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The Book in the Renaissance [Paperback]

Andrew Pettegree

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Book Description

Nov. 22 2011
The dawn of print was a major turning point in the early modern world. It rescued ancient learning from obscurity, transformed knowledge of the natural and physical world, and brought the thrill of book ownership to the masses. But, as Andrew Pettegree reveals in this work of great historical merit, the story of the post-Gutenberg world was rather more complicated than we have often come to believe. "The Book in the Renaissance" reconstructs the first 150 years of the world of print, exploring the complex web of religious, economic and cultural concerns surrounding the printed word. From its very beginnings, the printed book had to straddle financial and religious imperatives, as well as the very different requirements and constraints of the many countries who embraced it, and, as Pettegree argues, the process was far from a runaway success. More than ideas, the success or failure of books depended upon patrons and markets, precarious strategies and the thwarting of piracy, and the ebb and flow of popular demand. Owing to his expert and highly detailed research, Pettegree crafts an authoritative, lucid, and truly pioneering work of cultural history about a major development in the evolution of European society.

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Review

"'It is more fun than a book on bibliography has any right to be: as well as emphasising what a cut-throat, pragmatic and disreputable business the early modern book trade was, it's a salient reminder of how little we really know about the subject.' (Alec Ryie, Times Higher Education Supplement) 'This is a book of remarkable scholarship, rich in detailed evidence... It is a book worth reading right through and then keeping for reference.' (Revd Dr Raymond Chapman, Church Times) 'The great joy of The Book in the Renaissance is that it paints a vivid, often surprising portrait of the West's first ventures into the publishing industry... Pettegree writes with wit and fluency and he combines a broad, continent-girdling perspective with more focused analyses: a section on the role of print in the development of Lutheranism, for instance, is masterly. This book will make specialists prick up their ears but it also has huge appeal for the general reader.' (Jonathon Wright, Catholic Herald)"

About the Author

Andrew Pettegree is Head of the School of History at the University of St. Andrews and founding director of the St. Andrews Reformation Studies Institute.

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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An indispensable history Sept. 18 2010
By Salenia - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A sweeping survey of the first 150 years of the European printed book ("book" here covers all printed texts including pamphlets and single leaf broadsides), from its invention by Gutenberg in 1450-55 to the end of the sixteenth century. During that time, printing spread from a single location in southern Germany to every corner of Europe and beyond, resulting in an estimated 350,000 different editions. The focus of the book is on the book as a business - "Printers were businessmen, and books were a commercial venture" (p. 129) - and, as the book progresses, on the Reformation (which resulted in an explosion of printing of Luther's pamphlets) and the subsequent wars, political conflicts and intrigues. Pettegree discusses what was printed, where and why; how the books were distributed and marketed, etc., tying this to the important historical and religious events of the sixteenth century. Along the way, he covers the expansion of printing to provide news and entertainment, the increase in printing in the vernacular, the birth of literary salons and women authors, the early printing of popular music, renaissance schools, emblem books, scientific works, botanical illustration, maps, printing in England, Scotland, Spain, Scandanavia, Eastern Europe, and Mexico, censorship and the Index, and a variety of other topics. Seemingly, nothing significant is omitted.

In his analysis, Pettegree provides numerous important and new insights into the history of the early printed book. The book is dense with facts and specific examples. It includes many excellent illustrations of early printed books, including fine title pages. It contains extensive footnotes to sources, although unfortunately they are not at the bottom of pages of text, but at the back, indexed by page runs.

Surprisingly, the author starts off the book with a significant error. He states that Gutenberg may have based his invention on the "model" of block books, short religious works in which both the text and images were printed from single woodcuts (p. 23). In fact, scholars have rejected the idea that block books were precursors of movable type books and have confirmed (through analysis of watermarks and owners' annotations) that virtually all surviving block books had been printed in the 1460s and later and none predate work on the Gutenberg Bible (1450). (See Allan Stevenson's "The Problem of the Blockbooks" and the other articles included in Blockbücher des Mittlealters, Gutenberg-Museum, Mainz (1991)). The illustrated "block book Bible" shown in fig. 4 and supposedly printed "c. 1430" actually is known as an "Apocalypse" and was printed c. 1465-70. The author also suggests that work on mechanical printing may have begun in the 1430s (p. 21), without mentioning that the early sources on which that is based are problematic and have been the subject of lengthy and inconclusive debate.

