Wednesday, September 24th


Gutenberg's Apprentice: A novel by Alix Christie

With her sweeping debut novel GUTENBERG’S APPRENTICE, journalist Alix Christie plunges readers into the world of a more than 500-year-old technological revolution.  Christie tells the remarkable story of the invention of printing in medieval Germany as a narrative of human drama and achievement that, for the first time, brings Gutenberg’s unsung partners to the fore. Long before Zuckerberg, there was Gutenberg: an inventor and serial entrepreneur who seduced a venture capitalist and a scribe to engineer a “media revolution.”

The year is 1450, and Peter Schoeffer, an ambitious young scribe, is called back from Paris to Mainz, his hometown on the Rhine. There he is unwillingly thrust into a workshop financed by his foster father, the forward-looking merchant Johann Fust. It is a strange, dark place run by a driven master named Johann Gutenberg, its purpose the manufacture of books in a new – and to some, blasphemous – way: with a secret invention known as a printing press.

It is a period of great ferment in a turbulent Holy Roman Empire: Newly wealthy merchants in their Kaufhaus are angling for power; a corrupt Archbishop duels with the Pope; scribes copy both religious and secular texts while priests milk a deeply religious populace for indulgences. Against this backdrop, Schoeffer finds himself torn between two father-figures, between resentment and grudging love for a master both brilliant and stormy, and between hiding or revealing this shocking invention from the woman he loves. As he moves from reluctant apprentice to overseer of a book that will change the world, Peter must steer the Bible and the crew of men creating it through a cataclysmic time, while battling to prevail against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, none greater than the crushing power of the Catholic Church.

This story is also that of the birth of the publishing industry as we know it – Gutenberg’s Bible was unveiled at the Frankfurt Fair in 1454, and his apprentice, Peter Schoeffer, became the first printer and publisher, founding the Frankfurt Book Fair and the publishing industry itself.  Christie’s novel is being published in time for the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair, on the 560th anniversary of that memorable Frankfurt Fair.  Until now, the real story of Gutenberg, his printing press, and his famous Bible has been known only to a handful of scholars.  This untold story of the birth of the book will appeal to everyone who cares about reading and the transmission of knowledge.



Alix Christie grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and is an author, journalist and letterpress printer. She learned the craft of letterpress printing as an apprentice to two master California printers, including her grandfather, the foreman of the last surviving hot type foundry in San Francisco, and owns and operates a 1910 Chandler & Price letterpress. Christie received a Masters of Journalism from the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley and has been a reporter, editor and foreign correspondent for nearly 30 years. Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Salon.com, Guardian of London and many other publications. In 1998 Christie earned an MFA from St Mary’s College of California, where she studied under Michael Chabon and Susan Straight. She currently lives in London, where she reviews books and arts for The Economist. GUTENBERG’S APPRENTICE is her first novel. For more on Alix Christie and the world of the book, visit:www.GutenbergsApprentice.com


University of California Berkeley: Media Studies Department



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