22 Feb
25 Feb

The Book: A New Medium Transforming Religious Knowledge and Tradition


22. Februar 2021 - 25. Februar 2021




Prof. Dr. Daria Pezzoli-Olgiati, Study of Religion, LMU
Prof. Dr. Susanne Reichlin, German Literature, LMU
Prof. Dr. Andreas Schwab, Greek and Latin Philology, University of Bonn/University of Heidelberg
Prof. Dr. Loren Stuckenbruck, New Testament, LMU
Prof. Dr. Robert Yelle, Study of Religion, LMU

During the second half of the 15th century, Venice became one of the most important places for the printing of books. At the beginning of the 16th century almost the half of all such production in Europe took place in Venice. This new medium transformed substantially communication in every domain of society, including, of course, religious communities and traditions.

The invention of printing revolutionized the way knowledge could be stored and disseminated. Not only did it become possible to collect writings in small or larger formats – something possible, though in a much more limited sense, in manuscript traditions. The reduplication and distribution of texts as printed books could reach much wider circles, thus facilitating intercultural activity and understanding in a heretofore unprecedented way. Venice, an international, intercultural place dedicated to travelling and business, not only attracted scholars interested in this new medium, but also the many artisans and tradesmen necessary to develop the new book industry.

The scriptures at the core of Judaism, Christianity and Islam became a focus for exploring possible uses of the new technology. This stimulated the development of new types and forms of printing in order to accommodate different languages and forms of writing. The first printed Talmud and the first printed Qur’an were produced in Venetian workshops, along with a large number of Christian and Hebrew Bibles, along with their translations into several languages, commentaries, and liturgical books. Furthermore, the development of printed music transformed (sacred) practices. Maps also contributed to the transformation of (religious) knowledge, practices and transmission processes in the whole known world. Thus, after the discoveries of other continents at the end of the 15th century, the reach of printing production was rapidly extended in heretofore unprecedented ways. Books both transformed religious communities and interreligious relations and, in turn, created a new basis for the interface between religion, classical literature, philosophy, geography, natural sciences, and the arts.

In the seminar, students and teaching staff (specialists in religious studies, ancient classical and religious world, musicology, 15th-16th century historians, and literary scholars) shall be conducted as follows: The seminar will, as a group, explore the history and contribution of printing in Venice, noting the technology this activity required and taking interest in the kinds of books that were prioritized for developing printing with a special focus on religious literature.
Singly, presentations will be prepared, with academic feedback and advice, on areas such as:

  • writing as a medium in the ancient world, noting significant shifts and developments in public communication media, including inscriptions, manuscripts, codices, as a prelude to the production of printing technology in the early pre-modern period;
  • the relationship between the concepts of “scripture” and “materiality,” including the relationship between medium and (sacred) content; the materiality of (religious) scripture (in line with “new/material philology”).
  • the consequences of “the book” for notions of sacred texts (“canon”), music, art, and political history.