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The Book in the Renaissance

3.89  ·  Rating Details ·  158 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 440 pages
Published November 22nd 2011 by Yale University Press (first published June 9th 2010)
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Jan 23, 2011 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This book was right up my alley, but since I don't expect to persuade many friends to read it, I'll discuss some highlights. Pettegree shows how the fledgling print industry grew into a publishing industry and how the availability of quickly printed and distributed documents steered the religious and political conflicts of the 16th century. (And, equally, how those conflicts fueled the printing industry.) Before moveable-type printing was invented, the mechanism by which books were produced was ...more
Nov 30, 2010 Steven rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, literature
This overview of the first century and half of printing in Europe took a while to grab my interest. Pettegree begins with the earliest printing activity (which brought up one of my favorite library school vocabulary words, incunabula) and, focuses at first on the business and of early book printing and distribution. He follows trends of printing centers and through studies of union lists and catalogs of early materials, traces which cities and presses had more influence at various times. I'd nev ...more
An exhaustive (and exhausting) economic history of print. If you need to know about the production, circulation, and use of books in the European Renaissance, this is absolutely the title for you. If you are looking for a little light history reading to entertain and enlighten you . . . you probably want to look elsewhere. Pettegree is an excellent researcher but very, very dry.

This worked for me because I was listening to it on audio while doing things in the kitchen, where it was helpful to h
Mar 10, 2011 Marks54 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book addresses the following situation - that Gutenberg and the first printers had a new technology for producing mass quantities of books but did not have a market that wanted the books. Existing readers already had books, while others did not know what they wanted, if they even could read. How did the first printers and booksellers build the market for printed books? It is a well-researched and very credible account that matches up well to current accounts of new businesses and growing en ...more
Jenny Brown
Possibly an important contribution to scholarly knowledge, but deadly dull. The author's prose style reminds me of how I was taught to write essays in high school. He tells us what he's going to tell us at the start of each chapter, tells it, and then tells us what he's told us. The topic never comes alive under his hand, but the text is mostly a list of dozens (hundreds?) of printers, each with a few paragraphs describing what they printed, one after the other.

Recommended for scholars concentra
Janet Flora Corso
Jul 27, 2010 Janet Flora Corso rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I'm such a wordnerd this is one of the most exciting books i have read in a while. It has all of the usual drama taht Ren histories have and all sorts of fascinating facts and anecdotes about the birth of print and the growth of publishing. Awesome.
Drew Patrick Smith
Mar 14, 2011 Drew Patrick Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Publishing Professionals
Review from the PFS Book Club...

What I Liked: The main strength of this book is that it's a scholarly book that's still easy to read. There was never a moment in this book where I simply couldn't understand. As someone who knows only a small amount about the Renaissance, I'd say that's a pretty large accomplishment.

Pettegree's style is straight-forward and simple, examining each area of publishing in individual chapters, while sometimes trying to link them together. The best parts of the book ar
Feb 02, 2011 Randy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The printed book, Mr. Pettegree tells us, is a product not just of invention - Mr. Gutenberg's - but also of capitalism and of religious revolution. The printed book had to survive in the marketplace, and eventually it did. Would it have done so without the Reformation and then the Counter-Reformation? Certainly, it would have, but at how much of a slower pace? So much slower that the Renaissance, and all the good that came with it, happened a century or two later? How much different, then, woul
Hall's Bookshop
Jun 10, 2016 Hall's Bookshop rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: james
This book is the tip of the vast iceburg of research undertaken in the decades-long quest to create a Universal Short Title Catalogue for incunabula and early printed books. What could have been an vast, unwieldy academic tome has actually been written in a concise clear fashion, and with great discipline. Each thematic chapter is divided into a series of bite-size sections which prevent over-rambling anecdotes, while also allowing for the broadest of views within a very tightly argued narrative ...more
Roman Clodia
Jun 25, 2016 Roman Clodia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pettegree has written a very readable history of printing and the pan-European book trade in the Renaissance. Strictly speaking, nothing here is new but it's helpful to have all this information collected in one place with related references.

