The Renaissance Connection Innovations: 1400-2020
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When did the Renaissance end? In a way, it never did!

We’re living in a Renaissance world even now, and it’s brimming with innovations in business, science, the arts, and everyday life. And you don’t have to be a genius to see how the Renaissance’s tradition of innovation is shaping our future as well.

Explore innovations of the past with the Time Telescope. Select a theme, then scroll down to see innovations over the past 600 years.

Time Telescope: Quest for Knowledge: Education/Textbooks


Quest for Knowledge

Arts and Architecture

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Everyday Life

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Science & Technology

Library patron using a computer

Today—Libraries & the World Wide Web
Today's schools are equipped with libraries stocked with books on a wide variety of subjects. Books are still the primary tools of instruction, however students now use electronic media such as the World Wide Web.

McGuffey Reader

1836—Popular Textbook
The McGuffey Reader, the most popular textbook of the 19th century, was as a series of books adapted to the values and beliefs of the Western people. They contained stories that were meant to teach moral, religious and ethical principles to children.

Harvard Campus, 1720
Harvard Campus, 1720

1636—First American College
In1636 Harvard University was founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts by the General Court and Congregational Churches, becoming America's first college. Although theology was a prominent in the early years of Harvard, other general subjects were also taught.

Follower of Bartolomeo Vivarini: Portrait of a Boy
Follower of Bartolomeo Vivarini, (European, Italian)
Portrait of a Boy
About 1499
Tempera type on panel
Samuel H. Kress Collection, 1960.

1499—The Renaissance Connection
Cities of the Renaissance were not only centers of commerce, hubs for the newly practiced profession of law, and in some cases the capitals of principalities, but they were also centers of knowledge. Being a "cultured" or educated person became more desirable during this period as an increase in wealth and access to books led to a structured education system and the spreading of new ideas.

As the new social class known as the bourgeoisie or upper middle class emerged, affairs related to business, commerce, and manufacturing were of great importance. Priority was also placed on the education of the children as well as family values, domestic comfort, the value of work, and an active role in the community. A young bourgeoisie male, much like the one in the painting Portrait of a Boy, were now part of a new system of learning based on new ideas grounded in experiment and logical thinking.

The invention of the moveable type printing press (1455) was crucial in the spreading of these new ideas because it made more books available to scholars and students. The exchange of ideas grew rapidly as books allowed scientists for example, to read the works of others and begin where they left off instead of starting all over again. The Renaissance concept of education based on the exchange of ideas, the desire to learn, and the quest for knowledge based still echoes today as we move through the formal education system and evolve into lifelong learners.

A page from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, printed by Aldus Manutius
a page from Hypnerotomachia Poliphili,
printed by Aldus Manutius
Special Collections Dept, Glasgow University Library

1494—Printing Press
In 1494 printer and publisher Aldus Manutius founded The Aldine Press in Venice. As one of the earliest printing presses, Aldus introduced pocket editions of the classics in Latin and Greek. His aim was to be able to produce the best possible books at the lowest prices.

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