London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962. First edition. Tall octavo, original red cloth, original dust jacket. Book is nearly-fine, short open tear to back panel of near-fine dust jacket. An excellent copy. Item #401
"PRINT HAD THE EFFECT OF PURIFYING LATIN OUT OF EXISTENCE" First British edition of Marshall McLuhan's kaleidoscopic commentary on the “global village” created by "the electronic age," published in the same year as the first Canadian edition. The Gutenberg Galaxy made McLuhan a star in media and communication theory and set the stage for his most widely known work, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964). But for all the controversy and notoriety he generated with his challenging assertions and declarations it is interesting to note that McLuhan was a convert to Catholicism and it is often forgotten that all his work was conducted as a professor of English literature. “McLuhan was received into the Catholic church in 1937—to some considerable degree influenced by his reading of G. K. Chesterton—and remained steadfastly faithful for the rest of his life. He taught only at Catholic institutions, moving from St. Louis University to Assumption College in Windsor, Ontario, to St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. He received the Eucharist almost daily, lamented the ignorance and apathy of the average Catholic layperson, and wished that priests more strongly emphasized doctrine and preached the dangers of Hell.” (Alan Jacobs, The New Atlantis).
The book opens with a brief note, placed opposite the Prologue, mentioning a "mosaic approach" to tracing the transformative effects of technology on human culture. The reader is then invited to read the epilogue (The Galaxy Reconfigured) before the prologue. The book consists of the following components: Prologue, The Gutenberg Galaxy, The Galaxy Reconfigured, Bibliographic Index, Index of Chapter Glosses. The 107 short sections, punctuated with unconventional glosses in bold type, reinforce the prophetic, abstract nature of the book and have led many to situate McLuhan firmly within the Modernist impulse. "Much of what McLuhan wrote came an instant too soon, and perhaps that’s the best reason to read him, infuriating and confusing though that experience may be. To read McLuhan is to gain at least an inkling of what it might be like to look around the next corner of history. Perhaps the best way to think of McLuhan is as a belated Modernist: born a generation or so later than Eliot, Pound, and Joyce, and working in a different intellectual medium than they worked in, but one with them in interest and ambition. The Gutenberg Galaxy is as much a document of magisterial Modernism as Ulysses, the Cantos, or The Waste Land." (Alan Jacobs, The New Atlantis).