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In the previous chapter, Claude Frollo tells the King that books, which are becoming more popular and important in the fifteenth century, will kill the great cathedrals. In this chapter, Hugo discusses this idea at length. The meaning of the statement is two-fold. First, the printing press threatens to destroy the ecclesiastical establishment by supplanting its authority. In fact, the press has caused a revolution, bringing about a fundamental change in the mode of thinking and expression for all mankind. Second, the new art of writing may well dethrone the old art of architecture, for a book is simpler to create and produce. Hugo then discusses the limitations of architecture and further examines history in order to present an elaborate description of art and the various media in which it is propagated.
This chapter shows the depth of Hugo’s thinking as he gives exhaustive information and ideas about various disciplines. He seems to have an insight into the very roots of civilization. It is clear that he is concerned about humanity and the social and political developments of the world. One of his main concerns is the influence of the printing press, which has become popular in the fifteenth century. He believes that books, which can now be easily produced, will supplant the other arts, including architecture. In the past, the architectural masterpieces, such as Notre-Dame, told the story of civilization; in the future, the printed word will give the history of mankind.
This chapter helps to establish the book as a historical novel, where the characteristics of the age are almost as important as the plot. Throughout the book, Hugo devotes much space to social commentaries. In this chapter, two ideas are discussed at length: the importance of preserving and glorifying historical buildings and monuments and the importance of the printing press, which signals the beginning of a new, more modern world. Through Frollo, Hugo claims that "the human race has two books, two registers, two testaments: architecture and printing, the stone Bible and the paper Bible."