Shortlisted for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award
“This gorgeously written debut, set in the cathedral city of 15th century Mainz, dramatizes the creation of the Gutenberg Bible in a story that devotees of book history and authentic historical fiction will relish.”Booklist (starred review)
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 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 the genius and the merchant, the old ways and the new. He and the men he admires must work together to prevail against overwhelming obstacles—a battle that will change history . . . and irrevocably transform them.
“The ink was as black as Heaven’s vault, the letters sharp and gripping. He stared, transfixed. In their austerity, their density, the letters made a page of extraordinary beauty.
Gutenberg was fairly hopping just behind him. Peter felt his energy and eagerness, and from the corner of his eye he saw him reaching. Peter held the page out to him.
‘By God!’ The master’s face was open, softened, every trace of sharpness gone.
‘A scribe, my eye! A bloody carving genius, more like!’
That was the moment it all changed.”
Read an excerpt here