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An intellectual movement known as humanism began to use the Latin and Greek classics, combined with traditional Christian thought, to teach people how to live and how to rule. The New Technology: A Flood of PrintThe computer has radically transformed how we get information today. Similarly, the printing press transformedthe way information was exchanged during the Renaissance. Before this, all books were laboriously written out by hand—you can imagine how difficult and expensive this was and how few books were available. The inventor of printing with movable type was a German named Johannes Gutenberg (1400?–1468). He printed the first complete book, an immense Latin Bible, at Mainz, Germany, around 1455. From there, the art and craft of printing spread to other cities in Germany, in the Low Countries (the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg), and in northern Italy. By 1500, relatively inexpensive books were available throughout western Europe. In 1476, printing reached England, then regarded as an island remote from the centers of civilization. In
that year, William Caxton (1422?–1491), a merchant, diplomat, and writer who had been living in the Low Countries, set up a printing press in Westminster (now part of London). In all, Caxton’s press issued about one hundred different titles, initiating a flood of print in English that is still increasing. Gutenberg’s printing press helped spread the new knowledge, making more books available to more people than ever before. Two Friends—Two Humanists When you hear people speak of humanism, you may hear the name Erasmus. Desiderius Erasmus (1466?–1536)is today perhaps the best known of all the Renaissance humanists. Erasmus was a Dutch monk, but he lived outside the monastery and loved to travel, visiting many of the countries in Europe, including Italy, France, Germany, and England. He belonged, then, to all Europe. Because he wrote in Latin, he could address his many writings to all the educated people of western Europe. On his visits to England, Erasmus taught Greek at Cambridge University and became friendly with a number of important people, among them a young lawyer named Thomas More (1477?– 1535). More and Erasmus had much in common: They both loved life, laughter, and classical learning, and they both were dedicated churchmen, though they were impatient with some of the Church’s corrupt practices at that time. Like Erasmus, More wrote in Latin—poems, pamphlets, biographies, and his famous treatise on human society, Utopia(1516). This book became immediately popular, and it has been repeatedly translated into English and many other languages. Hundreds of writers have imitated or parodied it, and it has given us a useful adjective for describing impractical social schemes: utopian. More himself was far from impractical; he held a number of important offices, rose to the very top of his profession, was knighted, and, as Lord Chancellor, became one of the king’s chief ministers. More continues to fascinate people today. The play A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt, later made into a movie (available on videotape), is about More and his tragic stand-off with King Henry VIII over a matter of law. You might notice that many lawyers and politicians today hang a picture of Thomas