NCIS Mourns Passing of Elizabeth Eisenstein

NCIS mourns the passing of Elizabeth Eisenstein, an historian of the French Revolution and early 19th-century France and long-time NCIS supporter. Her daughter, Margaret DeLacy, is a founding member and long-time Board member of NCIS. Dr. Eisenstein died January 31.

Dr. Eisenstein, a professor of History at American University (1959-1979) and the University of Michigan (1975-1985), is well known for her work on the history of early printing and her insights into the transition in media between the era of “manuscript culture” and “print culture” as well as the role of the printing press in effecting broad cultural change in the West.

Her best-known work, the two-volume The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, explores the effects of movable type printing on the literate elite of post-Gutenberg Western Europe. In this work she focuses on the printing press's functions of dissemination, standardization, and preservation and the way these functions aided the progress of the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution. (See a 2007 video of Dr. Eisenstein discussing “From Scribal Scarcity to the Disruptive Text.”)

Born on October 11, 1923, Dr. Eisenstein received her B.A. degree from Vassar and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Radcliffe College. In 1979, she served a resident consultant for the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. She was visiting professor at  Wolfson College, Oxford, and held positions as a fellow at the Humanities Research Center of the Australian National University and at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences in Palo Alto.

The Elizabeth Lewisohn Eisenstein Prize, in recognition of the best published article by an NCIS member, has been dormant in recent years and the NCIS Board is looking at options for reinstating it.

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