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Gutenberg's Apprentice

3.47  ·  Rating details ·  2,736 ratings  ·  568 reviews
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, rich in atmosphere and historical detail, told through the lives of the three men who made it possible.

Youthful, ambitious Peter Schoeffer is on the verge of professional success as a scribe in Paris
Hardcover, 406 pages
Published September 23rd 2014 by Harper (first published September 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.47  · 
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 ·  2,736 ratings  ·  568 reviews

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Will Byrnes
Aug 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
In principio erat verbum

In the beginning was the word, (well according to John 1:1 anyway) but in the absence of someone writing it down, then printing millions of copies, you might never have known. So maybe in the beginning was the word but right behind it was the printer. Before Stephen King, Dan Brown, JK Rowling or AC Doyle, there was once a major global best-seller, the first one. It had an initial printing of one hundred eighty, and it changed the world.

The finished product - from the Un
Dec 04, 2014 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, but I gave up about halfway through. I love historical fiction and am a publishing person fascinated by type and printing, so the book should have been right up my alley. The writer didn't execute well. The characters were ok, but frankly, there was just no plot. It was a linear movement towards an outcome that we all expect (the printing of the first Gutenberg Bible) and the developments along the way aren't compelling. The description of the politics of the time was ...more
Sep 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The invention of the printing press with movable type was arguably one of the biggest impulses that brought about the advent of the Renaissance and one of the biggest change agents in civilisation.The ability to print texts in large quantities quickly and at a markedly reduced cost changed medieval society in much the same way as the advent of the internet did ours. As an English Lit major specialising in book history, Gutenberg is naturally a person of interest to me, so when I saw Alix Christi ...more
May 01, 2014 rated it it was ok
I picked up "Gutenberg's Apprentice" because as a booklover, and having watched countless times in amazement as a modern press pumps out daily newspapers, I am fascinated with the printing process and how books and other printed materials are created. Although bits and pieces of this story - which chronicles the first press and the many trials and challenges faced - are indeed interesting - occasionally fantastic (and somewhat mind-boggling), overall, the story lacks depth in its relationships a ...more
Book Concierge

In her debut novel, Christie explores one of the most momentous events in history: the invention of the printing press. The author used the real people involved, researching historical documents to support way she imagined the scenario unfolding.

I generally like novels such as this one, but for some reason I had a very hard time getting engaged in this work. It took me nearly two weeks to read it, about double the amount of time I usually need for a 400-page book. I did find the informat
Bruce Holsinger
Jan 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
[Review originally published in The Washington Post, 12/12/14]

“Before there was Zuckerberg there was Gutenberg!” screams the clever promotional material for Alix Christie’s finely atmospheric debut. As the world of hard copy crumbles beneath our feet, it can be easy to forget that print culture has been with us for only a few centuries. If Gutenberg’s Apprentice isn’t quite to the printing press what The Social Network is to Facebook, perhaps that’s a good thing. Only a historical novel is capab
Denice Barker
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Have you ever read a book? Have you ever thought about how that was possible? Who made it possible?

I think we all know who Gutenberg is. Like we all know who Christopher Columbus is. We can do it in one sentence. “He invented moveable type and printed the Bible.” Done deal. But like we don’t really know off the top of our heads what Columbus himself was like, or what his coming to this hemisphere truly meant. One sentence about Johann Gensfleisch, Gutenberg, isn’t going to do it either. If I t
Apr 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderful read. Lovely moments and images. Especially compelling are the connections drawn between text and creation, between the word and the divine, between the Word and humanity...the greater implications of the miracle of moveable type are explored by looking at the lives of those intimately involved. It's a lovely read, set in it's own purposeful way. I enjoyed it. Shakespeare lingers about the edges - his language foreshadowing one of the greatest uses of Gutenberg's vision. Not a bad book ...more
Nancy Kennedy
May 19, 2014 rated it liked it
I am a reader of nonfiction almost exclusively. But when a novel comes along that is based on historical events, people or objects, I'm willing to give it a try. Because doesn't a book like Girl With a Pearl Earring stay in the mind longer than any biography of Vermeer would? And having seen a copy of the Gutenberg Bible, I was interested in learning more about its history.

