Then how vncertaine our estates would be, how vncomfortable our selues, how dangerous and pernicious it would be for the state of euery common-wealth, all men may easily iudge, yet God to preuent these inconueniences, for the further benefit of mankind, as hee hath giuen vs a voice to expresse the minde vnto the eare, so hee hath giuen vs hands to frame letters or markes for the voice to expresse the minde vnto the eyes. So that the eyes and eares are as it were the receiuers of message sent vnto the heart, the hands and voice as deliuerers of message sent from the heart: And though the voice be a more liuely kind of speech, yet in respect it is but onely a sleight accident made of so light a substance as the ayre, it is no sooner vttered but it is dissolued, euery simple sound doth expell and extinguish the sound going before it, so that the eare can haue but one touch of the ayre beating vpon it to declare the speech vnto the mind: but the hand though it giue a dumbe and a more dull kind of speech, yet it giues a more durable. A letter is a grosser substance, and therefore is of more continuance than a sound: what is once written still continueth when the hand ceaseth. If the eyes haue not satisfied the mind at one view, they may looke on it againe, yea till they haue satisfied it’s desire: And by this meanes of noting and charactring of the voice, all things worthy of memory are defended form iniury of forgetfulnesse…1
– Robert Robinson
The Art of Pronunciation (1617)
A learned and wise person would refer to Plato and the evolution of views on literacy & orality & memory, but at present I am too feeble – the spirit, as they say, is willing, but the flesh is weak. Also, the cisterns in the following passage please me:
…perchance I may be charged with presumption both in respect of my selfe, and in respect of my yeers, in that I professe to be a teacher of a science to others, hauing as it were but newly learned my letters my selfe: Whereunto I answer, that I learned not this my arte out of the books and workes of learned men, neither would my small meanes afford me to be acquainted with their great volumes, only out of a volume of Gods owne guift and making did I take this small Manuscript, euen to all men hath he giuen the same impression, whereby the truth hereof may be examined: yet certainly the vnripenesse of my yeeres, and want of other learning, had wholly withheld me from publishing thereof, so that it might haue died with my selfe and haue benefited no man, had I not considered that euery one of what estate, degree, or condition soeuer, is bound in duety to reueale whatsoeuer may be beneficiall to his country; assuring my selfe that God doth not giue either knowledge or riches to any priuate person meerly for his own particular vse, but imploieth those on whom he bestoweth such guifts, as Cisternes and conduits to conuey and impart them likewise to others. Yet he therein so prouideth that themselues also be neuer empty. This consideration therefore caused me to thinke it were far better, though with boldnesse to set foorth that portion of knowledge which God had giuen me, then with a dastard-like feare for the causes afore remembred to conceale the benefit; Hauing therefore laboured to finde out the true ground of speech, that the manifold errors therein might be made manifest, and so auoided (f.A6v–A7).