Elizabeth Eisenstein, Trailblazing Historian of Movable Type, Dies at 92

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Elizabeth Eisenstein

Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, a historian best known for her work on the seismic effect of printing on Western civilization — a novel contention when she began her research more than 40 years ago — died on Jan. 31 at her home in Washington. She was 92.

Her daughter, Margaret Eisenstein DeLacy, confirmed the death.

A retired faculty member of the University of Michigan, Professor Eisenstein was renowned for “The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe,” first published in 1979. Spanning two volumes and nearly 800 pages, the work has been translated into many languages and remains in print.

“Whether you agree with her conclusions or not, we wouldn’t think about print in the ways that we think today had it not been for her work,” Sabrina Alcorn Baron, an editor of “Agent of Change: Print Culture Studies After Elizabeth L. Eisenstein,” said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Professor Baron’s book, edited with Eric N. Lindquist and Eleanor F. Shevlin and published in 2007, was undertaken to celebrate the silver anniversary of Professor Eisenstein’s magnum opus. ...

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