Ink on His Fingers by Louise A. Vernon
Hans recalled with painful intensity his vow to make the man who had borrowed Father’s money return it all. Here it was – but now he did not want the money, and he knew Mother would not want it either. The printing of the Bible must come first.
When twelve-year-old Hans Dunne’s father dies suddenly, it looks like he will be forced to drop out of the monastery Latin school. As it turns out, his father was in debt, so now his mother cannot pay the tuition for school. Hans feels he should learn a trade in order to help his family. But his secret ambition is to one day make copies of the Bible, and if he doesn’t become a monk, how will he ever be able to achieve his goal?One day Hans and his mother discover that his father went into debt because he had loaned a large sum of money to support a project he believed was very important. Hans’s mother tells him, “I remember now that your father kept talking about some man who was doing important work for the glory of God…He kept saying this man was being blessed and inspired by God to perfect his art.” When he heard this, Hans thought to himself, “God is inspiring me, too. Copying the Bible is important work – maybe the most important work in the world.”
When the opportunity arises for Hans to become an apprentice to Johann Gutenberg, a thought suddenly occurs to him: “God had not withheld the means by which he could copy the Bible but instead had provided an entirely new way. Even Father’s death, so painfully hard to understand, had its place in God’s greater plan.” As Hans becomes more involved with Gutenberg and his work, he sees how much the man is willing to sacrifice to turn years of effort into a reality.
Those who became patrons of Gutenberg also made personal sacrifices to help fund his project. Did you know it actually took over five years to print the first 100 copies of the Bible? Readers may also be surprised to learn from this story that Gutenberg faced great opposition from people, including some of the monks, who thought his new technique for printing multiple copies of the Bible was “of the devil.”
Readers of Ink on His Fingers will find the main character, Hans, a very likable boy. He’s bright, dutiful, sensitive, and ambitious. And his goal of copying the scriptures is a noble one. With Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1450, the Bible would be able to be printed more quickly and efficiently, each copy exactly the same. It would be able to be more widely distributed and eventually more affordable for people to acquire their own copies. The press also freed up the monks from the tedious task of hand-copying the scriptures, so they could instead teach people to read the Word of God.
What I like most about this story is the emphasis that is placed on the value of God’s Word. Today, we take our copies of the Bible for granted. In many homes, multiple copies in various versions can be found. The Bible is readily available in stores and online, in many choices of format and color, to buy or download, and for a reasonable price. Most people don’t ever stop to think about how the Bible has come into our hands.
A Supplemental Assignment for Kids
Here’s an idea for you to do with your children (if you’re a homeschooling family you may have done this before). Select a passage of scripture, a Psalm for example, and have your children copy it onto a blank sheet of paper in their neatest handwriting. Depending on their age, you could really drive home the point by having them do it in pen, and requiring them to start all over if (or should I say WHEN) they make a mistake. After they have completed the task (or at least attempted it), ask them how long they think it would take to hand copy the entire Bible!
More historical fictions of the Reformation period by Louise Vernon that you might like:
- The Bible Smuggler (feat. William Tyndale)
- The Beggars’ Bible (feat. John Wycliffe)
- Thunderstorm in Church (feat. Martin Luther)
- The Man Who Laid the Egg (feat. Desiderus Erasmus)
Related Sites and Articles
- The Importance of the Printing Press (www.reformation21.org)
- How Printing Gave us the Reformation (confessingbaptist.com)
- Gutenberg’s complete system (thenextwavefutures.wordpress.com)