The Gutenberg Galaxy

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Press:Signet Signet (January 1, 1969)
Publication Date:1969-12-1
Author Name:Marshall McLuhan


Since its first appearance in 1962, the impact of The Gutenberg Galaxy has been felt around the world. 
It gave us the concept of the global village; that phrase has now been translated, along with the rest of the book, into twelve languages, from Japanese to Serbo-Croat.
It helped establish Marshall McLuhan as the original 'media guru.' More than 200,000 copies are in print.
The reissue of this landmark book reflects the continuing importance of McLuhan's work for contemporary readers.

About the Author

Marshall McLuhan (1911 - 1980) was a literature scholar and the founder of the Centre for Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto. 

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Comment List (Total:15)

  •     The Gutenberg Galaxy, McLuhan's second book, is one of his best, but the reader should be forewarned that it is also one of his most difficult to read and does not make a good introduction for the beginner. One of the reasons for this difficulty is that it is written in mosaic style, in which McLuhan -- like Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project -- creates a text that is largely composed of quotations from mostly obscure authors stitched together with his own commentaries in between. These quotations are from works written in classical academic style, and none of them are easy reading. They require concentration and the book itself takes time to read carefully.The book is a cultural archaeology of the effects of the rise of print upon Western society in the period between 1450 - 1850. It is concerned with analyzing the new kinds of social and cultural structures which typography brought into being, such as nationalism, the concept of individuality, the idea of authorship and intellectual private property, new genres such as the literary essay and the novel. The rise of the printing press, McLuhan points out, was coincident with the rise of the mastery of depth perspective in Renaissance painting, and this is not an accident, for both the new Euclidean space conception and typography had in common an emphasis upon the organization of the world around the eye favored as a sense organ at the detriment and exlusion of all the other senses. During the manuscript culture of the Middle Ages, the senses were still synesthetically woven together like a tapestry, and no single one of them was favored to quite the degree of exclusion which the favoring of vision brought about in the Renaissance. Illuminated manuscripts, according to McLuhan, have a textural feel to them that still relies heavily on the sense of touch, and Medieval art, with its disproportionate sense of space in which one character -- such as Christ -- will be represented as larger than everyone else primarily due to the emphasis upon his spiritual importance rather than his inclusion as one individual among many occupying the same field of homogeneous space, is similarly haptic. Gothic lettering, he points out, is hard on the eye and difficult to read because it is tactile and still appeals to the sense of touch. Roman lettering, together with Arabic numerals, was favored by print, and this had the effect of streamlining the ability to read such that silent reading became common. Printers began to do new things like number the pages, create indices and Tables of Contents, and this had the effect of emphasizing authorship since it now became possible to track citations properly. Typography, McLuhan never tires of pointing out, favors the eye at the expense of all the other senses, and it tends to favor an abstract view of space as a container within which objects are placed in an arrangement that takes all spatial relations into account.All of this began to change in the nineteenth century with the rise of electric technology and the favoring of discontinuities brought about by the telegraph and the newspaper. This kind of syncopated feeling for space, in which each object begins to occupy its own space no longer held in relation to other objects, began to erode and change the old typographic world of the Gutenberg Galaxy. Electric culture, which McLuhan does not discuss much in this book, favors tribalism, spatial discontinuity, erosion of individuality and the rise of corporatism, decentralization and so on.This book should be read together with Understanding Media, for the latter volume picks up where The Gutenberg Galaxy leaves off, at the threshold of the Electric Society.It is a masterpiece of scholarship by one of the greatest intellects America has ever produced, an intellect that easily puts the French po-mo philosophers in the shade. You will get more useful ideas out of any one of McLuhan's books than you would out of a whole crate of books by postmodern French philosophers.SEE ALSO MY YOUTUBE VIDEO "MARSHALL MCLUHAN CULTURE WITHOUT LITERACY DISCUSSION BY JOHN DAVID EBERT"--John David Ebert, author of "The New Media Invasion: Digital Technologies and the World They Unmake" (McFarland Books, 2011)