By reading this novel, you will come away with more knowledge about the times (15th century Europe) and the people associate
Jul 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
One of my first jobs in the 1970's was as a typesetter for the Federal Government. While I can't remember how, I do remember making calculations to right justify our type lines! I remember the days before "white out" and "memory". Our modern Word Processors are the distant relatives of the very first printing press!! We forget that one day, someone actually had to invent that equipment! To read the accounts of those early, magical days was exciting, and that the first book they decided to print ...more
Oct 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this. Deeply researched, enriched with personable and gritty characters, this book truly builds a vision of what an extraordinary and unlikely achievement Gutenberg's Bible was.

By all the odds, it should have been impossible in the world at the time. Superstitions and paradigms, religious power-mongering, not to mention the burden of secrecy and the spectacular financial investment that it took - in the face of the existing challenges, the feat is truly amazing.

The audiobook is excelle
Amber Foxx
Jul 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
When I first saw the title I wondered how the story could be made interesting, since we all know how it ends—a printed Bible—but the process was full of personal, social, religious and political controversy. Who was to be allowed to control books? The power of the medieval Catholic Church in money and politics was pervasive. The German city of Mainz, where Gutenberg started his printing press, was at odds with its archbishop overlord. One of the many things the church controlled at the time was ...more
Linda Guest
May 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
I was thrilled when Goodreads sent me a copy of this book to review. I’m a big historical fiction fan and also read non-fiction about this time period. I already knew quite a lot about the first print presses and the relationship between Gutenberg and Fust and I was looking forward to seeing these characters come to life on the page. Sadly I was disappointed. I felt that the book tried too hard to include so many of the political and cultural details of the time period that the characters, at ti ...more
May 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Plot-wise, nothing much happens in this book besides inventing movable type, printing a Bible and changing the world, but oh, how powerful! As a former librarian I have long been fascinated by the changes wrought by the printing press (1454). As a writer of historical fiction set in the sixteenth century, I am well aware of the significance of the fall of Constantinople to the cannons of the Ottoman Turks (1453). Between the two the Middle Ages came to an end. The thickest of city walls can’t wi ...more
Nov 22, 2014 rated it liked it
In the beginning was the Word...

Peter Schoeffer has devoted his youth to learning the art of scribing but, just as he is on the point of success in his career, his adoptive father calls him back to Mainz to apprentice him all over again – this time to Johannes Gutenberg. Peter is horrified to discover that Gutenberg has created a way to print books, this seeming almost blasphemous to a young man trained to believe that every word he writes is for the glory of God. However, when it is decided tha
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it

Gutenberg's Apprentice by Alix Christie is an ambitious novel portraying the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press. While fiction, this well researched tale reveals Gutenberg as an egotistic opportunist, who rather than give credit to his benefactor, Joann Fust, and Fust’s adopted son, Peter Schoeffer, let the world believe he alone was the genius twho perfected the printmaking method which mass produced the infamous Gutenberg Bible.

The story centers on Peter Schoeffer, a well trained scribe,
Ronald Roseborough
This is a great book about how an even greater book was first printed in Mainz, Germany during the Middle Ages. It is the story of the first book printed in moveable type, which would come to be known as the Gutenberg Bible. The story is told from the view point of Peter Schoeffer, Gutenberg’s apprentice. Peter, an orphan, was raised by Johann Fust, a wealthy merchant. Johann Gutenberg, a man of higher birth, but lower means, fast talks Fust into financing Gutenberg’s latest invention. Sworn to ...more
C.P. Lesley
From sixteenth-century Venice we move back a century and travel north to Mainz, Germany, where a “madman” named Johannes Gutenberg has invented a radical new method of making books. Like any technological genius, Gutenberg needs venture capitalists to finance his workshop and skilled craftsmen and designers to turn his ideas into reality. He finds a financier in Johann Fust, a wealthy merchant and seller of manuscript books. Indirectly, this relationship also brings in a new craftsman when Fust ...more
Jan 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Most any knowledgeable person has heard the name Gutenberg and how he changed history with the invention of the printing press. Alix Christie has taken on the large task of writing the background story. It is told through Peter Schoeffer, who is learning to become a scribe and create beautiful books. Peter's foster father, Johann Fust, is a rich merchant and calls Peter home to work with an interesting man, Johann Gutenberg. Fust is financing Gutenberg's revolutionary invention, a printing press ...more
Dec 20, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Gutenberg's Apprentice tells the story of, well, you guessed it - Gutenberg's apprentice. Peter Schoeffer is a very ambitious young man, called back to the German city of Mainz to assist his father and an unnamed 'amazing man' with an equally amazing project. It does not need to be stated that this project turns out to be the printing press.