It's not a history of the book as such so if that's what you're looking for something like A Companion to the History of the Book might be better. This takes us through the rediscovery of classical (mostly Latin) manuscripts by the early humanists such as Pe
Feb 23, 2015 Carl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A marvelous lively and lucid study of the impact of the dawn of print upon the history of the book.

Pettegree ably manages to liven up the period with incidents and figures of the period and their illuminating stories. He also seemlessly melds the turbulent history of the time period and the bloody wars, particularly those of a religious nature, often dictated which city would rise or fall as a center of the printing industry.

Particularly harrowing is the chapter about libraries and how the viole
Catherine Woodman
O, so first of all, this guy completely ignores 1000 years of Asian history and starts of my writing that the printed book and paper were coming into being in the Renaissance--untrue. So while he is focusing on Europe, he could have at least given a nod to how the Renaissance was Europe's emergence, that the Arab and Asian world got there way ahead of them, then suffered from their isolationist stance while Europe worked hard to catch up. So I started off irritated., but the pedantic style of wr ...more
Sep 19, 2010 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A useful new study that exploits the contemporary information resources of the internet and online cataloguing to demonstrate the trial and error processes at the beginning of printing, the strategies and mechanisms publishers employed for success, and the variety of markets and kinds of books that really were popular. The most significant contribution of this work is the insight that so many of the extant books today are NOT representative of what was read by most (vaguely) literate people in E ...more
Ray Stafford
May 13, 2012 Ray Stafford rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
the man is an idiot. his basic arguments are that visual/oral culture was not important in the furtherance of the reformation because 1) the people couldn't see. he claimed that they were malnourished so they literally couldn't see. despite no evidence to support this theory. 2) the intricate symbolism in the visual representations would be too much for the common people to understand, which is fair to an extent. 3) he said that there was no record that anyone read aloud, which didn't stop him f ...more
Dec 14, 2011 Aaron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For a matter as arcane as a book about books, this was a surprisingly accessible and entertaining read. Pettegree provides a nice balance of some of the more monumental achievements of the early printed word along with the more mundane, popular printed works spread throughout Europe. I would have liked Pettegree to talk more about printed imagery; a study of the impact of print culture that focuses solely on printed texts only tells half the story.
Lauren Albert
I thought this was a terrific book from which you can learn about a lot more than the history of the book. Pettegree focuses each chapter on an area of Renaissance publishing (and on a corresponding area of culture)--religion, education, politics, entertainment, medicine, science and exploration, etc. His discussion of the struggles of early printers to find a workable business model was interesting.
Jan 07, 2011 Kathleen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I gave up after a few chapters-- read too much like a textbook, although was concise with lots of sub-headings. Also, didn't like how it discounted other cultures' role in keeping the Greek and Roman knowledge alive in the Middle Ages and their advances in science, etc-- nit picking as not a big part of the story, but still bugged me.
Nov 22, 2011 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and well researched, this book, in addition to telling about books in the renaissance, tells much about the reformation and the counter-reformation. The last part of the books talks about what has happened to all those book. Most books from that period survive only in one copy. Something to think about.
Jan 12, 2013 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well written and incredibly informative in places, this was a great first post-viva read. On topic but broad enough to start the process of learning about the parts of the early-modern that didn't make it into the thesis.
Jul 07, 2011 Joanne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I chose to read this book for a book review assignment for a History of the Book class. Very interesting how big a part of history the book was in the Renaissance. The author is very knowledgeable and the book is not tough to read.
Dec 24, 2010 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
Great to pair up with Geraldine Brooks The People of the Book.....
Apr 16, 2011 Phil rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this kind of esoteric stuff. A marvelous biography of well the book in the renaisance. A nice compliment to the Gutenberg Evololution
Parker Owen
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