Beyond Mainz: The Diaspora of Printing Shops
The Mainz Cathedral War of 1461–1463 is widely believed to have been seminal in the spread of printing outside Mainz, when the Mainz shops temporarily closed and workers migrated elsewhere. This is plausible for the partnership of Sweynheym and Pannartz, first in Subiaco and then in Rome; plausible also for Ulrich Zel’s press in Cologne. But the earliest printing of Bamberg and Strasbourg well preceded the Cathedral War. In the case of the numerous “Dutch Prototypography” editions perhaps printed in Utrecht, it is difficult to draw any positive connection at all with Mainz, and the same is true of the small books and broadsides that are less securely localized to Bavaria, Vienna, and Central Italy. The exhibition closes with the earliest printing of Venice and Paris, which developed into the two major printing centers of the last three decades of the 15thcentury.
GERMANY AND AUSTRIA
BIBLE, LATIN. [Strasbourg: Johann Mentelin, not after 1460]
The Gutenberg Bible held no particular significance for 16th and 17th century churchmen and scholars. Falling into disuse, these old Bibles were lost, stored away, or recycled as binding waste. This German law manual of 1666, acquired by Princeton University in 2017, shows the handiwork of a 17th century bookbinder who cut up a discarded Gutenberg Bible to create an inexpensive vellum cover. Not until the 1700s did historians reconnect the 42-line Bible with Gutenberg and the origins of European printing. The vellum strips glued inside the German binding of Princeton’s 1483 Venice edition of Horace, also acquired in 2017, are the only known Mainz Donatus fragments still intact within the binding that utilized them. Printed in the 1460s with the Gutenberg Bible types and one of Fust and Schoeffer’s Psalter initials, this copy of Donatus served as a schoolbook for only a few years before it was discarded as binding waste.
BIBLE, GERMAN [Strasbourg: Johann Mentelin, before 27 June 1466]
Mentelin’s German Bible is the first to be printed in a vernacular language. Its type is a smaller version of Mentelin’s first font, with pages set in double columns of 61 lines versus the 49 lines of Mentelin’s Latin Bible. A copy in Munich was purchased on 27 June 1466 by an Augsburg merchant and chronicler, Hector Mülich. The text basis is a 14th century Middle High German literal translation, which included the false letter of Paul to the Laodiceans. Although more fluent German translations had been made in the late 14th and 15th centuries, Mentelin’s more antiquated text dominated, being followed by all subsequent German Bible editions until Martin Luther. At least eight manuscripts are known whose copyists used the Mentelin German Bible as their text source.
BIBLE, LATIN. [Bamberg: Albrecht Pfister, not after 1461].
This Bible of 36 lines per column was printed with a recasting of Gutenberg’s DK font, and was set from a copy of the 42-line Gutenberg Bible. It is considered the third edition of the Bible, datable by one rubricator’s subscription to no later than 1461. Several of the fifteen surviving copies trace their roots to Bamberg, where Albrecht Pfister utilized the same types as early as February 1461. This incomplete copy is the only one held in America. When it came to light in Würzburg’s “Schottenkloster” in the 18th century, the original binding (now lost) bore an inscription recording the Bible’s donation in 1468 to the Benedictines of Kloster Aurach by Prince-Bishop Georg I von Schaumberg, whom Pfister had served as episcopal secretary in Bamberg. All surviving 36-line Bibles were printed on paper, but fragments in bookbindings attest to several otherwise lost vellum copies. The exhibited vellum fragment (Psalm 10), bought by John Scheide in 1934, lacked historical context until 2016, when an investigation led by Princeton University determined that 88 fragments from the same copy survive, all used during the 1680s to bind up documents at Bad Wildungen (Hesse) and other German archives.
BIBLE, LATIN. [Bamberg: Albrecht Pfister, not after 1461]. Vellum fragment
This Bible of 36 lines per column was printed with a recasting of Gutenberg’s DK font, and was set from a copy of the 42-line Gutenberg Bible. It is considered the third edition of the Bible, datable by one rubricator’s subscription to no later than 1461. Several of the fifteen surviving copies trace their roots to Bamberg, where Albrecht Pfister utilized the same types as early as February 1461. This incomplete copy is the only one held in America. When it came to light in Würzburg’s “Schottenkloster” in the 18th century, the original binding (now lost) bore an inscription recording the Bible’s donation in 1468 to the Benedictines of Kloster Aurach by Prince-Bishop Georg I von Schaumberg, whom Pfister had served as episcopal secretary in Bamberg. All surviving 36-line Bibles were printed on paper, but fragments in bookbindings attest to several otherwise lost vellum copies. The exhibited vellum fragment (Psalm 10), bought by John Scheide in 1934, lacked historical context until 2016, when an investigation led by Princeton University determined that 88 fragments from the same copy survive, all used during the 1680s to bind up documents at Bad Wildungen (Hesse) and other German archives. Bookmark
BLOODLETTING CALENDAR FOR 1462 [Vienna: Ulrich Han? late 1461]
It was a fundamental belief of ancient and medieval medicine that there are good and bad days for bloodletting and taking purgatives, governed by the phases of the Moon. Gutenberg printed a bloodletting Calendar for the year 1457 using his DK type, uniquely preserved at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France. The present Calendar states that its New Moon and Full Moon times are calculated on the meridian of Vienna. These times are not printed, but added by hand, as Arabic numerals, in red ink, and they are of remarkable accuracy. It has been supposed that they were calculated by the famous astronomer-mathematician Regiomontanus, who at this time was in Vienna. The small images representing the opposite phases of the Moon are woodcuts. Thus printmaking, typography, and calligraphy are combined to create the calendar.
