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Tag: book-history

The Most Dangerous Book in the World

On a cold morning in early autumn of 1536, in a small town on the outskirts of Brussels, William Tyndale was led from a tiny prison cell, then chained to a stake, strangled and burned. His crime? Daring to challenge the Catholic Church and his insistence on translating the Bible into English. Tyndale’s translation was […]

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From Farting to Fornication: Early print censorship

During the first half-century of printing in Europe (c. 1450–1500), there were few restrictions on the printing trade, either on who could start a print-shop or on what they chose to print. As new printers rushed to establish themselves and cash-in on this new technology, they sometimes sought protection in the form of privileges. The first […]

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Hera’s Milky Way & the Origins of the Multiverse

To the Egyptians, it was a reflection of the Nile; for the Babylonians, a giant serpent or length of rope. In Greek mythology, the infant Heracles was brought to suckle at the breast of a sleeping Hera, goddess of childbirth. Suddenly awake, she pushes the child away and her milk splashes against the sky. The […]

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Long-Haired Stars & the End of the World

For the best part of 2,000 years, the earth stood at the center of the universe. It did not move but was surrounded by a series of embedded transparent spheres. Each hollow sphere, for the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn and an outermost sphere or firmament of fixed stars, rotated around our […]

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Underground World & the man who (thought he) knew everything

Often described as the man who knew everything, Athanasius Kircher (1602–80) was a German Jesuit polymath of international renown during his own lifetime. He was a prolific author with an astoundingly broad range of interests, writing about everything, from geology and geography to sinology and egyptology, biology, medicine, engineering, theology, anthropology, music theory and linguistics.

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Meditations on Snowflakes

Born in December 1571 in southwest Germany, Johannes Kepler would go on to become one of the greatest observational astronomers of all time. He would also write books that forever transformed our view of the cosmos. He is best known for his three laws of planetary motion that describe the motion of planets around the […]

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Pomp, Type & Circumstance

Within several decades of its invention in Europe, the printed book was already outselling handwritten or manuscript books. A very conservative estimate would be that 12 million books were produced from the publication of Gutenberg and Fust’s first printed Bible in about 1455 until the end of 1500. In those first decades, printing was an […]

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The first fashion books, Renaissance pixel fonts & the invention of graph paper

Fashion is a global, multi-billion dollar industry. From haute couture to five-dollar tees, it is inescapable — at least for those of us who wear clothes, that is. It is supported and promoted by vast publishing enterprises of glossy magazines and books and million-dollar advertising budgets. And although, arguably, we might say that fashion got […]

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Renaissance memes & the chemical pleasure garden

Enigmatic Emblem Books were one of the best-selling literary genres of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Learn who invented them and why they were so popular.

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The Pope’s Romance

Even prior to the completion of Gutenberg’s landmark Bible in about 1454, the print-run of 180 copies was already sold out. We know this because it was recorded in letters between Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini (1405–1464) and his friend, the Spanish cardinal Juan de Carvajal. In an often quoted passage, De Carvajal writes to Aeneas in […]

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