The Day the Monks Bought The Farm

It’s over

In 1452 the Monks were arrogant.

“Have you seen the ‘books’ that Gutenberg is turning out with his printing press”? they asked each other.

“What a disaster! No golden lettering, no hand-drawn cherubs. What terrible technical quality! Who is going to read that???”

The monks were quite preoccupied with the craft of their day – the fine hand copying of the Bible. They had been at it for over a thousand years and their jobs and their futures seemed pretty secure. Books, after all, were hand written in the Monastery by Monks! It was a long, arduous job, but they really worked at their craft. They were well rewarded for their work and everyone admired it.

Then, along comes Gutenberg with this ‘new technology’, his ‘printing press’, and he thinks that now any idiot can publish a book in a few weeks when every good Monk knows that it takes years.

And just look at the poor technical quality of his printed page!

The public will never accept this!

The monks laughed and laughed at Gutenberg, and talked to each other incessantly on their own websites and blogs.

Then, seemingly in the blink of an eye, it was over.

A thousand year profession, the hand crafting of lovely books, came to an end.

No one, it turned out, really cared how well the letters were shaped.

Or how lovely the golden “c”‘ was made.

Or how beautiful the cherubs were drawn into the columns on the side.

No one cared.

And the monks, who for more than a thousand years had known the kind of job security that only tenured professors at Harvard can feel, were suddenly unemployed. And unemployable. Their ‘skill’ was suddenly rendered worthless.

This is the inevitable consequence of a new technology.

Gutenberg’s printing press would never make books as beautiful and luxurious as the hand crafted Bibles of the Middle Ages. But it did not matter. Gutenberg’s printing press made books that were ‘good enough’. The people, it turned out, were far more interested in the content than the shape of the letters.

And of course, the vastly lowered cost of production meant that many more people could now afford to buy books and read them.

All in all, there is a lesson here.

For Gutenberg and his printing press were about much more than just cheap bibles. They also brought down the power of the Church and its monopoly on the written word.

I think of that this morning as I look out my window and watch the sun glint off St. Patrick’s Cathedral and cast it’s shadow on the NBC Building at Rockefeller Center.

The more things change……


16 responses to “The Day the Monks Bought The Farm

  1. You forgot to finish your last line.

    “The more things change…….the more they remain the same.”

  2. Meaning, history repeats itself.

  3. Michael – have you read Thomas Cahill’s bestseller: “How the Irish saved civilization?”

    Very short book – story of the monks’ transcription business.

  4. You know I have heard a lot about this book but now I have just ordered it on Amazon, along with Cahill’s Mysteries of the Middle Ages. Will let you know as soon as I read ’em. Thanks!

  5. Clarification…The printing of the Bible en masse brought down the power of the “Catholic” church and its’ monopoly on the Word…. which was good thing for the reformation, and Luther’s disagreement with Catholicism. In that case, one change…led to another. Some saw it as good. Others as bad.

    You can look at these changes from two vantage points. Either “it’s over” or “it’s beginning.”
    The question is… where will this digital revolution lead us? I know you have made points in both directions… So it might be better to view this revolution as a change….not as an ending.

    It is a very interesting analogy. Yet you have to admit, the skilled and talented still can still draw readers. Practitioners of quality craft, content, creativity and commitment are successful.

    In any industry – you name it. Quality products have a market.

    In the case of network news and local TV news (which I assume you are referring to) perhaps they will adapt and change and survive? Perhaps it’s not over. Or is that arrogant?

    One last note: I bet if you had your hands on one of those hand written Bibles from 1452… you would think it’s quite valueable. They just don’t make things like they used to.

  6. First, you bet. If I owned one of those hand written bibles, it would be worth a fortune. There is no arguing about their quality and beauty. It’s just that quality and beauty alone are not what the consumer, so to speak, was looking for in the bible dept. It was about the content. Likewise, I think for television and video online.

    Quality products have a market, and the printing press, like the video revolution of today, suddenly opened the floodgates so that anyone with an idea could publish. The ones that resonated were the ideas of quality (ie, Martin Luther, who really ran with the print revolution).

    Same I expect will happen now in video. Suddenly anyone with a camera and an edit is free to ‘publish’. 99% will be pure garbage. But out there somewhere is a Martin Luther waiting to have his or her voice heard.

  7. That is correct.

    It is a challenging time for some.
    An exciting time for others.

    The past is definately “over.” I am just not sure about when the death certificate will be signed, or how long until burial? Or will there be a resurection at the network and local TV news level? The Bible doesn’t go there 😉 Either does TV guide.

    That’s why its an interesting topic.

  8. “Suddenly anyone with a camera and an edit is free to ‘publish’. 99% will be pure garbage.”

    …And you are “training” the next generation of that 99%. Enjoy their money.

  9. Do not go gentle into that good-night.

    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

  10. J Cummings said:

    …And you are “training” the next generation of that 99%. Enjoy their money.

    And you can do any better in what way?

    Detractors have no supporting position worth considering so they stoop to derisive comments out of frustration.

  11. But we do have one thing you don’t have Cliff!

    A job!

    Enjoy your hobby!

    How long has it been since you’ve been trying to do this? Still no one will hire you full time for anything? Maybe you need to have some real skills to get a job instead of empty opinions.

  12. $ – your trite responses are so predictable that each one is a cookie cutter version of the previous one.

    You know what JOB stands for? Just Over Broke.

    You’re right – I don’t have a JOB.

    I’m self employed and have been for over 10 years full time enjoying my freedom and keeping all that I make and doing it on my terms unlike you having to tow the company party line of the fake news – how does it feel to be held hostage by a corporate PHB who, at any time, can axe your JOB due to some bean counters recommendation?

    If your weak response is the best you can come up with – that’s pretty sad. As far as I’m concerned, any derisive comment you or any other detractor makes carries about as much weight as when Pres. Bush opens his mouth to say something he thinks is important – which is nada.

    And what part again don’t you understand about it being OUR CHOICE to pursue the solo vj paradigm?

    Your responses seem to indicate that you don’t understand that simple statement of free will to make grown up decisions for ourselves.

  13. Your choice is to not make a living as a VJ?

    Cliff, you have no choice to make.

    It is forced upon you by circumstances fo your own making.

    That is why you remain unemployed, freelance or otherwise.

    Enjoy your hobby Cliff. If you did it well enough, someone might, someday, pay you to do it.

  14. $ – blah blah blah – SSDD

    With comments like this – no wonder you hide in cowardice – your so called professionalism would be called into question if readers here knew who you truly were.

    And your responses merit consideration in what way?

  15. My comments serve only one purpose with you Cliff.

    For any other reader who has waded through your uniformed prose to clearly understand you speak from an unemployed, inexperienced viewpoint. And continue to do so to this day.

    Nothing more.

  16. $ – LOL – another typical response that has no substance.

    Nothing to see here – move along.

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