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Gutenberg's Apprentice: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, September 23, 2014

4.1 out of 5 stars 228 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“In this deeply researched historical novel dramatizing the biggest invention since the wheel Christie...explores the intricacies surrounding the breakthrough of movable type and the first print run of Gutenberg Bibles in medieval Germany...Christie deftly imbues its telling with the drama and intensity it demands.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

“This ambitious but beautifully executed historical novel captures the life and times of half a millennium ago, and with the above parallels, draws us closer to today’s publishing revolution.” (New York Journal of Books)

“Finely atmospheric…a haunting elegy to the culture of print… One thinks of Donna Tartt’s THE GOLDFINCH or Philip Roth’s AMERICAN PASTORAL. Such novels of craft and specialization take a writerly delight in the most intricate details of a particular trade while spinning rich prose out of its mysterious threads.” (Washington Post)

“I loved this novel! Alix Christie’s debut is intensely observed, so much so that I felt myself in the dark rooms of history with the people laboring over the metal and words to bring us print, but also laboring over their own lives and love and survival.” (Susan Straight, author of HIGHWIRE MOON, National Book Award Finalist)

“As beautifully written as the printed pages it describes, this is an intelligent, masterful novel that immerses the reader in a fascinating historical time and place.” (Rosamund Lupton, bestelling author of SISTER and AFTERWARDS)

“Christie masterfully depicts the time and energy required to print the first Bibles…A bravura debut.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“Enthralling…Christie demonstrates a printer’s precision…in her account of quattrocentro innovation, technology, politics, art and commerce.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

“An imaginative recounting of history that, despite a 15th-century setting, reflects many of today’s chief matters of concern...a must-read for anyone interested in the ever-changing art of publishing.” (BookPage)

“Christie has created a rich, masterful tale of “the darkest art” and its powerful effect on the written word.” (Katie Noah Gibson, Shelf Awareness)

“By juxtaposing the lexicon of traditional printing with references to modern concepts like intellectual property theft, Christie spotlights intriguing parallels between 15th-century Europe and the digital media of the 21st-century world.” (New York Times Book Review)

“Rich in historical detail…the story of the birth of the printing press is fascinating. Readers who enjoy historical fiction such as Tracy Chevalier’s REMARKABLE CREATURES will enjoy this.” (Library Journal)

“Gorgeously written...dramatizes the creation of the Gutenberg Bible in a story that devotees of book history and authentic historical fiction will relish...An inspiring tale of ambition, camaraderie, betrayal, and cultural transformation based on actual events and people, this wonderful novel fully inhabits its age.” (Booklist (starred review))

“Christie has created a rich, masterful tale of “the darkest art” and its powerful effect on the written word.” (Shelf Awareness)

“Enthralling...With the help of contemporary experts on early printing, and 15th century German history, Christie has written a compelling first novel. This is an exceptional work full of trickery, betrayal, and historical significance.” (The Missourian)

“Intrigue! Betrayal! Printing Presses!...Who knew a book about the “first Bible” could be so fascinating?” (Quivering Pen)

“A remarkable, captivating work of historical fiction, “Gutenberg’s Apprentice” will make anyone who reads it look at books and newer modes of communication in a different light.” (Night Owl Reviews)

“Riveting.” (National Examiner)

“A gorgeous, tremendously enjoyable historical novel…What’s happening now over a couple of decades took many more years in the 1400s; you’ll live there for a good while, and leave reluctantly.” (Sullivan County Democrat)

“A rousing and beautiful novel… It’s surprising that Hollywood is yet to make a movie on Gutenberg and his press, and I hope Alix Christie’s richly imagined, finely researched and intricately plotted novel is the one that gets picked to be that longwishedfor movie.” (The News Today (Bangladesh))

“Alix Christie’s debut novel puts a human face on the invention of the printing press and brings to the fore a little known third actor in the creation of Johannes Gutenberg’s world-changing Bible.” (The Economist)

“Every now and then, an aspiring author explodes upon the scene in such a fashion that one is unlikely to forget her. Alix Christie not only tackled Gutenberg’s Apprentice as her debut novel but managed to garner starred reviews.” (HistoryWire.com)

“In Christie’s stellar debut, we become observers to the birth of one of the greatest inventions of man - the printing press…masterful…a highly recommended novel.” (Historical Novel Society)

“An enthralling literary debut that evokes one of the most momentous events in history, the birth of printing in medieval Germany…Gutenberg’s Apprentice will give you a whole new set of reasons to love that printed book in your hand.” (More Than Just Magic)

“Marvelous…The best fiction published in 2014 thus far for me - highly recommended, especially if you enjoy reading about books or fine press books. You’ll enjoy a rollicking good medieval tale along with learning about the process of making books.” (Ephemeral Pursuits)

“Ms. Christie’s book immerses the reader in mid-fifteenth-century Mainz, in its tangible details and its political climate; we feel the mood of the times. Her prose is straightforward and clean, bringing technical details to artful life.” (Rosemary and Reading Glasses)

From the Back Cover

An enthralling literary debut that evokes one of the most momentous events in history, the birth of printing in medieval Germany—a story of invention, intrigue, and betrayal.

