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(From my Goodreads review - Audible note below)
This was a great read as a companion to Roland Bainton's classic Luther biography. The author is a British historian and specialist in the history of printing. In "Brand Luther," his particular lens on the subject is that of an informed observer of the phenomenon of the printing revolution launched by the Reformation, singularly Luther. His stance is dispassionate and his scope limited. . .almost. The narrative "Brand Luther" ranges widely over the Reformation's causes and effects, theological struggles and personalities, focusing on Luther as hero (though not in a partisan way). This is a boon for readers! Luther is so big the author can't help but betray admiration, which makes for good storytelling. Still, Pettegree is a pro, so the reader will see Luther critiqued as well as admired, the Catholic church not painted as villain, and Luther's friends and foes portrayed in dramatic relief against the background of 16th century Germany. Looming in that background--that which the book seeks to lift into the spotlight--is the nascent printing industry.
As a graduate of a Reformed seminary, I had little awareness of several facets of Luther's business-savvy personality and relationships with local (Wittenberg) printers, especially Rhau-Grunenberg. Luther had high standards of professionalism and an innate sense of timing his publications for greatest impact on either his academic interlocutors or his popular audience. For many of Luther's writings, Rhau-Grunenberg was Luther's only option. To see how he handled this situation, its impact on his management of the Reformation and the way he responded to persons--variously, with Christlike humility and/or business coolness--is to view a stunning portrait of Luther the human, a picture that reveals previously hidden virtues and flaws. There are galleries of such Luther portraits here.
Reasonably informed readers will find "Brand Luther" to be of value beyond its claim of a narrow scope and specialized historical investigation. I rated the book 5 stars for both its informative impact and its narrative interest. Luther scholars may have more to say. As for me, I highly recommend this book to any student of Luther or the Reformation.
NOTE FOR AUDIBLE READERS: I could have rated the narration higher. Paul Hecht has great pipes, and he handles all the German names and places with accuracy and skill. The one thing lacking, for me, is getting away from a "narrated" read to simply telling the story with emotive awareness and sensitivity to line and narrative arc. Still VERY listenable!
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
My download and the online version was missing the last chapter, "Legacies".
Otherwise an intriguing book, though I would have preferred it to follow a timeline more faithfully
1 of 1 people found this review helpful