Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Brand Luther: Marketing the Reformation

For years the newfangled printing press was only utilized by the church, for the church. Small local publishers turned out books in Latin that had little in common with what we expect in a book today, like consistent and grammatically correct word breaks. 

The development of the book as we know it was due to Lucas Cranach who created title pages with decorative elements,with the author's name prominently displayed. And he developed this format for his friend, Martin Luther, best-selling writer of the early 1500s.

Andrew Pettegree's title tells the whole story: Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe--and Started the Protestant Reformation. The book tells the stories of a monk turned best-selling author, a one-customer book industry that found an explosive new market, and how a small town became a boom town.

I learned in my Reformation History course that Luther was a Cultural Icon, a mass-media guru who used the latest technology--and gasp, even wrote in the vernacular so non-clerics could read theology and the Bible! 

In 1513 when Luther arrived in Wittenberg he though it was a small. ugly village on the edge of civilization. Even the rival of Luther's Patron remarked, "That a single monk, out of such a hole, could undertake a Reformation, is not to be tolerated." The university printing press was the only operation in town, and its printer slow and his book inelegant. By 1543 there were six shops turning out about 90 books a year. Luther single-handedly changed the book business. How the printing industry and the Reformation were intertwined is at the heart of this book

Pettegree has a readable style and his presentation of the history and theology was not difficult to follow. Although not a biography of Luther, or a study in Reformation history, the reader will learn a great deal about both. 

Included in the book are illustrations, including the books discussed, and portraits of Luther by Cranach.
1541 Bible translated by Martin Luther, design by Lucas Cranach

I received a free ebook from the publisher in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Brand Luther: How an Unheralded Monk Turned His Small Town into a Center of Publishing, Made Himself the Most Famous Man in Europe--and Started the Protestant Reformation 
Andrew Pettegree
Penguin Press
Publication Date October 27, 2015
ISBN:9781594204968
$29.95 hard cover
400 pages