Youthful, ambitious Peter Schoeffer is on the verge of professional success as a scribe in Paris when his foster father, the wealthy merchant and bookseller Johann Fust, summons him home to corruption- riddled, feud-plagued Mainz to meet "a most amazing man."

Johann Gutenberg, a driven and caustic inventor, has devised a revolutionary—and, to some, blasphemous—method of bookmaking: a machine he calls a printing press. Fust is financing Gutenberg's workshop, and he orders Peter to become Gutenberg's apprentice. Resentful at having to abandon a prestigious career as a scribe, Peter begins his education in the "darkest art."

As his skill grows, so too does his admiration for Gutenberg and his dedication to their daring venture: printing copies of the Holy Bible. But when outside forces align against them, Peter finds himself torn between two father figures—the generous Fust and the brilliant, mercurial Gutenberg, who inspires Peter to achieve his own mastery.

Caught between the genius and the merchant, the old ways and the new, Peter and the men he admires must work together to prevail against overwhelming obstacles in a battle that will change history . . . and irrevocably transform them all.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; F First Edition edition (September 23, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062336010
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062336019
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (228 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #183,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By ck TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 1, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Whether you're a fan of typography, history or a well-turned phrase, this novel rooted in historical research will grip you tight until you finish, and linger long afterward.

This story is grand and sprawling in all the right ways. Alix Christie demythologizes the icon we know as Johannes Gutenberg and humanizes him with a portrayal of a gifted, driven, high-strung, imperfect, visionary man. Receiving almost equal billing is Peter Schoeffer, a young man who becomes Gutenberg's apprentice.

Characters, setting, dialog, and pacing all are competent and keep a story this vast moving without getting muddled. However, where Gutenberg's Apprentice excels is Christie's adept descriptions of minute details, such as the crafting of the punches, and the casting of pieces of type. She comes by this knowledge not only academically but with ink under her fingernails. She apprenticed beginning at age 16 with master letterpress printers and as an adult, as she puts it, "kept a hand in the `darkest art.'" It is fitting that someone with ink in her veins came across documentation of others involved in Gutenberg's mighty achievement and recognized that this was a story worth researching and telling.

Any top-notch historical biographer could have done a serviceable job describing the years of intrigue, perseverance, and privation that went into the development of movable, metal type. It is our good fortune that the person who unearthed the rich additional information surrounding its birth was someone with ink in her blood.

The resulting tale is by turns luminous, sweaty, funny, and bittersweet.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The famous Gutenberg Bible. We all know that it was the first major book to be published on a printing press with movable type, instead of being handwritten by humans. But what's the story behind the basic facts? This is what Alix Christie explores here in her first novel.

The tale is told through the eyes of Peter Schoeffer, a young but experienced scribe who is apprenticed to help Johann Gensfleisch, the man known as Gutenberg. Peter's adopted father Johann Fust is the merchant who is backing Gutenberg's project. We hear the details here in retrospect, when Peter describes to someone else just how the Bible came to fruition, as he looks back about twenty years after its publication. Enough time has passed and enough people are gone that he feels safe enough to reveal the whole story.

This is the 15th century, a time that would later be referred to as the Early Renaissance. The town of Mainz is Germanic, but there is no Germany. This region is instead part of the Holy Roman Empire, a church-dominated society with a complex hierarchy of archbishops and cardinals and elders and such, all operating beneath the auspices of the pope in Rome. And there are decrees and bans and indulgences and seemingly, a lot of tension all around. Add to this mix a man like Gutenberg, who creates this new and exciting and revolutionary process that has to be employed in near secrecy, else the church officials or the powerful guilds discover it and take it away from him. And then they may see fit to remove him and his associates from that society as well. It's a near miracle that he finds any success at all. And IS it truly success?
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Young Peter Schoeffer has been lucky. Orphaned at an early age, he's adopted by a prosperous Mainz merchant and sent to learn his letters and become a scribe in that late 1400's. After laboring in the monastery for 3 years, he finally makes his way into a position at the Palais de Louvre, his father calls him unexpectedly back to Germany and his home. For Johann Fust has stumbled into an opportunity to be in on a huge moneymaker, the ability to get God's word into every monastery, cathedral, university and rich nobleman's home. And that opportunity is to bankroll Johann Gensfleisch and apprentice Peter to him. The man the world comes to know as Guntenberg.

It's an interesting saga as Gutenrberg, Peter and a crew work out the mechanics of how to print, first in hand carved lettering, then poured and molded type, dodge the Black Plague, buy off the guilds that help run the city, outmaneuver the local Catholic archbishop and the crushing burden of taxes. The taxes that only loom worse as news comes of the fall of Constantinople, the invasion of Eastern Europe by the Arabs and the potential of another Crusade. The sheer drudgery of forging the metal, preparing the vellum, cutting and setting of the type are brought into focus and the human elements of being a laborer, even a skilled laborer, make this a real labor of love. An interesting side plot dwells on a wooing of the local dyer's daughter and Peter's stepmother's pregnancy.

Told in alternating chapters with the premise being an older Peter telling his story of that era of his life to a monk who wants to record their triumph, it has an afterword that follows up on the historic principals of the story and what their lives were like after the Gutenberg Bible was printed. If you love art and literature or historic fiction, this would be a lovely read.
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