Enigmas of the mid-15th Century: Background information when reading The Brotherhood of Book Hunters

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The Brotherhood of Book Hunters

by Raphael Jerusalmy

The Brotherhood of Book Hunters by Raphael Jerusalmy X
The Brotherhood of Book Hunters by Raphael Jerusalmy
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  • First Published:
    Nov 2014, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2014, 256 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Davida Chazan
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Enigmas of the mid-15th Century

This article relates to The Brotherhood of Book Hunters

Print Review

Throughout The Brotherhood of Book Hunters, Raphaël Jerusalmy makes his protagonist puzzle through conflicting evidence and deal with contradictory information. He also both doubts and finds reinforcements for his personal faith and beliefs. All of this fits nicely with the religious enigmas of the mid-15th Century, which is a particularly fascinating era.

Pope Paul IIOn the one hand, we have the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg (~1450) and Pope Paul II, who promoted the printing of books and documents, making education more accessible. However, alongside the religious texts produced, were works that could (and would) threaten the Catholic Church's core doctrines. With the ability to produce and distribute books on math, science and philosophy, came the spread of ideas that would eventually lead to the Church's ultimate pushing back with the Spanish Inquisition, but couldn't stop the Protestant Reformation.

Christopher ColumbusThat same widespread access to information included new maps to entice the likes of Christopher Columbus and his famous explorations. It has always been ironic that his voyage occurred during such a religiously repressive period in history, sanctioned by Queen Isabella, who was known as "the Catholic", and yet his discovery later became a place of refuge for those running away from religious oppression. And at the same time, King Louis XI of France, who officially revoked his father Charles VII's Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges, which took powers away from the Pope, created intrigues and conspiracies (which gained him the nicknames of "the Cunning" and "the Universal Spider,") which included making sure that absolute power would be held by monarchy and not by Rome.

Louis XITo all of this, Jerusalmy brings the conundrum of the fictional Brotherhood itself, with its unlikely collaboration of Christians and Jews, both pulling towards a common goal against the Papacy, but for their own separate reasons. And to deepen the enigmas, he hints how this will eventually lead to the detriment of both, through the expansion of the Inquisition in the 1470s and the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. In The Brotherhood of Book Hunters, Jerusalmy succeeds in finding just the right mysterious protagonist at a central period in history, whose journey reveals much, but leaves just as much in question.

Pope Paul II, courtesy of QWerk
Christopher Columbus, courtesy of Paine Ellsworth
Louis XI, courtesy of Il Dottore

Article by Davida Chazan

This "beyond the book article" relates to The Brotherhood of Book Hunters. It first ran in the January 21, 2015 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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