstein believes that Tycho Brahe revolutionized print by making his own printing house and disagrees with Eisenstein’s views on print culture. Eisenstein believes that “…printing meant the mass reproduction of precisely the same text, repeatable on subsequent occasions and in different locations… She focuses on this attribute of fixity as the most important corollary of the press, seeing it as central to most of the effects of print culture” (10). Johns, on the other hand, is not so concerned with the fixity of print (although he later agrees it is important), but he is more concerned with how print and knowledge intersect by using Tycho Brahe as an example. In my opinion, this is important because this is what his whole argument is about─print culture and knowledge. The fixity of print is a minor detail in the bigger picture of print. This can be applied to our class because as we learn about print we need not focus on minor details, but we need to focus on how it contributes to our knowledge as a whole.
The third important aspect in the text is on page 19. Johns is blatantly disagreeing with Eisenstein’s print culture. He believes that she is not giving Tycho Brahe enough credit for his contributions to print. Johns believes that the readers “…consequently suffer the fate of obliteration: their intelligence and skill is reattributed to the printed page. Tycho’s labors deserve better. To put it brutally, what those labors really tell us is that Eisenstein’s print culture does not exist” (19). He states that we can fix this problem by not looking at fixity as permanent but as “transitive” (19). Therefore, fixity to him is not permanent at all; it is what helps print culture transition throughout history. We can apply this to our class because print and media is never stagnate; it is always changing and transforming (not always for the better) every year.
In addition, there are multiple places in the text that are confusing. The first is on page 17. I am confused with Johns’ story about Ursus stealing Tycho Brahe’s print. In my opinion, Johns does not do a good job at explaining how the story fits into his overall argument and randomly brings up Kepler. Did he use it to explain how piracy can be detrimental to print culture or is he just using it to throw in an interesting fact? Johns later explains that Tycho was “atypical” in his use of print; in my opinion, the statement sounds contradictory.
Another confusing aspect is on page 30, when Johns explains how print is somewhat shady. He asks his readers how can one actually trust print? In my opinion, it is hard to understand if Johns actually trusts print himself. It is even more confusing because up until this point he has a love and respect for print, but he ends by questioning its credibility. Does he want us to think deeper about print or does he really not trust it?
My question for the class is do you think print culture actually exists? Is print so impactful that you would actually say that it establishes its own culture in society today? Because after reading, I could not tell if Johns actually believes there is a correct way to describe “print culture.”