The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man. Marshall McLuhan. University of Toronto Press.

The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man Book Cover The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man
Marshall McLuhan
University of Toronto Press

Marshall McLuhan is widely known for his unusually stimulating explorations in communication, particularly as affected by the contributions of technology through the ages. In this book he gives many more of his original and fascinating insights in a style that glitters like a galaxy itself and has all the mesmeric effect of the Ancient Mariner. Here are his own words about this unusual book which will arouse, it can be confidently predicted, great discussion and controversy.

The Gutenberg Galaxy is concerned with that association of cultural and political events which, from the origins of phonetic literacy to the development of typography, have shaped the Western individual and society. The translation of tribal man into his Western form is shown to have occurred by the agency of phonetic literacy alone.

“One theme of this book, therefore, is the contemporary transformation of the East into individual forms even while the West is being reconfigured into collective forms by the magic of electro-magnetic waves. Literacy, in translating man out of the closed world of tribal depth and resonance, gave man an eye for an ear and ushered him into a visual open world of specialized and divided consciousness. The individual versus the state, thought versus feeling, art versus commerce, and science versus humanism are the most familiar of the schizoidal states which we recognize as the inevitable legacy of literacy in any culture or in any period of history.

“With Gutenberg the alphabet and detribalized man entered an intense phase of dissociating and homogenizing that turned the vernacular tongues of Europe into mass media. The forms of national consciousness began to emerge with the pressures of typographic uniformity and mass production. The new image of quantification and uniformity, via the models of movable type, created at once the modern nationalist states in the mechanical physics that are now dissolving under the new electronic stress.

The Gutenberg Galaxy explores for the first time the relations between the new Typographic Image and the rise of the collective unconscious. From Rabelais and Cervantes and Shakespeare come the decisive responses to the psychic manifestations of topography. But Montaigne and Descartes and Alexander Pope are shown to have intervened with sure perception in the making of typographic man.

“With the application of the typographic lineal image to the organization of industry and markets in warfare the picture of industrial man is completed, and the Gutenberg Galaxy concludes with ‘the Galaxy reconfigured’ by the advent of electronic man.”

This book will appeal to all those who sense they are living on frontiers. In the electronic age the Western world is likely to see a complete change of all the characteristics accruing from the technology of literacy. Professor McLuhan has provided a lively challenge to the imagination of those who recognize the need to know what lies just ahead, whether in the arts or in the sciences.

Marshall McLuhan is an Honours graduate in English and Philosophy from the University of Manitoba, where he also received his M.A. in English. He went on to take a B.A. degree at Cambridge University, and then a Ph.D. He has taught at the University of Wisconsin, the University of St. Louis, Assumption University, and the University of Toronto; he has been a professor of English in St. Michael’s College of the latter university since 1950. A noted authority on communications, Professor McLuhan was Director of the “Understanding Media” project for the United States Office of Education, 1959-1960. He was co-editor of the influential Explorations magazine from 1954 to 1959, and his book-length publications include The Mechanical Bride (1951) and (with E. S. Carpenter) Explorations in Communication (1960).