Penguin to sell rights to ‘top secret’ book at London Book Fair

A bigger element of intrigue than usual will surround this year's London Book Fair after publisher Penguin revealed it will use the event to sell international rights to a 'top secret' new work.

Called The Sign: The Shroud of Turin and the Secret of the Resurrection, the book by Cambridge art historian Thomas de Wesselow is being billed as an "astonishing breakthrough" which explains the birth of Christianity for the first time.

Details of the work have been kept a closely guarded secret, with only three staff at Penguin in the know about it until this year, reports The Bookseller.

In the book, de Wesselow attempts to explain how Jesus' followers came to believe they had witnessed his resurrection.

He argues that what they actually saw was the famous Turin Shroud – supposedly the cloth Jesus was wrapped in after his resurrection which is famously said to possess an imprint of his liking – and took this to be a sign of him coming back to life.

Most experts believe the shroud to be a fake created in medieval times, but, according to the publisher, de Wasselow presents new convincing evidence to prove its authenticity.

Penguin UK has ordered an initial print run of 25,000 hardbacks for the UK market, and 20,000 trade paperbacks for the international export, but still has many international rights to sell.

Joel Rickett, editorial director of Penguin subsidiary Viking, told The Bookseller: "All the printers, typesetters, international publishers and so on have had to sign strict non-disclosure agreements and have put in place Harry Potter-style security measures.

"London Book Fair will be a big rights focus, we've still got a lot of territories to go; we only went to key markets where we could trust the publisher."

With the London Book Fair taking place at Earls Court between April 16th and 18th, hotels in Marble Arch could prove an excellent base for the many members of the publishing industry expected to flock to London for the event.

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