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kottke.org posts about Gutenberg

Best of Kottke - Kottke reads The Bible

posted by Tim Carmody   Aug 11, 2010

Let’s start with Gutenberg again. In 2008, Jason blogged about Stephen Fry’s brilliant documentary The Machine That Made Us, about Gutenberg’s career and his experiments with print. Fry even assembles a team to build a replica. The YouTube clips Jason embedded are gone, but you can still catch a short clip at the BBC. (I think Brits can still catch the whole thing on iPlayer, lucky bastards you are.)

If Gutenberg is too newfangled for you, there’s also the St John’s Bible, a hand-lettered illuminated manuscript that will set you back a cool $145,000 (and that’s 2009 dollars.) A few months earlier, Jason assembled a catalog of some unusual Bibles, including copies in Manga and Lego.

If you actually want to read the Bible, there’s the conveniently titled How to Read the Bible, by Hebrew Studies professor James Kugel, an Orthodox Jew who nonetheless dismantles most of claims of events in the Bible to be historical fact. Or if you think fresh eyes can have something more to offer than expertise, there’s Blogging the Bible, by David Plotz, who writes about each book of the Old Testament having never read the book before. And if you want to close your eyes for the scary parts, here is a list of the Bible’s greatest massacres.

If you don’t actually want to read the Bible, at least as it is, you’re in good company. Steven Johnson’s Invention of Air includes a look at Thomas Jefferson, who famously crossed out references to miracles. The translators who wrote the King James Bible just made up unicorns, all on their own. And no, the Bible Code doesn’t work either. It’s just statistical noise.

Finally, are you into data visualization? Forget those boring “beget”s, artifact of that silly oral tradition. Have we got a family tree for you!

Short history of print in two pictures

posted by Tim Carmody   Aug 11, 2010

This is what Gutenberg’s hand-powered printing press probably looked like:

Gutenberg Replica

And this is what a steam-driven rotary printing press looked like in 1851:

Rotary Press

And that’s before we get to wide use of electricity, before wood-pulp paper, before linotype machines, before offset printing for images, before typewriters and paperbacks, before almost everything.

This is why it bothers me when people say things like “the book is stalled out, in terms of technology, at 1500 AD.” You just have no idea what you’re talking about.

See also Matthew Battles, “shut up about gutenberg already.”

Images via the Museum of Idaho and Scientific American. (The second picture is of SciAm’s press in the 19th century.)