by Anthony Grafton
Harvard University Press, 2020
eISBN: 978-0-674-24567-9 | Paper: 978-0-674-27121-0 | Cloth: 978-0-674-23717-9
Library of Congress Classification Z124.G688 2020
Dewey Decimal Classification 094.2


An Open Letters Review Best Book of the Year

“Grafton presents largely unfamiliar material…in a clear, even breezy style…Erudite.”
—Michael Dirda, Washington Post

In this celebration of bookmaking in all its messy and intricate detail, Anthony Grafton captures both the physical and mental labors that went into the golden age of the book—compiling notebooks, copying and correcting proofs, preparing copy—and shows us how scribes and scholars shaped influential treatises and forgeries.

Inky Fingers ranges widely, from the theological polemics of the early days of printing to the pathbreaking works of Jean Mabillon and Baruch Spinoza. Grafton draws new connections between humanistic traditions and intellectual innovations, textual learning and the delicate, arduous, error-riddled craft of making books. Through it all, he reminds us that the life of the mind depends on the work of the hands, and the nitty gritty labor of printmakers has had a profound impact on the history of ideas.

“Describes magnificent achievements, storms of controversy, and sometimes the pure devilment of scholars and printers…Captivating and often amusing.”
Wall Street Journal

“Ideas, in this vivid telling, emerge not just from minds but from hands, not to mention the biceps that crank a press or heft a ream of paper.”
New York Review of Books

“Grafton upends idealized understandings of early modern scholarship and blurs distinctions between the physical and mental labor that made the remarkable works of this period possible.”
—Christine Jacobson, Book Post

“Scholarship is a kind of heroism in Grafton’s account, his nine protagonists’ aching backs and tired eyes evidence of their valiant dedication to the pursuit of knowledge.”
London Review of Books