The Book in the Renaissance


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Andrew Pettegree

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A groundbreaking study of the fascinating, yet largely unknown world of books in the first great age of print, 1450–1600

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 have often come to believe.

The Book in the Renaissance reconstructs the first 150 years of the world of print, exploring the complex web of religious, economic, and cultural concerns surrounding the printed word. From its very beginnings, the printed book had to straddle financial and religious imperatives, as well as the very different requirements and constraints of the many countries who embraced it, and, as Pettegree argues, the process was far from a runaway success. More than ideas, the success or failure of books depended upon patrons and markets, precarious strategies and the thwarting of piracy, and the ebb and flow of popular demand. Owing to his state-of-the-art and highly detailed research, Pettegree crafts an authoritative, lucid, and truly pioneering work of cultural history about a major development in the evolution of European society.

Andrew Pettegree is Head of the School of History at the University of St. Andrews and founding director of the St. Andrews Reformation Studies Institute.

“[Pettegree] offers a radically new understanding of printing in the years of its birth and youth.”—Robert Pinsky, New York Times Book Review

“In this history of the pioneering publishers who transformed Gutenberg’s new technology into an epoch-making force, Pettegree recounts the fascinating story of how new books found their way into the hands of Renaissance readers. . . . A probing chronicle of crisis and change.”

Booklist (starred review)

“An authoritative, innovative and succinct account of one of the most fundamental issues in Renaissance history, the role of the printed book.”—Henry Kamen

"The great joy of The Book in the Renaissance is that it paints a vivid, often surprising portrait of the West's first ventures into the publishing industry. . . . Pettegree writes with wit and fluency and he combines a broad, continent-girdling perspective with more focused analyses: section on the role of print in the development of Lutheranism, for instance, is masterly. This book will make specialists prick up their ears but it also has huge appeal for the general reader."—Jonathon Wright, Catholic Herald

"It is more fun than a book on bibliography has any right to be: as well as emphasising what a cut-throat, pragmatic and disreputable business the early modern book trade was, it's a salient reminder of how little we really know about the subject."—Alec Ryie, Times Higher Education

"This magisterial volume portrays the enormous effects of printing, publishing and literacy in the Renaissance period. The sense of intellectual growth and vigour is palpable throughout the pages of this book…To give an idea of the quality of this book is like showing a single brick to suggest the majesty of Blenheim Palace."—Robert Giddings, Tribune

"This is a book of remarkable scholarship, rich in detailed evidence…. It is a book worth reading right through and then keeping for reference."—Revd Dr Raymond Chapman, Church Times

"…Pettegree’s book offers readers a useful account of the context in which English bibles – including the predecessors of the King James Bible, which Campbell discusses – were first translated and printed."—Andrew Gregory, Church of England

"A fascinating and original book about the history of the book in the early days of print…A major scholarly work."—Peter Lovegrove, History Teaching Review

“[A] splendid book…an engrossing and sure-footed story”—Fernando Cervantes, The Tablet

“Pettegree’s book has a clear and solid structure…..There is so much to enjoy here”—Martin Davies, Times Literary Supplement

“[A] remarkable book”—Christopher Hawtree, The Independent

“Pettegree…examines an earlier rocky transition in the history of the written word: not the transition from print to digital, but the transition from manuscript books to print.”—Heather Horn,

". . . a highly readable volume, . . . the text carefully navigates a balance between popular history and scholarly monograph."—Timothy J. Dickey, College & Research Libraries

"By far the most significant publication yet on the social history of the book.  . . . It is, by far, one of the most significant library-related books I have ever read in many a year; I cannot recommend it highly enough."—Norman D. Stevens, RBM

“Well written and…a useful introduction to readers unfamiliar with the subject.”—Renaissance Quarterly

“Thorough and engaging.”—Library Journal

“[A] fine new study.”—Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

“[A] masterpiece...Pettegree is a splendid storyteller.”—RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage

“…. [A] lively work.”—Christopher Hirst, The Independent

“Pettegree has written the perfect book for the bibliophile.”—Alistair Mabbott, The Herald (Glasgow)

"[H]istorians in many fields and of many regions will find [Pettegree's] suggestions valuable and well-founded. Like all great historical surveys, The Book in the Renaissance will provoke new rounds of questioning."—Adrian Johns, Journal of Modern History

“Its cornucopia of information is well managed and engagingly written up.”—Holly Kyte, The Sunday Telegraph ‘Seven’

Winner of the 2011 Phyllis Goodhart Gordon Book Prize, presented by the Renaissance Society of America

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2011 in the General category.
ISBN: 9780300110098
Publication Date: June 29, 2010
440 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
69 b/w illus.
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