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Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned…
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Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center… (2015)

by Andrew Pettegree

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Showing 5 of 5
This is the best thing on the Reformation I've read for some time. In the past, for those who might only read one thing on Luther, I've recommended Oberman's "Luther: Man between God and the Devil". But now, I'd have to offer them a choice between Oberman and this book of Pettegree's.

It's Luther chiefly through the eyes of the print, the medium that made the Reformation. And equally, it's the (primarily German) print industry that this reformed monk made. Alert to Luther's strengths and weakness (sometimes the very same things), the book traces the career and impact of Luther with wonderful insights both historical and technical.
  FergusS | Dec 14, 2017 |
This book provides a different perspective on Martin Luther by addressing how Luther's publications influenced the growth of the publishing industry. As such, it acts as a readable survey of Luther's life and times as well as providing an understanding of the printing industry in Germany. ( )
  M_Clark | Aug 31, 2017 |
An interesting but somewhat repetitive history of the Reformation that does not at all live up the implication in its title, i.e., that Martin Luther somehow defined his brand and marketed it to the benefit of the Reformation. ( )
  nmele | Jan 19, 2017 |
This is a carefully sculpted and lucid biography of Martin Luther poised against the background of the printing press and books in Germany circa 1500. Luther, a bright intellectual and young Augustinian monk posted his thesis against indulgences and their abuse on the cathedral door at Wittenberg. It helped to churn an already current of criticism toward Rome, tapped into the rise of political power by the Princes in Germany and eventually unleashed a schism of doctrinal divisiveness that became known as the Protestant Reformation. Luther was a master of media manipulation through the printing press with the knowledge that the “oxygen of publicity was a matter of life and death.” He also paid attention to the education of girls, raising the level of literacy where his church took hold. His use of German rather than Latin reached out to the ordinary people of the land. Throughout the book there are illustrations of the fine woodcuts that helped popularize his writings. Luther read the political scene very well and was skilled at energizing market forces in his behalf. As one who participates in ecumenical dialogue, I found the book very helpful in gaining a clearer picture of Luther with human qualities rather than a rigid dogmatic figure of History. Pettegree’s book is a timely publication for the 500-year Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017.

I purchased this for my personal library. ( )
  mcdenis | Oct 7, 2016 |
I've read a lot of books on Reformation and on Luther, and this is a very good one. I'm also interested in written communication and business and this ties everything up so well. Pretty objective about Luther - both his good and his bad qualities. Clear and concise history of the Reformation and paints so well the drama of what took place, putting it in context and helping us understand what is happening. On rare occasions I didn't agree with the author's interpretation, but overall an outstanding book. "Printing was essential to the creation of Martin Luther; but Luther was also a determining, shaping force in the German printing industry. Many things conspired to ensure Luther's unlikely survival through the first years of the Reformation, but one of them was undoubtedly print. ...Luther could not have been a force in the German church without his instinctive, towering talent as a writer. ...After Luther, print and public communication would never be the same again. It was an extraordinary legacy for an extraordinary man." ( )
  Luke_Brown | Sep 10, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Andrew Pettegreeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dewey, AmandaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Misani, NickCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In 2017 we mark the five-hundredth anniversary of one of the seminal moments in Western civilization: the inception of the Protestant Reformation. (Preface)
Like many of history's most commanding personalities, Martin Luther was gregarious by nature.
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It is one of the real curiosities of the Reformation that Frederick the Wise, at the same time that he stubbornly protected Luther from the consequences of his criticisms of medieval spirituality, also continued to add to his collection of relics. By 1520, when the latest inventory would be taken, it had reached 18.970 individual objects ans was one of the largest in Germany. [...] When laid out for the benefit of pilgrims, the collection crammed eight aisles of the castle church. There would have been little teaching on All Saints' Day, as pilgrims flocked to avail themselves of the 1.9 million days of indulgence that the assiduous visitor would gain from seeing them all. (Chapter 1, "A Small Town in Germany.")
If we are seeking an explanation of why so many Germans were drawn to Luther, despite the wild, extravagant denunciations of the established church and the bitter, angry polemic against his critics, we have to recognize that this was not the Luther that many readers saw. Rather they embraced the patient, gentle expositor whose explorations of the Christian life offered them comfort and peace. (Chapter 5, "Outlaw")
Luther was by this point [his mid-fifties] an old man, in almost constant pain, dosed by doctors, tended by an anxious wife, but beset always by constant work, the press of problems humdrum or acute that would inevitably be referred to him so long as he drew breath. So if during these last years his judgement or his temper failed, we must bear in mind that like many in this era he lived his life in a constant state of low-level illness or debility, flaring up into acute episodes in which the agony was unbearable. At such time Luther longed for the death that would free him from these burdens. But it would, in fact, be another decade since his life was first despaired of in 1536 before his release would come. In this extra ten years much would be done to secure his movement, whatever the cost to its indispensable leader. (Chapter 11, "Endings")
Thus we return to the paradox with which we began this book: printing was essential to the creation of Martin Luther, but Luther was also a determining, shaping force in the German printing industry. Many things conspired to ensure Luther's unlikely survival through the first years of the Reformation, but one of them was undoubtedly print. Books, circulating with uncontrollable rapidity through the German towns, created at leas the appearance of a new consensus: that the settled will of the German people was that Luther should be heard. This intimidated and sometimes silenced opponents, and fortified Luther's far from numerous supporters in the German Estates. But Luther could not have been a force in the German church without his instinctive, towering talent as a writer. This was his most astonishing gift to the Reformation and to the German print industry. After Luther, print and public communication would never be the same again. It was an extraordinary legacy for an extraordinary man. (Chapter 12, "Legacy")
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A revolutionary look at Martin Luther, the Reformation, and the birth of publishing, on the eve of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary

 
When Martin Luther posted his “theses” on the door of the Wittenberg church in 1517, protesting corrupt practices, he was virtually unknown. Within months, his ideas spread across Germany, then all of Europe; within years, their author was not just famous, but infamous, responsible for catalyzing the violent wave of religious reform that would come to be known as the Protestant Reformation and engulfing Europe in decades of bloody war.

 
Luther came of age with the printing press, and the path to glory of neither one was obvious to the casual observer of the time. Printing was, and is, a risky business—the questions were how to know how much to print and how to get there before the competition. Pettegree illustrates Luther's great gifts not simply as a theologian, but as a communicator, indeed, as the world's first mass-media figure, its first brand. He recognized in printing the power of pamphlets, written in the colloquial German of everyday people, to win the battle of ideas.

 
But that wasn't enough—not just words, but the medium itself was the message. Fatefully, Luther had a partner in the form of artist and businessman Lucas Cranach, who together with Wittenberg’s printers created the distinctive look of Luther's pamphlets. Together, Luther and Cranach created a product that spread like wildfire—it was both incredibly successful and widely imitated. Soon Germany was overwhelmed by a blizzard of pamphlets, with Wittenberg at its heart; the Reformation itself would blaze on for more than a hundred years.

 
Publishing in advance of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, Brand Luther fuses the history of religion, of printing, and of capitalism—the literal marketplace of ideas—into one enthralling story, revolutionizing our understanding of one of the pivotal figures and eras in human history. [from the hardcover jacket]
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A revolutionary look at Martin Luther and the Reformation details how the virtually unknown monk harnessed the power of the printing press to spread his ideas, triggering the wave of religious reform that changed the history of Europe.

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