Being a lover of the printed word (in any format!), I thought this novel had a very interesting idea as it's foundation which, sadly, wasn't executed in the
Dec 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful historical piece, envisioning the creation of Gutenberg's 1454 Bible. Since Ms. Christie is a letterpress printer herself, she is able to bring to life the technical aspects of the work in a clear, insightful way that makes each tiny technical step forward seem magical. Gutenberg and his workshop had to invent an entire technology from scratch, and keep it largely secret--absolutely fascinating. A fantastic read!
Tom Plaskon
Mar 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A gripping historical fiction account of the creation of the Gutenberg Bible that explores the motivations of Gutenberg (inventor of the printing press), Schoeffer (scribe and shop foreman) and Fust (financial backer). The book also does a great job of getting inside the medieval mind and showing how the invention of the printing press profoundly impacted it.
Jan 06, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book is another example of an author who does a mountain of research, but then does not know how to pare down his mountain of facts into a coherent novel. So much is thrown at the reader, that the result is a confusing and overlong book. I would not have finished this if it hadn't been a pick for my book group.
Jan 19, 2016 rated it did not like it
I officially throw in the towel on this one. I have no interest in going back to finish it. It was just so slow and I didn't have a strong knowledge in the difference in the religious texts and they did not explain them, so I'm happy to admit defeat and go into 2018 with a clean slate.
Tudor Ciocarlie
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
A novel that every book lover will enjoy.
Todd Stockslager
Review title: In principio erat verbum

in the beginning was the Word. John's gospel begins with this iconic phrase declaring the infinite nature of Jesus, his relationship to the Creator God the Father, and his relationship to us, his created images, who like him are creatures of language. Words are everywhere: we speak, write, and read thousands of words every day, and more now in the Internet era than ever before. It is the defining characteristic of our humanness....

.... And of our relationshi
Sep 24, 2019 rated it liked it
The book’s subject holds so much potential. I mean, Gutenberg! We wouldn’t be reading books as do now without his printing press. Alas, the book itself is lacking.

In some ways it is rich with detail. The parts about how the town and guilds function was fascinating.. I found myself immersed in the mid summer celebration. But the dialogue is hit or miss for me, and the characters dry. We get glimpses of humanity and then nothing for pages. We see the power of the Church but only in small, fragmen
I'm always on the lookout for historical novels set in Germany, and I finally got to this title which has been on my list for a while. We all know about Gutenberg's Bible, the first book printed with moveable type, but who knew there was so much intrigue involved in the event? In some ways this is a fascinating tell all. Was Gutenberg really such a jerk? Were his apprentice and workers hounded by those who wanted to stop the process? Possibly yes to both, although this is a time with few histori ...more
Ray LaManna
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
A really good historical novel. Gives a good insight into a very exciting time of the invention of moveable type in 1455... it was more complicated than we ever might have thought.
Andrea Wilson
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
As a printmaker and the daughter of a historian, how could I not have enjoyed this book?
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Play Book Tag: Gutenberg's Apprentice / Alix Christie - 3.5*** 4 16 Apr 11, 2017 12:18PM  
Ancient & Medieva...: JUNE 2015 (Group Read 2) Gutenberg's Apprentice by Alix Christie 20 82 Jul 27, 2015 03:02PM  
historical accuracy 2 29 Dec 02, 2014 06:30AM  

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I am a printer, journalist, and writer, celebrating the publication of my first novel, "Gutenberg's Apprentice."
I was born and raised in California, studied philosophy at Vassar College and got a degree journalism from U.C. Berkeley. I have reported for newspapers in California and from Europe as a foreign correspondent, including the Washington Post, The Guardian, The San Francisco Chronicle and

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