Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections. February 22 - June 1, 2001

etching of printing press illustration

Books, Printers, and the Information Revolution in Early Modern Europe


The invention in the mid-fifteenth century of a practical method for mechanically reproducing books was a transforming event in western society. On one level, printing changed the physical and intellectual structure of the book, making its contents and circumstances of production more readily apparent to the reader than had been true when all books were manuscripts and most readers were specialists. On a deeper level, the immense increase in the number of books that printing made possible altered the intellectual, political and religious climate of Europe. Because of printing, progressively wider and wider circles of people gained access to books and the ideas they expounded about the human past and present, about peoples of other lands, and about the natural and metaphysical worlds.

In exploring these issues, the exhibition shows some of the finest examples from the extraordinarily rich collections of fifteenth and sixteenth century books and manuscripts in the Bryn Mawr College Library. The collection includes more than 1200 incunabula, or books printed by 1500, one of the largest collections in the country. Many generous donors played a part in building these collections, but the most important by far were Howard Lehman Goodhart, who donated more than 900 fifteenth century volumes by the time of his death in 1951, and his daughter, Phyllis Goodhart Gordan, '35, who continued to add to the collection throughout her lifetime.

   Making the Book
    Manuscript to print
    Materials and bindings

   Scholarly Publications
    Scholarly publications and presses
    Classical works
    Scientific texts

   Religious Works
    Books of Hours
    Popular devotional books

   Secular Books
    Popular works
    Travel and Exploration

This exhibition is the work of members of the Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections staff: Eric Pumroy, Miriam Spectre, Barbara Ward Grubb, Willman Spawn and graduate interns Jeanne-Marie Musto and Claire Pingel. Photographic reproductions were made by David Sullivan, Visual Resources.
Web exhibition created by Marianne Hansen, With many thanks to Dave McOwen for his help with digital photography.
May 15, 2001.