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The Brethren were teachers of literacy, Christian pacifists, reformers who traveled in small secret groups to liberate others. The church-state hunted them as them radicals and heretics, condemning their teachings and pacifism as a threat to the recruitment of armies. With their underground printing press, one small cell of idealists struggled to liberate others, and some came to love them. Capture meant torture and burning. How long could they hope to live?


Illiterate laborers and sharecroppers, living as slaves bonded by church-state law, they sent their sons to die in constant wars. But when the stubborn little group of Brethren suffer alongside them, and teach them to read, will villeins think freely for themselves? Will slaves accept the yoke, when they are liberated from the ignorance that has shackled them? Will they accept the ideals of Brethren, or become blind with rage?


A world is torn apart. In the disastrous chaos of the great German Peasant War, can faith and love endure? In a dungeon for the condemned and tortured, can the Brethren find strength in the hymns they create to comfort one another? Can those who love them survive and find hope?

From The Author

Incunabula Press salutes those of all lands and creeds who promote freedom through advocacy, by all peaceful means possible.

Today, the worldwide web is the second information revolution. 500 years ago in Europe, the first information revolution was the printing press. For the first time, information could be self-taught, learned, and processed by the individual. Before the literacy revolution, the medieval church and state were one power, and the people obeyed blindly. They were unschooled, and knew right only as whatever the priests and lords commanded. These virtual slaves were called ‘villeins’.

The brethren were an underground movement of reformers who believed in the right and responsibility of every man and woman— to learn what was true, what was false, each for themselves. They saw personal awareness as the one true means of resisting evil. Their tool was the free teaching of literacy. If people could be taught to read the scriptures for themselves, the power of Christ’s message of love for all, might redeem their violent world. The church-state fought back, using every means to keep its illiterate villeins in manageable ignorance, to slave on estate lands and to fight in war.

The primal commands of Christ, to love one another, to love thy enemies, struggles to be heard and believed. Other religions support war as well. Humanity has become a closed structure on a planet of shrinking resources. We will live as one or perish as one, together.

Today, the second information revolution— the world-wide-web— binds humanity ever closer. This new unity, forced upon all peoples by technology, is the greatest challenge ever confronted by Mankind. Our only hope is a world community of fellowship. Our world must find a way to live in peace and in the hope of goodwill toward men, of all lands, religions, and languages. If love of mankind cannot wipe away hatred, we are all doomed.

These were the beliefs of the brethren, 500 years ago. Young and old, female and male, they pledged their lives to the liberation of others. They changed their world in ways they could never have foreseen.

The Villeins Trilogy is their story in three parts— Brethren, Villeins, Ausbund.

"Thrilling and gripping! Bravo to the author!" - Judith Mandt, Bastei Luebbe Press, Germany - "Impressive" - Jack McCrae, Henry Holt - "The breadth and ambition of imagination are staggering." - Liz Van Hoose, Viking Penguin - "The sheer immensity of Villein's scope is entirely transporting. This story is the reason one is even able to read this story." - Sam Thomas, U. Oxford, Poets House