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 (2015) 400 pages $20.00 https://www.amazon.com/Brand-Luther-Unheralded-Europe-Reformation/dp/1594204969
The original subtitle of this book was much shorter: Brand Luther: 1517, Printing, and the Making of the Reformation
Luther and his Reformation depended upon the printing press and the printing industry to succeed.
It’s hard for us to imagine a world without the printing press but the printing press, with moveable type, was invented only a generation before Martin Luther was born. It’s also hard to imagine reform taking place within the long established Catholic Church before the printing press was invented.
When the Catholic Church decided to do something about Luther and his reform movement, the Church did what it had always done in such cases. Meaning it failed to appreciate and to counter the new information technology Luther was exploiting: printing.
Luther outprinted and outpublished his opponents. He buried them in pamphlets, which were cheap for printers to produce and brought nice profits to the printers.
Luther’s Catholic opponents found printers reluctant to publish their works, because the printers knew they weren’t going to be able to sell many copies of them.
As the author tells us:
Luther’s works outstrip those of any other author by a factor of ten; he outpublished the most successful of his Catholic opponents by a factor of thirty. (p.213)
One of the most important tactics Luther used was that, while his opponents were expecting formal discourses written in Latin, Luther went directly to the people by writing in German. This was key to the success of the Reformation.
Luther’s movement quickly led to increased schooling and literacy for boys and girls throughout Germany. And, as the author of this book points out (see 259-266) Luther should be given credit for promoting the education of young girls.
In short, this is a well researched, well written, and interesting book. It’s an important read for anyone interested in the Protestant Reformation.