The Justification of Johann Gutenberg: A Novel

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9780066210889: The Justification of Johann Gutenberg: A Novel

He has been called the most influential man of the last millennium, he launched a communications revolution, and he changed the written word for ever. This is his tale, and the story behind his heretical invention.

Reading between the lines of history, Blake Morrison has woven a stunning novel around the few facts known about the life and work of Johann Gensfleisch, aka Gutenberg, master printer, charmer, con man and visionary -- the man who invented "artificial writing" and printed the "Gutenberg" Bible, putting thousands of monks out of work.

In a first novel that is both dazzling in its artistry and pure enchantment for the reader, Morrison gives Gutenberg's final testament: a justification and apologia dictated, ironically enough, to the kind of pretty young scribes whom his invention of movable metal type made redundant. Through the eyes of the ageing narrator, the Middle Ages are seen in a strange and vivid new light. The Plague, craft guilds, religious wars, chivalric love, sexual politics, scientific invention, the rise of capitalism -- all are here, but the human dramas they give rise to seem anything but "historical" or remote. What Morrison captures is a moment of cultural transition as dramatic and immediate as the communications revolution of today.

But, above all, there is the exasperating, endearing and finally haunting figure of Gutenberg himself a man who gambled everything -- money, honour, friendship and a woman's love -- on the greatest invention of the last millennium.

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From the Inside Flap:

In a first novel that is both dazzling in its artistry and pure enchantment for the reader, Blake Morrison has woven a stunning narrative around the few facts that are known about the life and work of Johann Gensfleisch of Gutenberg.

Morrison gives us Gutenberg's testament - his justification and apologia - dictated, ironically enough, to the kind of young scribe whom his invention of movable metal type made redundant. Through the aging narrator, Morrison conjures up the noisy, colourful, plague-ridden fifteenth-century rival cities of Mainz and Strasbourg, and takes us beyond into the flourishing cities of Europe. Here are rich burghers and their lusty daughters, wily apprentices, suspicious abbots, careless scribes and, of course, the early printing presses, trays, blocks, and inks. With subtle brushstrokes he paints religious wars and civic politics, trade guilds and the Church. Above all, there is the exasperating, endearing and finally haunting figure of Gutenberg: a man who gambled everything on the greatest invention of the last millennium, and lost.

From the Inside Flap:

Around 1400, in the city of Mainz, a man was born whose heretical invention was to change history. Some sixty years later he died ? robbed of his business, his printing presses, and, so he thought, his immortality.

In his dazzling first novel, Morrison gives us Gutenberg?s ?testament? ? his justification, dictated to one of the young scribes his invention will soon put out of work. Thus Morrison conjures up the haunting figure of Gutenberg himself: a man who gambled everything ? money, honour, friendship and a woman?s love ? on the greatest invention of the last millennium.

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