Chapter 3: The Counter-Attack of the Clones
Across Western Europe by the mid-ﬁfteenth century, thanks to the reforms initiated by the Anglo-Saxon churchman, Alcuin, both religious and secular literate elites were able to communicate in standardized Medieval Latin. However, this synthetic language, the mother tongue of no one, was too diﬃcult to learn for the great majority of people. With only a thin layer of the population able to decipher written documents, the decoding of information had become expensive relative to the cost of storing it. The solution was obvious, namely, to start publishing written communication in the vernacular tongues. However, since each region had its own dialect, there were not yet enough people able to read and write in any one spoken language to constitute a market for expensive manuscripts in the vernacular. The catch was that until someone discovered a way to teach literacy to a mass audience, such a market would never come into being. THE CARDINAL AND THE COIN-MAKER’S SON The Turks are coming! In the spring of 1450, the Vatican oﬃcials could talk of little else. Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa, 49, was not surprised to learn the contents of the letter sent to Rome by the Latin ruler of Cyprus. The Catholic king of the small eastern-Mediterranean island was requesting urgent help in order to defend his realm against the Muslim threat. On the continent, Turkish armies now roamed at will around the great walls of Constantinople, the Byzantine port that controlled traﬃc between the Black Sea and...
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