Why Write a Book?

From Lived Experience to the Written Word in Early Modern Europe

Lecture by Pamela H. Smith (Columbia University)
September 16, 2009, 6 pm
Grolier Club, New York (NY)

Jointly organized by the German Historical Institute, Washington, DC, the Grolier Club, New York, and the Leipzig University Library.

This fall, the Grolier Club will be hosting an exhibition of treasures from the Leipzig University Library, "In Pursuit of Knowledge." The German Historical Institute will launch the exhibition with a public lecture by Pamela H. Smith of Columbia University. Dr. Smith will talk about the transition from lived experience to the written word in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe. Why did people begin to put into writing whole areas of human experience that had not previously been written down? What kind of knowledge could be derived from books? How did "science" come to be associated with texts rather than handwork? Why were technical books "best sellers" in the sixteenth century? Drawing on case studies, this lecture will consider why unlikely authors in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries began to write books.

The exhibition "In Pursuit of Knowledge" opens on September 10. Part of the 600th-anniversary celebration of the University of Leipzig's founding, it comprises some 30 rare books and documents from the holdings of the University Library. You can find more information about the exhibition on the web site.

For further information, please send an email to Ines Prodöhl, German Historical Institute, Washington DC

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Grolier Club Lecture