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The Gutenberg Revolution: How Printing Changed The Course of History

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  169 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In 1450, all Europe's books were handcopied and amounted to only a few thousand. By 1500, they were printed and numbered in their millions. The invention of Johann Gutenberg had caused a revolution:printing by movable type. Born in 1400 in Mainz, Germany, Gutenberg struggled against a background of plague and religious upheaval to bring his remarkable invention to light. H ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 1st 2010 by Transworld Publishers (first published January 1st 2002)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 4* of five

The Book Report: An attempt to write a biography of the man who set in motion the creation of our mutual object of addiction, the book. Lots of research went into the book, the author has reached deep into the documentary evidence, and has built a solid story of the life that gave rise to one important aspect of the modern world.

My Review: Delightful book, fun to read, and quite informative.

I don't like Gutenberg very much as a person at the end of this book, but I appreciate m
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Nikki
The Gutenberg Revolution is a really easy read, with a pretty chatty style that doesn't undermine the material, but does make it easy to digest. I read it on the train -- like some other people I see reviewing it, actually -- and it was interesting enough to hold my attention from start (in Cardiff Central) to finish (somewhere between London and Lille).

It begins by exploring the man who invented moveable type, Johann Gutenberg, and the context he was born into and grew up in. It isn't all abou
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Aaron Kent
As far as a history primer goes, this book is a gem. Man isn't a stodgy historian, he's an author that likes to tell a good story (still factually based). His use of colloquialisms and modern analogies to help the reader understand some finances and figures of the time period are invaluable in imparting a sense of connection between reader and subject. We feel Gutenberg's pain and elation at different points in his life. Man is also extremely funny at points, whether it's venturing a guess as to ...more
Bill
Gutenberg like Shakespeare left little biographical evidence of what he did daily when he was alive. Most of his life is reconstructed from public records and court documents. He was forgotten for several generations after he died and his partners got the credit for inventing printing. This book expertly takes what little evidence we have and connects it to the greater events of the day making the book a fascinating record of those turbulent years.
Flora
John Man offers up a briskly written, informative book on how the printing press changed the world. I began highlighting, only to find I was highlighting almost everything.
Kathryn
This book did what I wanted it to - sorta. I wanted to learn more about Gutenberg and the creation of the printing press. While I do know more, I'm overall dissapointed by the world in general. How can we not have more information on this man!

The reason I've only given this book 3 stars is that I think there is way too much background information and it feels like padding to make up for the lack of available information on Gutenberg himself. I did, however, enjoy the section on important early
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Rebecca
This was terrific, I thought. A very unusual writing style, almost conversational -- as if the author was speaking directly to you instead of laying out a scholarly work. For me, with history, it must be a living thing -- not some dried out old textbook that makes me fall asleep. These characters were vital and insteresting and the processes were exciting, almost brand new and being invented while you read.

Aside from that, I found the story of Johann Gutenberg quite interesting. There is not a w
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Andrew
Fitting that a book about the invention of printing with movable type is a page-turner. Man provides an engaging history of Gutenberg and his press, and along the way we learn much about Europe in the fifteenth century. Man positions the invention of the printing press within the remarkable continuum of humanity moving from grunt to email, which involves the invention of writing, the invention of the alphabet, the invention of the printing press, and the invention of the Internet. Each of these ...more
Halldór Thorgeirsson
This book is a good introduction to what is know about Gutenberg and the beginning of printing. There are actually a lot of gaps in our understanding of some of the specifics and the author does not hide this and avoids the temptation to take sides in the numerous disputes over financial matters.

He makes an effort to give the reader insights into the broader cultural context of the times both in terms of economics, politics and religion. He then uses event around Luther and the beginning of the
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Ryan Adair
This was a good read. The author took too many detours, however, making it really hard to focus on the Gutenberg narrative at times. But it was still packed with a lot of information about the history of printing and its surrounding context through the life of Johann Gutenberg.

