'Brilliantly-observed detail. Her characters are engaging, the world as beautifully crafted as one of Gutenberg's hot-metal letters, and the themes more relevant now than ever' Naomi Alderman, author of The Power
A gripping historical novel that brings tumultuous medieval Europe to life. Not to be missed by readers of Hilary Mantel, Peter Ackroyd and C. J. Sansom.
Johann Gutenberg's first printed Bibles amazed and shocked medieval Europe. He had started a revolution that would one day put books in the hands of any man or woman who wanted them. The project was fraught with danger, for it threatened the power of politicians and the Catholic church.
Who was this Gutenberg? In Alix Christie's evocative and compelling novel, he comes vividly to life - driven, caustic and ruthless. Behind him stands a brilliant young scribe, Peter Schoeffer, whose genius is to stay true to his artistic values in the cauldron of the printer's workshop. Caught between the old ways and the new, the two men struggle with one another and the world outside to prevail against overwhelming obstacles... and change history.
'A lovely piece of work: finely researched and beautifully, atmospherically, written' Sarah Dunant
A semifinalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award.
This detailed historical novel takes readers into Gutenberg's 15th-century Mainz workshop to experience the frustration and exhilaration of designing, typesetting, and rolling the first printed Bible off the press. Focusing on contributions made by Gutenberg's associates, the story follows the apprenticeship of future publishing pioneer Peter Schoeffer from the day Peter's adopted father, merchant-investor Johann Fust, tells him to give up life as a Parisian scribe in order to learn a new trade using Gutenberg's secret technology and techniques. For unhappy Peter, printed texts seem less sacred, and certainly less artistic, than hand-copied manuscripts. Demanding and sometimes devious, Gutenberg proves a difficult boss; worst of all, the equipment still has bugs to work out. Only when Peter comes up with his own innovation does he appreciate print's artistry and power. Despite obstacles posed by the Church, guilds, family, and friends, Fust, Gutenberg, and Schoeffer's tenuous collaboration culminates in the Gutenberg Bible. Contemporary readers suspicious of digital texts will sympathize with Peter's mixed feelings towards print. History buffs will savor the moment the inventor, the scribe, and the merchant make a decision that leads them out of the Middle Ages into the Renaissance. Journalist Christie's fiction debut descriptions of technical processes and medieval society are enthralling; the romance and personal melodrama are less compelling. At her best, she demonstrates a printer's precision and a dogged researcher's diligence in her painstakingly meticulous account of quattrocento innovation, technology, politics, art, and commerce.