Endymion Spring, apprentice to the famous printer Gutenberg, has to flee for his life when he is entrusted with a mysterious blank book coveted by Gutenberg’s financial backer, the evil Fust. Months later, ill and exhausted, he reaches Oxford, where he hopes to hide the book in the famous library. But will it be safe, even here?
Centuries later, 12-year-old Blake, whose mother is doing research at Oxford, comes across the book with blank pages. When he opens it, words begin to appear, words which only he can see. Why him? He’s not even particularly bright, unlike his younger sister, Duck. Gradually Blake realizes that the book contains dangerous knowledge and that many so-called respectable scholars would give, and do, anything to get their hands on it. Who can he trust?
This book operates on a number of levels. From an historical viewpoint, it gives an imaginative, knowledgeable and vivid look at both the 15th century and the dawn of printing. It conveys the excitement generated by this new technology, which could spread knowledge faster and cheaper than hand-written books. But printing was also seen as dangerous: knowledge could get into the wrong hands.
The modern sections offer a fascinating glimpse into Oxford academic life with the ancient labyrinthine passages full of books; the professional rivalries underneath the scholarly exteriors; and the decidedly unacademic greed, manipulation and envy which some scholars harbour in their pursuit of knowledge. On a more personal level, Blake and Duck struggle to cope with the fall-out from their parents’ quarrel – their father is in America – and their feelings of jealousy and resentment towards each other.
A gripping and unputdownable story. Highly recommended. Ages 10+
Endymion Spring was absolutely fantastic. It had really good strong characters and an incredibly good plot, and a very unpredictable ending. My favourite part was when they were searching for the last book among the stacks. The bad thing about this book was that compared to the modern sections the historical parts seemed quite dull and boring. It was hard to keep track of the parts about Endymion Spring, the boy, and random characters kept being introduced.
I learnt about apprentices and how they had to live in the 15th century and also what Germany was like then. I did really enjoy this book, especially the modern bits. I think it is aimed at both girls and boys aged around 10 to 13 and I would definitely recommend it.
I am amazed that the whole Gutenberg/printing press/Bible bit seems to have passed her by.