8 October 2013

By What Steps Was Mankind First Blessed?

John Eliot Hodgkin, Rariora, Vol II (London: S. Low, Marston & Co., 1902), p. 2:
Of some of those technical arts which have lessened the labours and sweetened the life of man (the "artes illiberales" of an unenlightened age), we are fortunately able to trace with reasonable certainty the beginnings and to honour the progenitors. Not so with the earliest inception of an industry which has conferred perhaps the greatest of all benefits upon humanity. Encompassing the birthplace of the Art of Printing, and hiding the personality of the first printer, is a hitherto impenetrable fog of mystery, an atmosphere of doubt and darkness which investigators have for ages endeavoured to pierce, expending or wasting in the process lives, fortunes, reputations, mountains of paper, seas of ink, yet leaving unsolved, as all but the enthusiasts on either side will admit, the one crucial query, and allowing the inquisitive world still to yearn for a positive answer to the question -- When, where, by whom and, above all, by what steps was mankind first blessed with this heaven-born art? In the honour of their own particular heroes rival cities erect statues, strike medals, celebrate anniversaries, empty wine-bottles, fill the air with patriotic applause and most confident orations, and yet to this day no one can say that he knows of a surety to what individual or even to what country these encomiums are really due.  
Jost Amman, Der Buchdrucker (1568)
Image from the British Museum