Brain Pickings Icon
Brain Pickings

The Machine That Made Us: Stephen Fry and the BBC Explore Gutenberg’s Legacy

A hands-on history of the most important milestone of technology since the invention of the wheel.

Last week’s piece on how Gutenberg’s printing press embodies combinatorial creativity prompted reader Jim Hughes, who writes the fantastic Codex 99, to point me to the BBC documentary The Machine That Made Us presented by none other than Stephen Fry.

To better understand the genius and his creation — which he calls “the most revolutionary advance in technology since the invention of the wheel” — Fry traces Gutenberg’s footsteps and sets out to build a Medieval printing press from scratch, acquainting himself — awkwardly, amusingly, illuminatingly — with the tools and technologies of the 15th century. Enjoy:

We’re so used to living with printed matter every day of our lives — from the cereal package in the morning to the book at bedtime — that it might perhaps be rather hard to imagine what the world was like before printing.

For more on the history and legacy of Gutenberg’s press, see John Man’s rigorously researched and utterly absorbing Gutenberg: How One Man Remade the World With Words.

Published November 8, 2012




Filed Under

View Full Site

Brain Pickings participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn commissions by linking to Amazon. In more human terms, this means that whenever you buy a book on Amazon from a link on here, I get a small percentage of its price. That helps support Brain Pickings by offsetting a fraction of what it takes to maintain the site, and is very much appreciated