Gutenberg’s Apprentice – Germany – Alix Christie


Step back in time to the world where publishing was born and see 1450s Mainz, Germany come alive before your very eyes.

This is the untold story behind Gutenberg’s printing press -and of his key partners. Johann Fust, was intrigued by the idea and so agrees to finance the project if Gutenberg takes on his adoptive son, Peter Schoeffer, as an apprentice.  Peter than takes up the story of how their toil, blood sweat and tears enabled the publication of around 180 bibles. And ultimately how they changed the face of publishing.


Delve into the world where publishing was born and see 1450s Mainz, Germany come alive before your very eyes. Gutenberg comes across as a hot headed, sometimes nasty yet well developed character as does his apprentice Schoeffer and the work of these two men amidst the chaos and trading spats of the time is fascinating to see. The city was struggling as a hotbed of trade and religion and the disappearance of the scribes was seen as a threat against both. Historically fascinating if a little heavy going in places, the slow pace could be rather linked to how laborious a task the advent of printing really was. A fascinating story that requires telling as a fictional account in order for us to get inside the characters’ mindset. The story flows across the page much like how a scribe crafted his words…with historical swishes and blotches of dark intrigue.


All in all, a fascinating and illuminating read – the most interesting thought that this let me with was the timeless tension that exists today between the old ways and the new. In Gutenberg’s day, the work of a scribe was being eroded by the advent of the printed word much like how traditional book publishing feels threatened by the advent of the kindle . The overlying reality must ultimately be to see how both can transform reading and history over time.

The moment that publishing world and the printed text came into being is something probably many of us have thought or wondered about but never given much thought to. With the Gutenberg’s apprentice, the reader can enter into that very world and stand beside the key men involved in its development. And it makes for a very fascinating journey indeed. One which the booktrail was very proud to have been allowed to go on prior to publication.

You’ll be pleased to know that the author worked with a very modern computer and did not have to write the entire novel by hand with a scribe of any kind. She is  – @alixechristie and the fab website with tons more information on the background to the book can be found here –

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