  •     Although not an easy reading due to its peculiar topic organization, it is still worth the effort and by the way, I do not think it to be beyond the normal person's...
  •     It was a read
  •     It was very useful to study pictures that speak in my university.
  •     Other Amazon readers have commented that this is McLuhan's most accessible early work, and one called it a ' pre-quel' to 'Understanding Media' the work he is best known for. I remember reading this work with a mixture of amazement and bafflement, with a sense that something truly significant was being said without my being sure that I got it. The literary critic McLuhan as cultural critic was making all kinds of connections, and using all kinds of sources I knew nothing about. The whole business of the era of print, being the era of the eye of the spectator and passive audience, and the previous era being one of the ear did really go down well with me. The implication that the activity I most loved, reading. was in some sense about to be put in a lesser place by the new electronic communication did not please me at all. For as I understood it,and in a way still understand it ' reading' is the activity which really requires creative participation if it is to be done right, and the ' electronic watching television' requires much , much less.But despite my objection I understood that McLuhan was saying startling new( for me anyway) things in a brilliant way. He was connecting fields of endeavor exhibiting a kind of thinking, I could only admire. I might not understand the epigrammatic flashes he scatters throughout the work but I had a sense of them being deep and profound. In another sense it was clear to me McLuhan was the cultural critic who himself is a remarkable kind of creator.Now it is over forty years since this book was published and we live in an Internet era in which the degree of participation of individuals in producing material for a wider public is far greater than before. This small review is evidence of that for it can conceivably reach any of millions of Amazon readers. In the past I could write such a review for myself and put it in the drawer. Or try to get it into a magazine where it might be read by a few hundred or maximum a few thousand before being forgotten about.Yet just as it is possible to have great reservations about what has and what is going to happen to the overall intellectual development of Mankind( thanks to the Internet) so it is possible to have reservations for the electronic age global community which produces hate- literature and pornography in vast quantities ( not to speak of millions and millions of mediocre pages which no one should be asked to read )This book does not as I understand it hold the key to the Age we live in, or to the human future. But it is chucked full of wonderful insights suppositions suggestions connections that the reader can be illuminated and inspired by.
  •     If you haven't read McLuhan, you haven't lived.
  •     To understand where we are going as a culture, read McLuhan
  •     As advertised
  •     This book exceeds my expectations. Based on how much I have underlined, there is not a page that isn't marked up with wonderful quotes and intellectual insights.
  •     I always love McLuhan!
  •     The Gutenberg Galaxy is a great book. This book is the vision of a man who realized that information systems will establish absolute control over society.
  •     To understand the present you have know history. The Gutenberg Galaxy describes what happened to us as humans and to our social organization when writing and the printed word...
  •     For those interested in the impact "media" has had on the evolution of societal and individual perception and thought, this scholarly book is a must read.
  •     tremendous product and good customer service support.
  •     This book expands on the views of McLuhan's teacher Harold Innis, who distingusihed oral and written cultures. The book argues that oral cultures are synaesthetic and work with synthetic logic, while cultures of writing push the mind toward singulation of senses, logic and 'perspective'.McLuhan 'glosses' through a wide range of scattered historical pieces of information to show how oral, written and print cultures have different patterns. He ably shows how printing also transformed art, architecture, society and industry.The book is thoroughly historical, dense and rich in informative detail. It forms the foundation for McLuhan's clearer theoretical articulation of his ideas in 'Understanding Media', but is more accessible to the layman.This book belongs to a pantheon of books that revolve around similar ideas like Harold Innis's 'Empire and Communications' & 'The Bias of Communication'; Walter J. Ong's 'Orality and Literacy' and William J. Ivins's 'Print and Visual Culture' and 'Art and Geometry'. But this is the most sweeping, convincing, dramatic statement of the common theory proposed by these various writers.And for those who love theory with a dose of history, this makes for really delightful reading.

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