GERMAN PRAYERBOOK. [Tyrol, Diocese of Brixen], 1458
This highly miscellaneous collection of German prayers and meditations was designed for use as a personal, hand-carried prayerbook, perhaps in a nunnery; it shows signs of heavy use. It was written and decorated by a single scribe, carefully but non-professionally, on unruled lines. In two places the date of writing is recorded: Anno domini M° cccc° lviij°(1458). At the end are four leaves with hand-colored metalcuts of saints which, as they belong to the original construction of the book, can be closely dated to 1458 or before. The metalcut of the Holy Face or Veronica Veil is the source of the closely copied metalcut that appeared in the type-printed Bavarian editions of Leiden Christi, and would also have been used in the Italian Passione di Cristo shown adjacently, although the Passione fragment is missing that leaf.
PSEUDO-AUGUSTINE, DE VITA CHRISTIANA. [Cologne:] Ulrich Zel, 1467
Ulrich Zel almost never signed or dated his publications. In the four years after the 1466 Chrysostom, he printed well over 80 more editions in the same quarto format. The majority are pastoral and theological tractates designed for a clerical and monastic market. They could be purchased singly or in individually selected small collections, according to the wishes of customers. The only one with a date is this 1467 tract. The Scheide copy is bound as originally purchased, with three other undated Zel quartos, probably all likewise printed in 1467.
MEDITATIONES VITAE CHRISTI. Augsburg: Günther Zainer, 12 March 1468
Günther Zainer, who brought printing to Augsburg, presumably first worked in the Strasbourg shop of Johann Mentelin: he acquired citizenship in Strasbourg in 1463 by marriage to the daughter of a burgher. Zainer’s first book, a widely popular collection of meditations on the life and resurrection of Jesus, was often attributed to St. Bonaventure, but is here presented as an anonymous writing. In the later Middle Ages, floods of unnamed theological tractates were attributed in scribal copies to the major fathers of the Church, notably Augustine and Jerome, Bonaventure and Aquinas. Zainer’s first type font possibly reflects an influence from Mentelin’s fonts, for it includes an awkwardly shaped ampersand. The paper of the Meditationes came not from Italy, the source of paper in the earliest Strasbourg printing, but from a paper mill in Zainer’s native town of Reutlingen, south of Stuttgart.
GUILELMUS DE SALICETO, DE SALUTE CORPORIS. [Utrecht?: ca. 1468-1469]
The Saliceto font, larger than the Speculum font, was used to print many editions on vellum of the schoolbooks Donatus and Alexander de Villa Dei, Doctrinale. It was also used to print the present collection of texts of Italian origin: short treatises on the preservation of the body (De salute corporis) and of the soul (De salute animae), and a miscellany of other brief humanist items. A copy in Darmstadt bears a rubrication date of 1472, but the paper stocks suggest an earlier date, 1468-1469. Bookmark
LUDOVICUS PONTANUS, SINGULARIA IURIS. [Utrecht?: ca. 1468-1469]
The Pontanus uses the largest of the Prototypography fonts, with body size equal to that of the Gutenberg Bible font. Various editions of Donatus were printed with this font, but none of Alexander de Villa Dei. The tracts of the Roman jurist Ludovicus Pontanus, “monarch” of civil and canon law, presumably came north in manuscript from Italy together with the tracts of the Saliceto edition. Part II of the book, in the smaller Saliceto type, is a miscellany of epitaphs in the same setting as those in the Saliceto edition. Thus both fonts, larger and smaller, were in the same printing shop, and the two editions were printed concurrently. Likewise, the paper stocks of the two editions are the same.
