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PART I Knowledge and the Lives of Books D 11 Introduction SOPHIA ROSENFELD Knowledge, it might be said, was both the great subject and the great object of the Enlightenment. Of course, the use of the term Enlightenment to designate the rich intellectual and cultural life of eighteenth-century Europe and its New World outposts remains controversial, in part because of the great diversity of opinion and practice that it seems to erase. But a fascination with knowledge as simultaneously a field of inquiry and a collective goal constitutes one common denominator. Writers and thinkers of all stripes were animated in the eighteenth century by the kinds of questions that we now relegate primarily to psychologists and the occasional philosopher : How do we know what we know? Why are we so often deluded or downright wrong? And more practically, what can be done about this state of affairs? In the first essay in the following section, Brad Pasanek and Chad Wellmon take up the largely theoretical answer to these questions provided by one of the towering figures of the era, the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. They do so, however, by drawing our attention to the significance of one, particularly important eighteenth-century technology and means of communication: the printed book. Specifically, Kant, in his effort to understand the nature of understanding, found it necessary to wrestle with the key Enlightenment conundrum whether books were better considered a means or an obstacle to truth. As Pasanek and Wellmon explain, for most Enlightenment thinkers the key to genuine knowledge seemed to lie in the autonomous use of human reason and the senses quite apart from received ideas. At the same time, an exploding print culture centered on the book was essential both to generating and to organizing the public, or the network of readers and writers, that “enlightenment” required. Pasanek and Wellmon expose this dualism, and the worries it triggered, not only by scrutinizing the terms of the argument in Kant’s great essay “What is Enlightenment?” but also by taking seriously the web of (often ignored) citations and footnotes that situate Kant’s reply in Sophia Rosenfeld 12 a complex set of collective social and textual practices. We see here a novel Enlightenment marked by uncertainty and ambivalence about the real path to knowledge. For as Pasanek and Wellmon’s account of Kant makes clear, eighteenthcentury thinkers were also well aware that new, improved ideas—even new, improved ideas about ideas—did not simply emerge full blown in individual minds and make their way seamlessly into the general consciousness . Knowledge development and transfer involved a good many more agents and steps, not to mention potential roadblocks. Picking up on such clues as changing citational practices, contemporary historians of science and scholarship, of books and reading and censorship, and of intellectual history more generally have become increasingly convinced that we need ask not only how knowledge (and error) was conceptualized in the past but also how, in practice, knowledge was produced, controlled, diffused, acquired , overturned, and transformed, and by whom. That is, the history of Enlightenment epistemology is insufficient on its own; we need also to pay attention to the subfield known as the social history of knowledge and, especially , the lives of books within it. The next two essays in this section take up people, spaces, and institutional , book-based practices that played vital intermediary roles in the transmission and, ultimately, the shaping of ideas in this period and beyond. Michael Pickard concentrates on the printing sector. Focusing on the ledger books of William Strahan, one of the major compositors of mid-eighteenthcentury London, Pickard demonstrates that much of what was—and also was not—disseminated to booksellers, libraries, and private living rooms and studies via Strahan’s presses was a matter of business fundamentals above all else. The message here is that if we want to understand anything about knowledge circuits in the eighteenth century, the history of ideas cannot be separated either from the history of print and bibliography or from economic and commercial history. So, too, do we need to think further about the function of professional types like Strahan, who made a living out of concretizing enlightened knowledge production and then trading internationally in it. The book was always also a commodity. Finally, Patricia Meyer Spacks wants us to think about how books, and their meanings, travel through time—especially from the eighteenth century to today. She draws our attention to Eliza Haywood’s heavily historical (and...


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