William Bernstein’s
Masters of the Word

L 200: Bernstein says that somewhere in the ‘Southern Levant’ about 1500 BC the phonetic alphabet was invented. I grant that the phonetic alphabet is crucial but Bernstein suggests that resistance by the earlier elite was to protect their monopoly. I suggest merely that simplification is never well though of.

L 411: Small tokens are found near ancient storage places. The suggestion is that they represent amounts of food of various sorts. The text does not suggest whether these are bookkeeping mechanisms or bearer tokens. If they are money and people brought them to a warehouse to ‘buy’ food, it would be natural to find these tokes at a warehouse.

L 2218: I am glad to know who and when spaces arose between printed words, at least in Latin: Irish monks in 7th century. Also this may be the only event mentioned in the 7th century.

I am glad to learn of the other technologies that were necessary to support Gutenberg’s revolution.

L 3787: As I read Bernstein’s description of early 1800‘s English prosecution of the press I note that the establishment found itself limited to imposing mere fines and short sentences. The class struggle was a bit gentlemanly compared to the stake burning a century earlier in Europe.

L 3894: I am surprised that Bernstein does not mention that the linotype machine was expensive which made the owner thereof somewhat of a gatekeeper on its usage.

L 4033: Bernstein suggests that Western Union controlled the press with its monopoly on transmission. I do not recall any censorship on those who would send their own news and if the newspapers found it newsworthy, I am sure that it would be published. Perhaps Western Union held ‘broadcasting’ a monopoly. In the telegraph world, a broadcast had one sender and each or most of the agents would receive this one transmission.


Gutenberg, The Use of Knowledge in Society