Book 43. Gutenberg’s Apprentice, by Alix Christie. Unabridged audio.
I consider Johann Gutenberg to be one of the most important figures of the previous millennium. This novel tells the struggles that he and his team faced as he developed the technology that would eventually become the printing press, one of the most revolutionary advances in human history.
Peter Fust is a scribe in Paris, when his father Johann Fust calls him back to Mainz to meet his new business partner, Johann Gutenberg. He is a driven inventor who has devised a revolutionary method of bookmaking. Faust is financing the operating, and orders his son to become the inventor’s apprentice. Peter’s skills improve, and his admiration grows for Gutenberg, and Peter dedicates himself to aiding Gutenberg in creating his most daring venture yet: printing copies of the Holy Bible.
The novel includes interesting insights into the histories of religion, society and culture of Europe in this era. Some churchmen consider the new invention blasphemous, at least when used in printing religious texts. This technology would drastically change the role of monks, who served the church as scribes. The printers become caught in the middle of a number of struggles between governmental and church authorities.
The details of the printing process are explained well, as are the uncertainties of trying to harness any new technology. Gutenberg’s drive as a businessman is not portrayed in a necessarily positive manner, but the book does make clear that the financial incentives offered by the printing press were a driving force in its development.
This is a first novel, and Christie does a very good job weaving together the plots, characters, and settings. I look forward to what the author produces next. The website for thebook includes some interesting facts about the production of the Gutenberg Bible, the city of Mainz, and other historical items that were fictionalized in the novel.
Source: Hoopla, after seeing the book featured in a “historical fiction” display at Bexley Publuc Library.