In this article, Gitelman seeks to question and expand upon what we view as “print culture,” and its components, as it is, in a way, incomplete in how we are often told to view it. She seeks to change how we conceptualize it through a discussion of how it cannot be captured in a little box of definition, but it may actually be seen as the culmination of every action and every sentiment in every societal happening that leads to the creation and printing of any sort of, for lack of a better word, “printed” object that is used in society through a discussion of, amongst other things, the notion of “job-printing” (Gitelman 183).
Three of Gitelman’s main points may be seen to include the following:
- She discusses the definition of a codex and what the advantages afforded to printed objects that are a part of them in relation to those that are not. This codex is “a text in the shape of a book: groups of pages gathered and sewn together to open along their edge” (Gitelman 183). She states that “[w]hatever its other merits and affordances, the codex has proved a particularly effective technology for preserving print. Printers long styled their craft as ‘the art of preserving other arts’” (Gitelman 187). This reinforces the idea that the act of constructing printed objects, of consolidating them in this way is important to how their place in society, in history, was developed. In presenting knowledge in a bound, protected manner, it sets it apart from other printed works and because of this, it may more easily avoid falling under the distinction of what Gitelman states was known as “’ephemera’” (Gitelman 187). Again, it was this act of codifying these printed works, of binding them that avoided giving them a certain name, a certain distinction and thus afforded them a certain status in societal memory.
- Even so, as evidenced by the title of the article, Gitelman strives to make her audience consider the “other-than-codexed” printed objects as things that still very much have power and meaning in our society and warrant further notice and examination (Gitelman 192). She describes a new way to view what exactly a “printed” object it. She does this in her discussion of “job printing” (Gitelman 189). This, she defines as being “the province of producing heterogeneous noncodex forms, and in both the United States and the United Kingdom, the capital invested—including labor—and the value of products resulting from the jobbing press” (Gitelman 189). The products of this kind of printed included everything from menus to tickets to envelopes. They served some sort of societal purpose, but most often were related to businesses. Here, she shakes us out of a naturalized state to point out that these printed objects like receipts and checks that we just kind of gloss over have real significance as printed objects and their creation and use in society has just as much historical and social power as functioning in these recursive relationships with humans that we should recognize. This, I believe, can be tied to her main idea that print culture encompasses a myriad of media artifacts and cannot be contained, in this day and age, and nor will it ever be. She highlights the importance of acknowledging the unique uses that each individual and each society has for these printed objects that despite not being bound, had and continue to have a purpose in society that helped to maintain order or establish clarity. Knowledge was made and disseminated by these stock certificates very much in the same way a scientific treatise might have been.
- She also makes what I thought of as an important distinction between users and readers. Due to the nature of what Gitelman discusses as the printed objects that exists in the realm of “job printing,” they aren’t “read” in the same way as a novel is. Instead, they are “viewed.” As a result, she says, “few people would describe their functioning in terms of reading, unless in the contexts of controversy, were a counterfeit is found out or a lawsuit seems likely; then reading and forensics enter in” (Gitelman 191). These “job-printed” media artifacts carry with them what might be termed a traditionally “practical” or “corporatized” use, and as such could be considered “tools of the trade,” things that are “used” instead of “read.” They may be remembered in very different contexts than as historically significant works of artistic or scientific expression that have made up the vast majority of what has been termed “printed text” or the contents of what is conceptualized as “print culture” in our society. She states that the level of engagement varies with these newspapers or receipts as opposed to novels because of how we identify with characters over numbers or the dish of the day; though, as stated above, when that human emotional element of controversy enters in, the roles these printed media technologies take may most certainly change. Even so, it is important to remember that these “job-printed” items are still texts, are still printed and very much alive in society and able to take part in the sort of recursive relationships that we have been discussing to shape the era in which they are produced and to be shaped by those living within it.
There are two aspects of this article that I would very much like to know more about, and they include the following ideas:
- Gitelman makes a distinction between things that are published and things that are printed. Here, was are discussing “print culture,” and I was just wondering if and how we could conceptualize the culture that is created surrounding things that are thought of as “published.” Gitelman discusses the notion of users vs. readers and the kinds of media artifacts that fit each of them, but that distinction just got me wondering; I felt that it could potentially be an important distinction. On page 190, she states that “[b]ooks, newspapers, and magazines are published; posters, concert programs, and pamphlets, I guess, are published too; but much of the output of job printing seems to have been just printing, not publication,” so to me, it seems like their audiences and powers were different depending on how we considered their creation, their introduction to and interaction with the populace (Gitelman 190).
- She also speaks of the printed artifacts like ledgers and receipts as being “naturalized” products that may serve as instruments of “corporate speech, and though she does discuss it, I wanted to know more about/have a little more clarification on what exactly she meant and how this could be.
After reading this article, the question that I would like to pose is the following:
This discussion of changing what we view as printed objects, and of how these objects are produced got me thinking about the different ways in which we created “printed” media. When I am writing in my journal, are the things that I am writing not considered “printed objects; and when I fill the journal, and even if I don’t, is it not a sort of bound codex? What I am wondering, following this idea, is if one considers these tools like pens, pencils, or even in this digital age, computers (in all of their shapes and forms), how do these steps, these actions expand our conceptualization of “print culture,” and how does this expansion, this elaboration of the process, change how we view the very act or idea of writing, or even of creation, itself? Also, how might we view these “printed” artifacts and their power and purpose in society, especially if they are creative in nature?