23 January 2009

The 15th Century Backstory

The premise is that sometime prior to the Library of Alexandria having been burned in 48 BCE, the best texts were moved to Carthage. When the Treasures of the Temple in Jerusalem were recaptured from Carthage in 534CE, the texts of the Library of Alexandria were combined with it and moved to Constantinople. When the treasures were moved back to Jerusalem about 2 centuries later, the texts were left in Constantinople, forgotten until the Turks captured the city in 1453. At this time (1453) The Gutenberg Bible was nearing completion. It was released in 1455. That is the historical context. What follows is the storyline I've devised.

In late 1453 or early 1454, an emissary of the Turks, having heard that nearly two hundred copies of The Bible had been produced on a printing press and hearing of Gutenberg's reputation as an alchemist, approached Johannes Gutenberg in secret, claiming to have found a text that held all the ancient secrets of alchemie from Egypt. He was asked if he could reproduce that text with the printing press, since it would most certainly disprove vast portions of both Christian and Islamic beliefs.. Gutenberg, intrigued by the idea, wanted to see some proof of this ancient document. The emissary promised to take him to the book. Gutenberg left the workshop in the hands of his assistant, Peter Schoeffer, and accompanied the emissary to Constantinople. There he was shown the remains of the Library of Alexandria.

This, however, was only part of the remaining texts as transferrence had already begun to a new location in eastern Turkey without the emissary's knowledge. The emissary managed to steal a map to the new location and gave it to Gutenberg. The emissary was caught and executed, but Gutenberg escaped back to Mainz with the map. He began a process of deciphering the cryptic map in his private workshop, intending to travel to the library and retrieve the precious text on alchemie. That is when Fust sued and in early 1455 took over ownership of the entire Bible printing operation.

Gutenberg shared the information with two friends-- Dieter von Isenburg, later to become Archbishop of Mainz, and Dr. Conrad Humery. While the reformist Dieter was anxious to expose falacies of the Bible, Humery advised against printing it or even letting anyone in the church know about the map. The church, they assumed would conceal or even burn the manuscript before it could be exposed. So, Gutenberg set about encoding the directons in type. Thinking that Gutenberg had a new, lucrative business which he had funded with Fust's investment in the printing house (and, indeed, that Gutenberg might actually have succeeded in making gold from base metals, Fust sued for his portion of the new business. When Gutenberg refused to settle, the Archbishop's court found in favor of Fust and awarded Gutenberg's share of the Bible printing operation to Fust.

In 1460, Dieter von Isenburg ascended to the Archbishopric of Mainz, starting a religious feud with conservatives supported by the Pope Pius II. Adolf II von Nassau took the pope's part to invade Mainz and remove Dieter from his throne. In the process of "The Mainzer Feud," in 1462, Adolf killed 400 civilians in Mainz and drove another 400 into exile, including Gutenberg who fled with his original type matrices (larger than that used for the 42-line Bible) and went to Bamberg. Here, Gutenberg finally solved the problem of encoding the map. He printed the Bamberg Bible, also called the 36-line Bible, with his original typeface. However, this was not "Gutenberg's Other Book." Gutenberg also printed a 12-page rubric for the Bible. The rubric was all the missing characters in the text that the scribe was to fill in with red ink. In the type of the rubric, Gutenberg nicked characters in such a way that if a tracing were made connecting the nicks like dots, the map of the location of the Library of Alexandria would be revealed.

Whe he was finished, Gutenberg altered the original map so that it could not be followed, then returned to Mainz. He surrendered the map to Archbishop Adolf along with the story of what it led to, knowing that the conservative man would forward it to the Vatican, where presumably it lies today. ARchbishop Adolf commended Gutenbgerg for bringing the map to the church, making Gutenberg a courtier or Hofmann of the court with a suitable pension to keep him in comfort for the remaining three to five years of his life. Gutenberg was dead by February of 1468.

Only eight full copies of the Bamberg Bible are still extant, all on paper. It happens that when Gutenberg died, his workshop and all the items in it, including one copy of the Bamberg Bible were inherited by Dr. Humery. What Humery did not know was that the original rubric had been used as binding papers in the book (of three volumes, a total of over 1600 pages). In the Bible was also a letter from Gutenberg to Dr. Humery that said in part, "My secret I have hidden in the Black River, and only he who can follow the stones may find it. The key is in my other book." The letter became separated from the book, and came into the hands of the Collector.

As it happened, that copy of the Bamberg Bible came into the possession of William H. Scheide of Princeton and along with copies of the 42-line Bible, the Mentelin Bible, and the 1462 Bible is housed in the Scheide Library at Princeton University.

So, as it turns out, Peter and Maddie don't have to go to Bamberg or London to find the right Bamberg Bible, but they do have to get access to the Bible at Princeton and get the cover papers out of it to discover what is there. Simple, eh?

Remember, even though the dates and people mentioned herein are real, this story and progression of events is my fiction. In the following image, notice the bottom edge. This is the inside back cover of the Library of Congress 42-line Bible. It is on that under paper in the back of the Bamberg Bible that the rubric is concealed.