Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Margaret's Print Shop: A Novel of the Anabaptist Reformation

Margaret's Print Shop: A Novel of the Anabaptist Reformation, by Elwood E. Yoder, is a historical novel about the Anabaptist Reformation. This story is set in sixteenth century Strasbourg, Germany. In that time, Strasbourg was a German city although it is now a part of France.

Twenty-eight year old Margaret was a printer who was very sympathetic to the message of the Anabaptists. She was very attracted to fellow printer Balthasar Beck, who also sympathized with the movement. She printed Twelve Articles, which was a pamphlet calling for independence for the peasants.

As Margaret printed Christian Baptism, a pamphlet written by George Blaurock, she read it eagerly. She began to think seriously about the idea of baptism only after confession of faith in Christ, wondering if this belief was based on the Bible. She realized that there were not enough German translations of the Bible available for people to read and discern for themselves. Margaret also agreed to print a pamphlet by Hans Hut, a document that spoke for abolition of the Latin Mass.

When a man named Conrad Grebel asked Margaret to print his pamphlet which outlined the beliefs of the Anabaptists, she agreed to do so knowing that it would be risky for her. Before she could even finish printing it, she was asked to appear before the censorship committee. They were upset about the petition to abolish the mass that she had already printed. They ordered her to stop printing "inflammatory materials."

Beck declared his love for Margaret,vowing to face all their trials together. Even though they faced opposition, they were able to be married. They opened their own printing press, attended Anabaptist meetings, and grew in their love for each other. They saw friends imprisoned, but they held firm to their convictions. Eventually, Beck was imprisoned because he refused to fight in the Emperor's army. Things got worse for the Becks when the censorship committee threatened to shut down the Beck printing press. The pamphlets she had printed by Groebel were publicly burned, she had to pay a hefty fine, and every document she printed was examined. She vowed, even with her husband in prison, and a baby growing inside her, that she would continue God's work.

What I Like: This novel is packed with useful historical information without being tedious. It is well written, bringing the reader into the lives of the main characters.

What I Dislike: Even though the author gives us an epilogue that lets us know the fate of the main characters, I would have liked to read how Balthasar Beck was released from prison, and a little more detail about the end of the story.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: 9 - adult

Publisher Info: Herald Press, 2005; ISBN:0836193032 ; Paperback $14.99

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