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- KurzbeschreibungA 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.
- AutorAndrew Pettegree
- VerlagPenguin Putnam Inc
- FormatGebundene Ausgabe
- Seiten400 Seiten
- Gewicht640 g
- LeseprobeThis excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof
Copyright © 2015 Andrew Pettegree
A Small Town in Germany
Like many of history's most commanding personalities, Martin Luther was gregarious by nature. He was interested in people and loved to be in company. That was certainly a mercy, for in the second half of his life he was seldom alone. From the point in 1517 when he first registered on the consciousness of his fellow Germans, Luther was a controversial, divisive, charismatic, and inspiring figure; to some extent, he has remained so ever since. Those who came into his company seldom forgot the experience. Even in his early career the intense young monk attracted the interest of a number of influential figures who discerned in him a special talent. In later life, among his intimates, he inspired a passionate devotion. Thousands flocked to Wittenberg to hear him preach, or in the hope of attending his lectures. Those admitted to his circle of friends enjoyed the particular privilege of joining him at table, where Luther would relax and hold forth. This was Luther's especial domain. The day's labors past, he would sit with his friends and talk. Fueled by his wife's excellent beer, conversation would become general, discursive, and sometimes unbuttoned. Often one of the more eager of his dinner companions would make a record of his master's pronouncements; Luther, a university teacher for thirty years and used to being surrounded by note-takers, thought little of this.
Not all of what passed at table reads particularly well today. Luther was among friends and relaxed; he sometimes spoke to shock, and delighted in the outrageous. His jokes don't always amuse us. But the Table Talk is also full of profound, though unstructured, theological observations and acute perceptions of contemporary society.
It is curious that, in this great mass of words, Luther said so little about his own movement, the Reformation. Between 1517, when Luther first attracted public attention, and his death thirty years later, Luther and his followers reshaped their world. Western Christianity was split in two, as it turned out, permanently. Families, cities, and nation-states were forced to choose sides: whether to remain with the old church, or to follow Luther into schism and new patterns of worship and belief. All this Luther accepted with remarkable calm. His actions had been dictated by God: the path he had taken was shaped by a higher power. In that respect the remarkable life he had led was not of his own making, but the consequence of patient obedience to God's command.
So it is left to us, in our more secular age, to reflect on the magnitude of Luther's achievement
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