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Gutenberg's Europe: The Book and the…

Gutenberg's Europe: The Book and the Invention of Western Modernity

by Frédéric Barbier

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Initial note: this is a translation from the French of: L'Europe de Gutenberg : le livre et l'invention de la modernité occidentale, XIIIe-XVIe siècle (2006). I had no issues with the translation.

This is an outstanding work of scholarship, but I'm going to address the one problem I had with the structure of this translation of Frédéric Barbier's GUTENBERG'S EUROPE. I'll do this by example.

In chapter 6, "Innovation," I run across the following statement with note number: ". . . modern investigative methods sometimes make it possible to find variants that were previously difficult to spot.(24)" When I then flip to the extensive notes section, grouped by chapter as an appendix, I find the citation for chapter six, number 24 to be: Wolfenbüttel 1990 for example, p. 30." Wanting to find a full citation, I first noted that there was no single section for a bibliography of sources to determine to what "Wolfenbüttel"refers. Thinking that this might be a shorthand for a previous citation, I meticulously looked at all previous citations for chapters 1 through 6 and found other references solely to "Wolfenbüttel" and nothing else.

After a thorough inspection of this work, I found in the section following the foreword, "Abbreviations," the full citation for Wolfenbüttel: Gutenberg : 550 jahre buchdruck in europa. (Wolfenbüttel, 1990).

Moral? The core audience for this book is one for whom "Wolfenbüttel, 1990" is probably a known reference. Similarly, ISTC in the abbreviations refers to the "Incunabula short title catalogue," a work with which I am familiar, but others may not be. A simple comprehensive list of sources with more detailed citation information would have made following up citations (at least some of them) a lot easier. I'm certain that others, including those in the reading audience who are not already familiar with this field of study, would not readily think to look in the "Abbreviations" section for a more detailed citation.

Nothing in this book was new to me, but the thoroughness and breadth of the historical context of Europe in Gutenberg's time makes this compelling. I'm keeping in my library right next to Principles of Bibliographical Description (St. Paul's Bibliographies) by Fredson Bowers, A New Introduction to Bibliography by Philip Gaskell]], and Mechanick Exercises on the Whole Art of Printing by Joseph Moxon.

Though not beyond the casual reader, this is definitely a tome directed towards analytical bibliographers, special collections librarians dealing with incunabula and the history of printing, and uber-book nerds like me.

Note: Book received via Amazon Vine reviewers program. ( )
  fugitive | Jan 10, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Barbier, Frédéricprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Birrell, JeanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0745672582, Paperback)

Major transformations in society are always accompanied by parallel transformations in systems of social communication ? what we call the media. In this book, historian Fr?d?ric Barbier provides an important new economic, political and social analysis of the first great 'media revolution' in the West: Gutenberg?s invention of the printing press in the mid fifteenth century. In great detail and with a wealth of historical evidence, Barbier charts the developments in manuscript culture in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and shows how the steadily increasing need for written documents initiated the processes of change which culminated with Gutenberg. The fifteenth century is presented as the 'age of start-ups' when investment and research into technologies that were new at the time, including the printing press, flourished.

Tracing the developments through the sixteenth century, Barbier analyses the principal features of this first media revolution: the growth of technology, the organization of the modern literary sector, the development of surveillance and censorship and the invention of the process of 'mediatization'. He offers a rich variety of examples from cities all over Europe, as well as looking at the evolution of print media in China and Korea.

This insightful re-interpretation of the Gutenberg revolution also looks beyond the specific historical context to draw connections between the advent of print in the Rhine Valley (?paper valley?) and our own modern digital revolution. It will be of great interest to students and scholars of early modern history, of literature and the media, and will appeal to anyone interested in what remains one of the greatest cultural revolutions of all time.

(retrieved from Amazon Fri, 25 Nov 2016 13:41:16 -0500)

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