Gutenberg sought to "unify a divided Christendom" through printing missals and the Bible. But, "having produced one of the greatest Christian publications (the Bible), he ushered in a revolution—the Reformation—that blew C
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Tim Weakley
For anyone interested in books as objects, and their history this is one of the most interesting reads you'll find. A walk through of the early history of printing and it's impact on the world stage. There were so many aspects of early printing that just hadn't occurred to me that I have lost track of the number of times I was caught by surprise. Very good read!
Lauren
Plainly states the history behind Johannes Gutenberg's printing press, and includes information about the man himself. The book also provides a lot of context about the era, e.g. Protestant Reformation, Luther, Catholicism, and the major shift in thought after the press's invention. I only give three stars because the author's writing style did not seem appropriate for the subject matter - it was entirely too conversational (and he tried to be humorous in some parts) with too much personal comme ...more
Penny
Interesting insight on Gutenberg. Some of the information was repeated, but the author does give his own views about what other witers have thoerised.
Jonathan Grice
I bought this book in the UK when I found myself on a long train ride without my regular read. It actually turned out pretty good. Man is that guy I would have loved to have as a history teacher, he provides the evidence but also tries to lend a little human interpretation to the events to make them interesting. The story of Gutenberg and his invention is more interesting than you would think. He wanted only to be rich and unite the church, and he ended up having others take all the credit and p ...more
Elentarri
Interesting, well written account of the invention of the printing press.
Kathryn Bashaar
While I'm trying to sell the novel I just wrote, I hit on the idea for my next one: a fictionalized biography of Gutenberg (then I found out one was recently published so I'm planning on reading it and if I think it's better than what I could do I'll give up on the idea). So I read this book as a first pass at learning more about my subject. It was interesting, but pretty dry and academic. I've gotten spoiled by biographies that read like novels, like McCullough's of Adams, or Isaacson's of Fran ...more
Pam
I read this book several months ago, it has made a lasting impression. Very well written, much information well-presented. I thought it would be very dry and hard to read, but it was informative without being very scholarly. I read parts of it to my husband. The book compared the information explosion of today with the information explosion caused by the movable type printing press. I was amazed at how quickly the printing press made a difference in the world.
Ron
A fascinating account of the gestation of what is arguably the most influential invention in human history what other can boast having had an effect on every aspect of human endeavor?). The political, technological, economic and religious forces--not to mention Gutenberg's own desire to rise up from the restraints of his class--that conspired to bring the light of knowledge to the world at the time and in the place it did is utterly remarkable.
Tara
If half stars were allowed, I'd be giving this 2.5 stars. The information about Gutenberg was good, and the book was interesting. However, he author's writing style was so bizarre and often distracting! Rather than writing in a solid, non-fiction style, Man wrote exactly as he probably speaks--complete with "more on that later" and the like. It was odd. An odd little book, but now I know more about Gutenberg so...mission accomplished.
Chris
I found this subject interesting, and the conversational tone of the author easy to read and understand, but I found that I could not finish this book. There seems to be so little direct evidence about Guttenberg's life that it gets difficult to tell the story.
Karen Floyd
A fascinating combination of biography and the history of the development of movable type and printed books. There's not much documentary evidence about Gutenberg, so the author does have to speculate, but he's very clear about what is speculation. They were craftsmen in those days; none of this cheaply mass produced in China crap.
Marsha
I read the first 4 chapters of this book and really liked it. I was using a friend's checked out copy, so I had to return it before I finished. But I will definteily check it out again and read it more. It just so happens that I watch the Tudors on Showtime and a couple of seasons ago this was the hot topic in that movie.
LuMarie
There was too much speculation and the final part on the reformation, although ties can certainly be drawn between the reformation and the rise of the printing press, was extensive and focused more on the justifications of the reformation than on the impact of the printing press.
Michelle
I can't really criticize the author too much. I'm still interested. It's just a bit dry and I have this giant stack of other books issuing a siren call.
John
Excellent book - if you want to understand how Gutenberg got going and how he ended as well as the impact of printing
Jeffrey
Interesting book on the first printing press and the influence it had on western europe and the world in general.
Fran
I really enjoyed the historical connections and didn't think it too dry at all. Great read.
Phil
Fascinating review of the time and the era. A well needed update and myth destroyer.
Laura
Irritatingly written.
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John Anthony Garnet Man is a British historian and travel writer. His special interests are China, Mongolia and the history of written communication. He takes particular pleasure in combining historical narrative with personal experience.

He studied German and French at Keble College, Oxford, before doing two postgraduate courses, a diploma in the History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mon
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