City as Classroom: authentic McLuhan inscription?

Encountering Marshall McLuhan’s media theories during college was a significant influence in my decision to pursue graduate studies in communication (there were, of course, many other influencing factors…I wouldn’t want to posit a “hard determinism”). My first scholarly conference papers and academic journal publication were rooted in McLuhan and the Media Ecology tradition.

When I started my PhD program I quickly gravitated toward a focus on spatial theory and urban studies. So naturally I was drawn to any extant scholarship that linked urban or spatial studies with Media Ecology. I soon learned of a book titled City as Classroom that was co-authored by McLuhan and his son Eric. This text was imminently tantalizing, but it was difficult to come by. After conducting an extensive online search it seemed that the most affordable copies available for sale started in the $200 range. This was significantly beyond what I could justify paying for a single book on my teaching stipend.

Over the next couple of years I intermittently checked online listings for more attainable copies of the book. One day I found a copy selling for around $30 and I immediately snatched it up. When the book arrived I was impressed by its relatively pristine condition, and intrigued by an inscription on the first title page. There was a handwritten salutation signed “Eric McLuhan,” and below in different colored ink and different handwriting was written “and Marshall McLuhan.”

The notion that the Eric McLuhan message was genuine seemed plausible to me, but the Marshall signature seemed suspect. Unlike the upper portion of the inscription, the lower addition was not written in looping cursive but rather scrawled in what seemed like blue ballpoint pen. The “Marshall” portion looked crude and almost child-like by comparison (much like my own handwriting, in fact), and not at all what I imagined McLuhan’s signature would look like. I dismissed the McLuhan inscription as a forgery, the result of some previous handler of this book having a laugh.

Still, curiosity got the best of me and I searched online for an example of a genuine McLuhan signature for comparison. I did not find many results. However, the single reliable example that I was able to find looked remarkably similar to the inscription in my book.

I’ve included photos of the inscription here. If nothing else, I can at least contribute to the image search results for “Marshall McLuhan signature.” Maybe a reader will have further insight. I choose to believe it is the real deal.

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