Tuesday, October 28, 2014

MUSEday Tuesday: Just My Type … Yours, Too?

(advance review copy courtesy Amazon Vine program)

Whether you are a fan of typography, history or a well-turned phrase, this novel rooted in historical research will grip you tight until you finish, and linger long afterward.

GUTENBERG'S APPRENTICE by Alix Christie 2014 US book jacket
U.S. book jacket
Gutenberg's Apprentice is grand and sprawling in all the right ways. Alix Christie demythologizes the icon we know as Gutenberg and humanizes him with a portrayal of a gifted, driven, high-strung, imperfect, visionary man. Receiving almost equal billing is Peter Schoeffer, a young man who becomes Gutenberg's apprentice.

Characters, setting, dialog, and pacing all are competent and keep a story this vast moving without getting muddled. 

However, where this book excels is Christie's adept descriptions of minute details, such as the crafting of the punches, and the casting of pieces of type. She comes by this knowledge not only academically but with ink under her fingernails. She apprenticed beginning at age 16 with master letterpress printers and as an adult, as she puts it, "kept a hand in the 'darkest art.'" It is fitting that someone with ink in her veins found documentation of the other key figures involved in Gutenberg's mighty achievement, and recognized that this was a story worth researching and telling.
GUTENBERG'S APPRENTICE by Alix Christie 2014 UK book jacket
UK book jacket

Any top-notch historical biographer could have done a serviceable job describing the years of intrigue, perseverance, and privation that went into the development of movable, metal type. It is our good fortune that the person who unearthed the rich additional information surrounding its birth was someone with ink in her blood.

The resulting tale is by turns luminous, sweaty, funny, and bittersweet. Pick it up on a Friday evening and you will be lucky to return to the 21st century before Sunday. And be warned, once you do, you will fire up your computer or mobile device and lose several more hours while you locate additional information about some of the people in the book and additional images from the time. (Saying any more would tread too close to being a spoiler, but be assured there are rich library resources available. If you'd like a hint, drop me a note in the comments.)

And now for the MUSEday Tuesday question:

I was surprised to find that this book has been published with two very different cover designs. The one on the left is the U.S. version; the one on the right is what readers in the UK are seeing. 

Which one is your favorite, and why? 

by Alix Christie
Sept. 23, 2013

(U.S. and UK cover images courtesy author's website)

No comments:

Post a Comment