The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man
This book expands on the views of McLuhan’s teacher Harold Innis, who distinguished oral and written cultures. The book argues that oral cultures are synaesthetic and work with synthetic logic, while cultures of writing push the mind toward singulation of senses, logic and ‘perspective’. McLuhan ‘glosses’ through a wide range of scattered historical pieces of information to show how oral, written and print cultures have different patterns. He ably shows how printing also transformed art, architecture, society and industry.
The book is thoroughly historical, dense and rich in informative detail. It forms the foundation for McLuhan’s clearer theoretical articulation of his ideas in ‘Understanding Media’, but is more accessible to the layman. This book belongs to a pantheon of books that revolve around similar ideas like Harold Innis’s ‘Empire and Communications’ & ‘The Bias of Communication’; Walter J. Ong’s ‘Orality and Literacy’ and William J. Ivins’s ‘Print and Visual Culture’ and ‘Art and Geometry’. But this is the most sweeping, convincing, dramatic statement of the common theory proposed by these various writers.
And for those who love theory with a dose of history, this makes for really delightful reading.