Nominated by:

San José Public Library, USA

Publisher of nominated edition:

Published by HarperCollins USA

Gutenberg’s Apprentice

Alix Christie      

2016 Longlist

A story of invention, intrigue, and betrayal, rich in atmosphere and historical detail, told through the lives of the three men.

Youthful, ambitious Peter Schoeffer is on the verge of professional success as a scribe in Paris when his foster father, wealthy merchant and bookseller Johann Fust, summons him home to corrupt, 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, his adopted son, 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: copies of the Holy Bible. But mechanical difficulties and the crushing power of the Catholic Church threaten their work. As outside forces align against them, Peter finds himself torn between two father figures: the generous Fust, who saved him from poverty after his mother died; 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—a battle that will change history . . . and irrevocably transform them.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Alix Christie is an author, journalist, and letterpress printer. She learned the craft as an apprentice to two master California printers, and owns and operates a 1910 Chandler & Price letterpress. She holds a master of fine arts degree from Saint Mary’s College of California and lives in London, where she reviews books and arts for The Economist. Gutenberg’s Apprentice is her first novel.

Librarian’s Comments

A fascinating fictional narrative set amid the social and political upheaval around the introduction of printing. Peter Schaeffer, adopted son of Gutenberg’s partner Johannes Furst, is summoned by his father to leave his work as a scribe in Paris and return to Mainz to work as Gutenberg’s apprentice. Events parallel current issues of digitization and epublishing.

Related Entries