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 Info

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A revolutionary look at Martin Luther, the Reformation,
and the birth of publishing, on the eve of the Reformation’s 500th
anniversary

 
When Martin Luther posted his
“theses” on the door of the Wittenberg church in 1517,
protesting corrupt practices, he was virtually unknown. Within months,
his ideas spread across Germany, then all of Europe; within years, their
author was not just famous, but infamous, responsible for catalyzing
the violent wave of religious reform that would come to be known as the
Protestant Reformation and engulfing Europe in decades of bloody
war.
 
Luther came of age with the printing press, and the
path to glory of neither one was obvious to the casual observer of the
time. Printing was, and is, a risky business—the questions were
how to know how much to print and how to get there before the
competition. Pettegree illustrates Luther's great gifts not simply as a
theologian, but as a communicator, indeed, as the world's first
mass-media figure, its first brand. He recognized in printing the
power of pamphlets, written in the colloquial German of everyday
people, to win the battle of ideas.
 
But that wasn't
enough—not just words, but the medium itself was the message.
Fatefully, Luther had a partner in the form of artist and businessman
Lucas Cranach, who together with Wittenberg’s printers created the
distinctive look of Luther's pamphlets. Together, Luther and Cranach
created a product that spread like wildfire—it was both incredibly
successful and widely imitated. Soon Germany was overwhelmed by a
blizzard of pamphlets, with Wittenberg at its heart; the Reformation
itself would blaze on for more than a hundred years.
 

Publishing in advance of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary,
Brand Luther fuses the history of religion, of printing, and of
capitalism—the literal marketplace of ideas—into one
enthralling story, revolutionizing our understanding of one of the
pivotal figures and eras in human history.


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