Why preserve early printed books?


Books were the most important medium for documenting scientific knowledge in Europe at the time of the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern period. Particularly important in this respect were the outstanding encyclopaedic works of the 15th century, of which many have survived to this day in the libraries of the cities of Trier, Metz and Luxemburg - all three located in “Lotharingia”, the very heart of Europe. The invention of printing by Gutenberg around 1450, and the previously unknown possibilities for spreading knowledge which came with it, was of profound significance for the birth of modern Europe. The new knowledge about the world was collected in encyclopaedic works whose basic structure had already been laid down in natural history and theological “summae”, as well as in comprehensive lexica and world chronicles reaching from the creation to the then present. This resulted in a foundation of knowledge which crossed political borders, an intellectual European canon which attained binding status both through the common use of the Latin language and in the various vernaculars. The encyclopaedic works reflect, in a nutshell, the common knowledge of the nations of contemporary Europe.