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Posted March 15, 2012
The greatest spur to the Renaissance
Even for me, a layman having almost completed an extended reading project in the evolution of literacy, this book at times told me more than I wanted to know or speculate -- Man includes alternate versions of some controversial bits of history -- about the life and times of Johann Gutenberg. But the patient reader is rewarded with an impression of the treachery and harshness of medieval times and the wonderful tool that printing was to help create the Reformation and the Renaissance. The last three chapters, after the death of Gutenberg, were actually exciting, with the heroism and martyrdom of William Tyndale and the brilliant purity (fanaticism?) of Martin Luther. Man observes the madness that an English Catholic (Sir Thomas More) and an English Protestant (Tyndale) should be executed almost simultaneously for their opposing faiths. I like to think that in modern times, thanks to laws and constitutions and journalism -- all printed -- such martyrdom will no longer be necessary.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Johann Muller set up an observatory and an early printing press to publish his detailed observations of the positions of the moon and planets. He disputed Ptolemy's geocentric model and paved the way for Copernicus' heliocentric model seventy years later. Printing made knowledge available in vernacular languages and helped standardize those languages' spelling and pronunciation. Old High German was first to have a nonLatin translation of the Bible with its consolidation of dialects, and Tyndale's English version happened soon after, updating Chaucer's Middle English and beginning the creation of Modern English. It is hard to imagine how students ever learned without printed books.
The first printed index appeared in the 1460s. Eventually libraries had catalogs, office desks had Rolodexes, and people like me could sort through the Barnes and Noble Web site for other gems like this book.