The Unifying Aspects of Cultures


Book Printing and the National Languages

Chair of the section/Suggestions, Abstracts, Contributions to:
Email: Regula Rohland de Langbehn (Buenos Aires)

ABSTRACT: Book printing began in order to publish foreign-language texts. The early bibles, the Greek and Latin classics mark the beginning of the history of books.
Printing in the mother tongue was added, while printing was still in its infancy, and gradually prevailed over publications in the old languages. It was also rewarding to print books in modern foreign languages during the early period, on the one hand, because the public that could read the language in the country of the publisher provided a sufficiently large market, or, on the other hand, because one could count on exports into those areas which used the particular language of the printed text.

While the printing of scholarly editions of classical texts in Western countries is still today a specific branch of the publishing business, the entire history of printing in modern foreign languages is laced by additional problems, which are to a large degree political in nature. For example, during the time of National Socialism there came into being an important exile literature, which was printed in various countries, where foreign languages were spoken. However, there are also other waves of emigrants, for whom books were published in foreign countries. At the same time, it must not be overlooked that as a rule the foreign themes entered into the literature of the language area to which the author belonged. Thus a large part of the German literature produced in foreign countries was printed in the German language area and not in the target country, which used a different language.