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About the book
  • Published: 3 January 2017
  • ISBN: 9780399563232
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $32.99
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Brand Luther


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Publishing in advance of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, Brand Luther fuses the history of religion, of printing, and of capitalism—the literal marketplace of ideas—into one enthralling story, revolutionizing our understanding of one of the pivotal figures and eras in human history.

When Martin Luther posted his “theses” on the door of the Wittenberg church in 1517, protesting corrupt practices, he was virtually unknown. Within months, his ideas spread across Germany, then all of Europe; within years, their author was not just famous, but infamous, responsible for catalyzing the violent wave of religious reform that would come to be known as the Protestant Reformation and engulfing Europe in decades of bloody war.

Luther came of age with the printing press, and the path to glory of neither one was obvious to the casual observer of the time. Printing was, and is, a risky business—the questions were how to know how much to print and how to get there before the competition. Pettegree illustrates Luther’s great gifts not simply as a theologian, but as a communicator, indeed, as the world’s first mass-media figure, its first brand. He recognized in printing the power of pamphlets, written in the colloquial German of everyday people, to win the battle of ideas.

But that wasn’t enough—not just words, but the medium itself was the message. Fatefully, Luther had a partner in the form of artist and businessman Lucas Cranach, who together with Wittenberg’s printers created the distinctive look of Luther’s pamphlets. Together, Luther and Cranach created a product that spread like wildfire—it was both incredibly successful and widely imitated. Soon Germany was overwhelmed by a blizzard of pamphlets, with Wittenberg at its heart; the Reformation itself would blaze on for more than a hundred years.

Publishing in advance of the Reformation’s 500th anniversary, Brand Luther fuses the history of religion, of printing, and of capitalism—the literal marketplace of ideas—into one enthralling story, revolutionizing our understanding of one of the pivotal figures and eras in human history.

  • Pub date: 3 January 2017
  • ISBN: 9780399563232
  • Imprint: Penguin Classics
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • RRP: $32.99

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Praise for Brand Luther

“A perceptive study of Luther’s ideas and the rise of a new print culture in Europe . . . some regard [Luther] as the man who opened the floodgates of modernity, as a very modern man . . Mr. Pettegree does not attempt an explicit comparison, but the name that comes to mind is Steve Jobs, a person who transformed an industry and created his own brand in doing so”

The Wall Street Journal

“Insightful and fresh . . . an important story told with careful scholarship and elegant writing”

National Catholic Reporter

“There is very little serious academic work that explicitly explores the role of printing in the rise of Protestantism. Brand Luther fills that gap. It is an insightful and highly scholarly book but it’s very readable at the same time. It is a well-researched book that provides deep analysis of the rise of Protestantism. It should be on university curriculums for history. It is a must-read for everyone interested in the history of Europe and religion. Pettegree’s scholarship is unmatched in its insight, scholarly value, and authority”

The Washington Book Review

“A remarkable story, thoroughly researched and clearly told, and one sure to change the way we think about the early Reformation”

Washington Post

“Pettegree expertly guides us through Luther’s years and achievements . . . Most of all, though, Pettegree deserves credit for his fresh slant on the Reformation and his dynamic storytelling . . . And as this absorbing and illuminating book capably shows, after Luther, print and public communication—and indeed, religion—would never be the same again.”

Weekly Standard


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