BTB #185: Report on the Book Business: 1450

The Book in The RenaissanceAndrew PettegreeIt is the dawn of a new age in publishing, and there is no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to business. How do you market books? How do you make money as a publisher or author? What do you do if someone pirates your work? Great questions for 2010 and for 1450. Yes, that’s right – for the 15th century, and the very dawn of the printing age.

One of the leading experts on Europe during the Reformation, Prof. Andrew Pettegree, teaches at St Andrews University in Scotland, where he is director of the Universal Short Title Catalogue Project. He spoke with Beyond the Book’s Chris Kenneally about his latest work, “The Book in The Renaissance” (Yale). “The sort of books that had been particularly popular in the manuscript age were soon produced in far too great numbers. The market was glutted, and the first printers, generally speaking, went out of business. It’s at that point that business pragmatism has to take over.”

Robert Pinksy praised “The Book in the Renaissance” highly in a recent New York Times review. “[Pettegree] refrains from explicitly comparing the technology of print, and its historical impact, with the technology of the Internet. Implicit similarities include issues of intellectual property and privacy, of power, of libel, as well as a general challenge to old modes — the proliferation of personal expression, the contentiousness, the question of how to capitalize, and capitalize upon, a new medium. This scholarly restraint, leaving his readers to compare and contrast.”

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