Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Words

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9780471218234: Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Words

A world forever changed...

In 1450, all of western Europe?s books were hand-copied and amounted to no more than are in a modern public library. By 1500, printed books numbered in the millions. Johann Gutenberg?s invention of movable type ignited the explosion of art, literature, and scientific research that accelerated the Renaissance and led directly to the Modern Age. In Gutenberg, you?ll meet the genius who fostered this revolution, discover the surprising ambitions that drove him, and learn how a single, obscure artisan changed the course of history.

"His story is one of genius very nearly denied. A few records less, and we would not now be revering the Gutenberg Bible as his. All we would have would be the results: an idea that changed the world and a book that is amongst the most astonishing objects ever created?a jewel of art and technology, one that emerged fully formed, of a perfection beyond anything required by its purpose. It is a reminder that the business Gutenberg started . . . contains elements of the sublime?that at the heart of the mountains of printed dross there is gold." —From the Introduction to Gutenberg

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Review:

The invention of writing, the alphabet, and the Internet: these are three signal events in the history of human culture, joined by a fourth: Johann Gutenberg's introduction of movable type and the printed book to the West, the subject of this illuminating study. Of Gutenberg himself little is known, at least not until the 1440s, when the native of Mainz, Germany, began to apply techniques he had learned in the coin-making trade to the development of the printing press. (He had observed the work of men "who could carve a letter in steel that had at least six, and perhaps sixty, times the resolution of a modern laser printer.") His genius, writer John Man tells us, lay not only in the invention of the handheld mold for making type but also in developing a reliable technique for binding that type into a form, all of which required years of trial and error. The result, in time, was Gutenberg's famous Bible--not a "pretty book," Man allows, but one that would have a revolutionary effect. Full of details on the art of printing and the context of Gutenberg's time, this is a sparking detective study that will bring much pleasure to fans of books about books. --Gregory McNamee

From the Inside Flap:

If you think that the Information Age began with the Internet, think again. With his innovative movable type and printing press, Johann Gutenberg ignited an unprecedented explosion of new information in 1450. Within fifty years, the number of books available in Europe grew from thousands to millions, with breathtaking consequences. Science, literature, and the study of history blossomed; Christian unity collapsed; kings formed nation-states; and explorers revealed new worlds. Gutenberg, simply put, helped found the modern age.

Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Words reveals this remarkable inventor as a complex and dynamic figure whose brilliance and determination were matched only by his ambition and daring. It traces the sources of his inspiration and explores the intrigues and legal battles that punctuated his decades-long, covert research and development program. It also explores Gutenberg?s constant need for capital, which drove him at times to take desperate measures, such as having a city official thrown in debtors? prison until he paid Gutenberg the money he owed him.

This compelling biography chronicles Gutenberg?s ceaseless efforts to overcome technological challenges, hire artisans and train them in a craft that he was inventing as he went along, and keep the entire venture secret until he opened for business. It also features a detailed exploration of the technical, artistic, theological, and financial issues surrounding the publication of the Gutenberg Bible.

In the tradition of Simon Winchester?s The Professor and the Madman, Gutenberg offers immensely rewarding reading to anyone interested in the history of science and literature and in the unending human struggle to accomplish great deeds against great odds. It is the only complete and engaging account available of the man behind what was, quite simply, one of the most revolutionary inventions in history.

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