- Gutenberg and the Impact of Printing
In this short, generously illustrated book, Stephan Füssel draws on his expertise in the history of early printing and early modern German literature. Opening with a focus on Gutenberg and his work, the book continues with chapters on the spread of printing, its relationship with humanism, the development of printing in the vernacular, popular news sheets, and the Reformation.
While some of the chapters (such as that on the spread of printing) offer general summaries of developments, others enlarge on areas of Füssel's particular interests, such as the popular publications of Emperor Maximilian I. The book is loosely organized and does not advance a new thesis; rather, it offers extended commentary and vignettes illustrating how the new technology affected various fields. The color illustrations offer valuable opportunities to observe the features and changes discussed in the text.
The intended audience for this work is not always clear. At times the basic background material (on humanism, for example) might be aimed at general readers, but much of the book assumes specialist knowledge. The level of technical detail is quite high, for instance in the comparison of typefaces and other physical characteristics of early printed works. In some sections the minutiae could use more framing from the author for readers who have not made a hobby of incunabula. Scholarly readers will wish for a more coherent overall plan, though they may find nuggets of interest to enjoy in the text and illustrations. For in-depth study, however, they will likely turn to other works, such as Füssel's own scholarly editions or more comprehensive works on the history of the book.
Surprisingly, given the expense of publishing the many full-color reproductions, basic editing has received little attention. Typographical errors are too common, and a good editor could have helped with framing, transitions, consistency, and style. This is a pity for an otherwise attractively produced book.