Compared to the printing press revolution, the Internet one is small potatoes. Before Europe's first printed book in 1455, information was carried in hand-copied volumes so expensive they could be owned only by priests and aristocrats. Then in "a historical eyeblink," John Man writes, a book that took two months to copy by hand could be turned out at the rate of 500 a week. Little is known with certainty about Johann Gutenberg, the man behind the change, not even his year of birth (traditionally given as 1400). But Man suggests that Gutenberg may have developed printing technology while trying to cash in on a craze in the 1430's for small mirrors, used by pilgrims to capture the healing powers of relics at Charlemagne's tomb. The mirror-making venture bogged down in legal disputes between Gutenberg and his partners, but surviving court records contain mysterious references to "another secret art" perhaps the hand-held mold that could mass-produce metal type. Gutenberg intended to make a fortune publishing the first universal missal, but when clerics could not agree on an authorized text, he settled on his second choice, the Bible. By 1500, more than 15 million books had been printed in Europe. At the heart of Man's enchanting narrative is Gutenberg's place as an early capitalist, an entrepreneur, deprived of patrician status by his mother's modest background, who set out to strike it rich in business. MICHAEL DONOHUE (New York Times Book Review, August 18, 2002)
Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World with Wordsby John Man
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… See more details below
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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