The Book in the Renaissance by Andrew Pettegree
(Yale University Press, 2010, 440 pages)
In the age of the Renaissance, the book, or codex, was in the process of changing from a painstakingly hand-produced artifact to one of mass production. In The Book in the Renaissance, Andrew Pettegree charts the complexities of this gradual change. It is an extremely readable and interesting history of books – and those who manufactured, sold, and collected them – in an age where both ideas and technology were in rapid flux.
Pettegree offers helpful perspective on the hurried pace of technological change. Continual advances in technology are disorienting to virtually everyone in our culture, and those changes can result in a real sense of instability. What Pettegree does, among other things, is help to show that “normal” print media went through a similar process of upheaval. Even though the process of change was much slower in generations past, it took a lot of development for the codex to become the “normal” mode of distributing written material. Even more upheaval was required to make the printed codex the norm.
This will be a welcome read to those interested in books as physical products, as well as to those with a broader interest in the history of technological development. In fact, for those who simply enjoy the period of the Renaissance, reading an accessible treatment of a narrower topic like this one can give a greater appreciation for what daily life and culture looked like in that period.