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The Justification Of Johann Gutenberg Paperback – 6 Sep 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (6 Sept. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099285290
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099285298
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.7 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,148,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

The Justification of Johann Gutenberg, Blake Morrison's first novel, a historical novel about the man who invented printing from metal type and thereby revolutionised the culture of the book in Christian Europe. His published output has been nothing if not varied: among his works are several volumes of poetry, the acclaimed memoir And When Did You Last See Your Father? and As If, a study of the Bulger case.

Born 600 years ago, Gutenberg here is portrayed as an old man looking back on the personal failures and scant professional successes of a life driven by the dream of a radical and democratising invention: the printing press. "What I fear is that death will rub out what I have done, till not a trace of me is left upon the earth." The irony of this early admission is obvious, for print is exactly what remains of him, but the deeper force of the book is marked by the need to "justify"--to himself, to posterity, to God. Morrison's Gutenberg is, in some ways, a recognisable modern figure: his difficult relationships with his parents, his problematic liaisons with women, the sacrifice of amorous happiness to ambition, the struggles with financial hardship, the scandalous aura imputed to homosociality. These are very much the concerns of modern biography, here recast into historical fictional narrative. Larger social and cultural forces are dutifully sketched by Morrison, but ultimately his interest is in the man who dreams of being a "volume in eternity" who will be "assembled in [God's] library". Fame was ever the spur, it seems. --Burhan Tufail --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

‘Compelling…A splendid first novel' -- Scotsman

‘Plenty of juicy medieval flavour…a compelling and though-provoking read’ -- Literary Review

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By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 5 Jan. 2003
Format: Paperback
With his clever title implying simultaneously Gutenberg's justification of his life as it nears its end, his judgment by posterity, and a typesetter's spacing of words so that both left and right margins are even, Morrison sets the tone for this fascinating story about Johann Gutenberg and his development of the first printing press. Probably the invention which was most responsible for the spread of knowledge from about 1460 till the development of the computer five hundred years later, the printing press was a far more clandestine and potentially subversive invention than one might imagine, and its creation was fraught with peril, financially, legally, and intellectually.
Beginning as the first-person recollections of Gutenberg as an old man in 1464, as he thinks about his end-of-life exile in Eltville, not far from Mainz, the novel establishes both Gutenberg's desire to be remembered and his loneliness. Life for the inventor of something as revolutionary as the printing press has not been easy. Always in debt, never able to repay his creditors, willing to sacrifice the woman he loves for his ambition, and at the mercy of both the guilds, who have a vested interest in having his invention fail, and the church, which fears the potential power of a secular press, Gutenberg's entire life has been a fight. Creditors constantly take him to court, and he often has to start over.
In clear, deceptively simple, and sometimes lyrical prose, Morrison recreates the physical, social, and intellectual environment in which Gutenberg and his acquaintances operate. Gutenberg's first person recollections are sometimes ingenuous, usually honest, occasionally apologetic, and always driven by his ambition "to help words fly as far as doves," by promoting the successful development of his press.
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By A Customer on 13 Nov. 2000
Format: Hardcover
The life and times of Johann Gutenberg, inventor of the printing press, as told by Blake Morrison, author of the highly successful memoir. And When Did You Last See Your Father? Morrison has chosen the perfect theme for his first novel, although as the author admits in his after-word, he has had to invent a large part of the story based on Gutenberg's sketchy biography. Born in the mid-fifteenth century in what is now called Germany, Morrison paints Gutenberg as a practical genius who overcame the technical difficulties of "artificial writing" through a combination of Teutonic single-mindedness, hard graft, and an ability to con money out of people. As is often the case, the con man ends up conned and this is the story of a man who was largely misunderstood and ill-treated in his own time. Now in his Autumn years, Gutenberg dictates the story of his life to a young scribe, recounting the stages that brought him to the realisation that words could be made and re-made repeatedly. Gutenberg's spark of an idea set words free, and in the process caused a fire that would destroy the intellectual inertia and resistance to change which characterised the Middle Ages, taking books out of the hands of the church and into the homes and minds of ordinary people. Morrison packs his book with historical and technical details and provides illuminating information about the social and personal relations that governed the age, but never loses sight of the most interesting thread of the story: the obsession of one man to see his idea realised, againts all the odds.
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Format: Paperback
The life of the man who revolutionised book production and arguably gave rise to The Renaissance - for without an easy means of spreading knowledge, how can science advance?
The book is written in the style of a man in his near-blind, bitter old age dictating to his young scribe, so it has that detached feel to it and a relatively stilted delivery. However, this is not unpleasing or intrusive, rather, it gives the book an appeal that it may have lacked if told in the third person as a story, rather than as a biography. It also enables him to speak his mind (as old men do), rationalising his youthful actions as 'justification' of the end result - the greatest invention since the wheel - and at the same time decrying those who wished to benefit unjustly from his industry.
Worst of all, he fears that the name of Gutenberg would be forgotten forever, with others claiming the work for themelves - we, as readers, know this is not the case and the old man can rest easy.
The bones of the book are true - there is some information on Gutenberg's life - but the bulk of the tale is necessarily invention by the author.
Nevertheless, that invention has the ring of truth - one can imagine these things influencing the mind of the young Gutenberg and spurring him to devise his later modifications to the printing process - specifically moveable type - that were to change the human world for ever, despite severe opposition from the church and others.
Perhaps the most outstanding point that comes across is the cost of books in those times; a Bible cost several year's wages - after all, that's the time a scribe took to write it - Gutenberg's invention reduced the cost radically and ensured consistent quality, no mistakes, an unlimited supply and, more to the point, affordability ... to the Church this was the very essence of hubris and heresy, if not devilry! Thank goodness their narrow minds did not prevail.
A very pleasant read.****.
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