Although I saw no other major errors, I did note a few minor ones. For example, type was inked using stuffed leather balls or pads with attached handles, and not "soft sponges" as the book states (Fig. 6). (See, e.g., Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography (1972), p. 126.) The statement that the sixteenth century Giunta printing business in Florence "was a branch office of the family's Venice business" (p. 254) is incorrect; the two businesses were separately formed in the fifteenth century by a pair of brothers from Florence and were independently operated by them and their respective heirs following distinct strategies, devotional works in Venice and humanistic works in Florence. Although the two businesses entered into several partnerships, "direct participation of the Florentine firm in partnership with the Giunti of Venice ended in 1517." (Pettas, The Giunti of Florence, p. 112.) The reference to "Bohemia (now the Czech Republic)" (p. 112) is awkward, seemingly suggesting that Bohemia simply changed its name; something like "Bohemia (roughly the western part of today's Czech Republic)" would have been more accurate. And, although he discusses Aldus' famous small octavo editions (p. 61), he neglects to mention that Aldus began their printing in 1501, leaving their chronology unclear to the reader.

Notwithstanding these small imperfections, this is a major addition to the early history of the book and clearly the most comprehensive study (in English at least) of the inter-relation of sixteenth century printing with the Reformation and religious turmoil of that period Pettegree's work will be indispensable to those fields.
26 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book, but not in Kindle version Aug. 21 2010
By Lake Erie Islander - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful book, the the Kindle edition, aside from being overpriced, does not include any of the many pictures from the book. Amazon should have a warning about this.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition is incomplete - no illustrations Jan. 7 2013
By Richard Gibson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
After getting well into the book I discovered that every illustration was omitted and replaced with a note indicating that publishing rights for the illustrations were not granted. The reader was advised to view the images in the hard copy! What is the point of an eBook which requires you to buy the hard copy as well to see the illustrations? Don't bother
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IRONY and New Tech March 1 2012
By K. Younger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
So as an amateur in this space of early books, I found this book to be just on the edge of okay for "intelligent non-specialist" and too simple for "specialist" in this domain. Makes it a challenging read, which I like. Pettegree is a fine author and writes quite well.

But the KINDLE edition had no illustrations.... queer. (and I also have the hardcover, but I found reading the hardcover, when I'm now "trained" to kindle, as too awkward)

But it's IRONIC that a book all about the rise of the codex technology applied to movable type and the social and business systems required to support the new high tech of the book world is crippled by having the pictures throughout missing because digital rights were not secured. (From perhaps old school libraries who think digital is going to let the proverbial Camel of Digital Theft into the Tent of the Bodleian?) This was MOST IRONIC when the text alongside the empty image frames was talking about how the art guilds in 15th C Germany were complaining about how the new tech of BOOKS was destroying the business of selling art prints.... new tech is often reviled by the old tech defenders.

So reading an important book on the development of the book on a 21st century book stand (the kindle) is crippled by 19th century attitudes about copyright of 17th century libraries of originally uncopyrighted works of 15th century new book technology and presses...the image, well, it strikes me as they say "like turtles all the way down..."

Same reactionary politics, different century. Humans! Buy this book. Read it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than You'd Think Aug. 12 2011
By Beowulf - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had to read this for a course in graduate school and was very pleasantly surprised to learn the source of so many conventions regarding the printing of--and thinking about--books. Pettegree writes clearly and keeps things moving. The book looks imposing, but you can knock it off in a weekend. OK, maybe a long weekend. Wonderfully free of jargon, as well.

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