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The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man [Paperback]

Marshall McLuhan
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 1 1962

Since its first appearance in 1962, the impact of The Gutenberg Galaxy has been felt around the world. It gave us the concept of the global village; that phrase has now been translated, along with the rest of the book, into twelve languages, from Japanese to Serbo-Croat. It helped establish Marshall McLuhan as the original 'media guru.' More than 200,000 copies are in print. The reissue of this landmark book reflects the continuing importance of McLuhan's work for contemporary readers.

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The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man + Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man + The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man
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Movable type, as much if not more than any meaningful arrangement of that type, transformed Renaissance consciousness--just as electronic circuitry is transforming us now. That is the basic premise of Marshall McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy. New technologies create new human environments, and "technological environments are not merely passive containers … but are active processes that reshape people and other technologies alike." McLuhan's second book, The Gutenberg Galaxy was published in 1962, won the Canadian Governor General's Medal that same year, and pushed McLuhan toward international prominence. Like most of McLuhans's other work--Understanding Media or The Global Village, for example--The Gutenberg Galaxy is a rich, dense text that draws freely, almost frantically, from works of philosophy, economics, political theory, history, and especially literature. There are liberal doses of Shakespeare--text and commentary--sprinkled throughout, as well as trenchant appropriations from Rabelais, Cervantes, Leibnitz, Blake, Joyce, and many others. Attempting to match his medium to his metaphors, McLuhan structures his book using what he calls "a mosaic or field approach" and ends up producing more than 100 short sections separated by pithy glosses in large bold type, such as "Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy," or " Nobody ever made a grammatical error in a non-literate society." Today's reader might find the "mosaic of perpetually interacting forms" into which the author organizes his data and quotations distinctly Web-like. Indeed, one could say of McLuhan and his complex rhetorical circuitry what McLuhan himself says about Shakespeare: "His insights appear so richly in his lines that it is very difficult to select among them." --Russell Prather


'One of the most stimulating and important books that has been written in our time.'

'Endlessly stimulating, informative, and liberating.'

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars His Best Work April 17 2000
By A Customer
McLuhan's most enduring work and certainly his most accessible. A history of western society from a media perspective. McLuhan concentrates on the larger patterns in history by providing a snapshot of each period with a rich bibliography to fill in the details. A mosaic of the works of other writers arranged to get at more abstract ideas. The book is filled with great understanding and insight, often packaged as gnomic utterances but rarely without substantial scholarly support behind them. He stole from the best and without shame and put ideas together like no one else. Not so much an original thinker (for which we can be grateful given some of his crackpot ideas) but a chemist experimenting with the works of others to great effect. Misunderstood and disliked in his own time, idolized in the present for all the wrong reasons. We will not see his like again.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McLuhan - As Always, Brilliant Feb. 2 2000
One can almost think of "The Gutenberg Galaxy" as the "prequel" to Marshall McLuhan's much better known "Understanding Media," because "Galaxy" does for print techology what "Media" does for electronic technology. Basically McLuhan assesses how European civilization went from an ear-touch (listening) oriented mode of receving information to an eye-oriented (that is, reading) mode of receiving information. Recalling that for McLuhan, the medium IS the message, so the invention and dissemination of printing-press technology and the sharp rise in literacy it occasioned therefore brought about a major seismic shift in Western thought and all that goes with it--language, mores, dress, politics, etc.
Another way of looking at this is to say that in McLuhan's view, history is not determined by politics or economics or weather or science per se so much as by our media--the "extensions of man." This book is a must-read followup to anyone who liked "Understanding Media"; it's also a great book to cut one's teeth on before reading "Understanding Media" because it's a more traditional (i.e., formal and linear) type of academic work. And undeniably brilliant. For what it's worth, I was a communications major at the University of Virginia in the mid-1970s when reading McLuhan's work was rougher than it is now; many of his concepts like "global village" have since filtered thru society. But I read all of McLuhan's media-oriented writings, wrote term papers on him, and feel as though I benefited as a result--he's the main reason I'm a writer today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars HITCH-HIKERS GUIDE TO THE GUTENBERG GAL -LEXY Feb. 27 1998
By A Customer
This book will alter your perception of reality. It will cause you reflect on your environment, the definition of which will have expanded because of this book. In addition you will be introduced to authors and concepts from an eclectic range of disciplines, all juxtaposed to create insight (my clue in) into McLuhan's ideas. I read this one first, and I've continued on since then. His insights have practical application on how to surf in today's rapidly changing whorl-pool world.
McLuhan makes his case that: technology shapes our experience, and that to be unaware of technology's pervasive influence is to succumb to "robo-centrism." His insightful analysis of the effects of technology leads him to focus on the causes, believing that awareness of the causes can modify the effects. "The theme of this book is not that there is anything good or bad about print but that unconsciousness of the effect of any force is a disaster, especially a force we have made ourselves." And so, "Some may feel that life is too valuable and delightful a thing to be spent in such arbitrary and involuntary automatism."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of McLuhan's Writing Dec 22 1998
By A Customer
The best of McLuhan's media analyses and published before his 60's stardom. Written in his "mosaic style" (would be easily adapted to hypertext) it remains an excellent analysis of how both the written word (letters) and the printed work (starting with Guttenberg) altered human perception. It is full of interesting observations (and the usual collection of his favorite Joyce quotes) and more accessible than many of his later works.
Highly Reccommended!!
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