CHAPTER 2. THIS WILL KILL THAT.
Our lady readers will pardon us if we pause for a moment
to seek what could have been the thought concealed beneath
those enigmatic words of the archdeacon: "This will kill
that. The book will kill the edifice."
To our mind, this thought had two faces. In the first place,
it was a priestly thought. It was the affright of the priest in
the presence of a new agent, the printing press. It was the
terror and dazzled amazement of the men of the sanctuary, in
the presence of the luminous press of Gutenberg. It was
the pulpit and the manuscript taking the alarm at the printed
word: something similar to the stupor of a sparrow which
should behold the angel Legion unfold his six million wings.
It was the cry of the prophet who already hears emancipated
humanity roaring and swarming; who beholds in the future,
intelligence sapping faith, opinion dethroning belief, the world
shaking off Rome. It was the prognostication of the philosopher
who sees human thought, volatilized by the press, evaporating
from the theocratic recipient. It was the terror of
the soldier who examines the brazen battering ram, and says:--"The
tower will crumble." It signified that one power was about to
succeed another power. It meant, "The press will kill the church."
But underlying this thought, the first and most simple one,
no doubt, there was in our opinion another, newer one, a corollary
of the first, less easy to perceive and more easy to contest,
a view as philosophical and belonging no longer to the
priest alone but to the savant and the artist. It was a
presentiment that human thought, in changing its form, was
about to change its mode of expression; that the dominant
idea of each generation would no longer be written with the
same matter, and in the same manner; that the book of stone,
so solid and so durable, was about to make way for the book
of paper, more solid and still more durable. In this
connection the archdeacon's vague formula had a second sense.
It meant, "Printing will kill architecture."
In fact, from the origin of things down to the fifteenth century
of the Christian era, inclusive, architecture is the great
book of humanity, the principal expression of man in his
different stages of development, either as a force or as