“The Glenn Beck of the Eighteenth Century”

Rousseau in the Discourse on Arts and Sciences:

Considering the dreadful disorders which printing has already caused in Europe and judging the future by the progress which evil makes day by day, we can readily predict that sovereigns will not delay in taking as many pains to ban this terrible art from their states as they took to introduce it there.

Sultan Achmet, yielding to the importuning of some alleged men of taste, consented to establish a printing press in Constantinople. But the press had barely started before they were forced to destroy it and throw the equipment down a well. They say that Caliph Omar, when consulted about what had to be done with the library of Alexandria, answered as follows: “If the books of this library contain matters opposed to the Koran, they are bad and must be burned. If they contain only the doctrine of the Koran, burn them anyway, for they are superfluous.”

Our learned men have cited this reasoning as the height of absurdity. However, suppose Gregory the Great was there instead of Omar and the Gospel instead of the Koran. The library would still have been burned, and that might well have been the finest moment in the life of this illustrious pontiff.

I realize Rousseau is a lightweight, but these antics are amusing…


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