An intimate narrative exploring the past, present, and future of books
Four seismic shifts have rocked human communication: the invention of writing, the alphabet, mechanical type and the printing press, and digitization. Poised over this fourth transition, e-reader in one hand, perfect-bound book in the other, Merilyn Simonds — author, literary maven, and early adopter — asks herself: what is lost and what is gained as paper turns to pixel?
Gutenberg’s Fingerprint trolls the past, present, and evolving future of the book in search of an answer. Part memoir and part philosophical and historical exploration, the book finds its muse in Hugh Barclay, who produces gorgeous books on a hand-operated antique letterpress. As Simonds works alongside this born-again Gutenberg, and with her son to develop a digital edition of the same book, her assumptions about reading, writing, the nature of creativity, and the value of imperfection are toppled.
Gutenberg’s Fingerprint is a timely and fascinating book that explores the myths, inventions, and consequences of the digital shift and how we read today.
Merilyn Simonds is the author of 16 books, including The Holding, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice; The Convict Lover, finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award; and most recently The Paradise Project, flash-fiction stories hand-printed on a hand-operated, antique press. She is founding artistic director of Kingston WritersFest and a past chair of the Writers’ Union of Canada. She teaches creative writing and mentors emerging writers around the world. She lives in Kingston, Ontario.
“In a mix of historical inquiry and technological experiment, Simonds (The Convict Lover) creatively grapples with the meaning of the paradigm shift that has transformed words pressed onto paper into digital pixels on screens . . . Simplicity of narration, curious facts, and the personal angle of the story will fascinate book lovers from beginning to end, no matter whether they are devoted to print or to digital, or move between the mediums.” — PublishersWeekly.com
“Gutenberg’s Fingerprint is well-timed and does for our books what Margaret Visser’s Much Depends on Dinner did for the food on our plates: Each ingredient is revealed in all its complicated glory, with sections on paper, type, ink, presses and finished books . . . Gutenberg’s Fingerprint is a love letter to an ancient craft – but it is also, and more importantly, a reminder that the briefest way to get your story out there might not be the truest.” — Globe and Mail
“Simonds wraps an on-the-scene report on choosing type, ink, paper, endpapers, and bindings around an entertaining history of book production and reading . . . a surprisingly fun read.” — Booklist
“My copy of Gutenberg’s Fingerprint bristles with post-it notes, reminders of passages that I wish to remember far down the road . . . Gutenberg’s Fingerprint is a gift for all readers including those of us who love books.” — Owen Sound Sun-Times
“From papyrus to pixels, Merilyn Simonds is the perfect voice for how we read and write today. Her buoyant engagement with two simultaneous projects, the publishing of an e-book and the handsetting of that same book on letterpress, provides a fascinating lens into the feel, look and texture of words — from ancient scrolls to the scrolling screen. Gutenberg’s Fingerprint is much like Simonds beloved garden: casually but deliciously informative, a feast of facts about paper, ink, and digital technology. Simonds superb enterprise is both full of techie gusto and a sympathetic tolerance for the mistakes that only a letterpress lover can know.” — Molly Peacock, author of The Paper Garden and Alphabetique
This erudite and charming book shows Merilyn Simonds at her best, giving us the history of the printed book as well as the future potential of digital books through the prism of her own publishing experience.” — Kate Pullinger, author of Landing Gear and The Mistress of Nothing
“Avoiding all reference to a foretold apocalypse, and firmly this side of idolatry, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint is a wise love letter to the printed page, as trustworthy as paper and as true as ink.” — Alberto Manguel, author of A History of Reading and The Library at Night
“Merilyn Simonds has an essayist’s mind, swooping and dipping here and there as fancy (and especially an attractive word, or a revealing phrase or story) lures her.” — Literary Review of Canada
“A magnificent hybrid of memoir and non-fiction . . . Learning about the ins and outs of the processes, print and digital, the ways in which they are similar and different, complementary and wholly foreign, was so illuminating.” — Pickle Me This
“Gutenberg’s Fingerprint gives book lovers food for thought as to what it is we love about physical books and what digital books have to offer us. Simonds leaves no doubt that print books will likely endure, but does leave room to ponder – what may come next?” — Falling Letters