PASSIONE DI CRISTO. [Ferrara? Ulrich Han ca. 1462-1463]
This fragmentary Passione di Cristo, a series of Italian prayers, each facing a metalcut scene from the Passion, came to light in the Munich booktrade in the 1920s. Its large and eccentric rotunda font, with body size equal to that of Gutenberg’s DK font, is otherwise unrecorded. The metalcuts are of Bavarian origin, where they were used to print various editions of a German Leiden Cristi in the same layout as the Passione di Cristo. The square gothic font of the Bavarian Leiden Cristi editions is a variant of that used to print the Vienna Bloodletting Calendar for 1462. The Passione paper stock with watermark of a half-figure Unicorn is appropriate for a mill in the Romagna in the early 1460s. Our working picture is that a printer brought the Passion metalcuts south, fashioned a new type, and re-used the cuts for an Italian prayer book translated from the Leiden Christi, several years before Sweynheym and Pannartz began to print at Subiaco.
LACTANTIUS, OPERA. SUBIACO: [Conrad Sweynheym & Arnold Pannartz], 29 October 1465.
Lactantius (ca. 240–320 CE) was a Roman rhetorician who served as tutor to the son of Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor. The first edition of his works, which recommended Christian beliefs to Roman men of letters, was printed concurrently with Cicero’s De Oratore, but this much longer work was not completed until several weeks later in 1465. It was one of the first two books (along with Fust and Schoeffer’s Cicero, De Officiis of 1465) to contain Greek printing. As seen in the word ἀνθρωπος (anthropos) on the exhibited right-hand page, the Subiaco type handled Greek letter forms much more accurately than Fust and Schoeffer did the same year. This very tall Median folio is preserved in its original Italian binding.
PLINY THE ELDER, HISTORIA NATURALIS. Venice: Johannes de Spira, [before 18 September] 1469
In 1469 printing was established for the first time not merely in a city on a river, but in a major mercantile center with a seacoast harbor. On 18 September of that year, the Venetian government granted Johannes de Spira, a German émigré from Speyer, the exclusive privilege to print books within their city for the next five years. He had already published two editions of Cicero’s Epistolae ad familiares as well as Pliny’s Historia naturalis, using a good roman typeface. The exhibited copy of Pliny’s compendium of natural history was illuminated in the Italian “white-vine” style and bears an unidentified armorial. It was bound in the 18th century for Göttweig Abbey in Austria.
EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA, DE EVANGELICA PRAEPARATIONE. Venice: [Nicolas Jenson], 1470
Johannes de Spira’s monopoly on printing in Venice was short-lived. After his death in 1470, others were allowed to establish presses there, and by the mid-1470s Venice was the publishing capitol of Europe. The city’s leading printer was Nicolas Jenson, former master of the French royal mint. According to 16th century records, in 1458 Charles VII had dispatched Jenson to learn Gutenberg’s craft in Mainz. By 1470 Jenson was in Venice, using a roman font of unusually high quality; it continues to influence type design today. His first publication was the exhibited 4th century refutation of pagan theology by Eusebius, “Father of Church History.” Princeton’s copy bears hand-stamped woodcut initials that Italian booksellers occasionally added to provide patterns for hand-coloring.
BRUNUS ARETINUS, DE BELLO ITALICO. Foligno: Johann Neumeister & Aemilianus de Orfinis, 1470
It has been presumed but not proved that the printer Johann Neumeister, apparently a native of Mainz, began in the printing trade as a worker in the printing shops of Gutenberg or of Fust and Schoeffer. In any case, he is likely to have arrived to Foligno in Umbria from Rome, 75 miles to the south, for his type font is nearly identical to that of a printing shop formed the same year in Rome by a wealthy papal official, Johannes Philippus de Lignamine. The financial patron of the first Foligno press, Emiliano Orfini, was a papal mintmaster. Curiously, in the same year, 1470, a pamphlet for pilgrims to Assisi was printed only a few miles away, in the small neighboring town of Trevi, using a type that, though different, shows stylistic similarities to Neumeister’s.
DANTE ALIGHIERI, LA COMMEDIA. Foligno: Johann Neumeister & Evangelista, 15 April 1472
Somewhat improbably, the Foligno press produced the first edition of a masterwork of world literature, the Divine Comedy, one of three editions of that year (the other two from Venice and Mantua), each set from a different manuscript. Neumeister refers in the colophon to his subordinate, “Evangelista meo,” who can be identified as a Foligno notary, Evangelista Angelini. Their printing enterprise ended with the Dante, and Neumeister departed in debt to his original patron Emiliano Orfini, who had him imprisoned in Rome. Neumeister then disappears from historical record until 1479, when he printed in Mainz, moving on to Albi in Languedoc in 1481, and to Lyons in 1488, where he died a pauper.
VIRGIL, OPERA. [Paris: Ulrich Gering, Martin Crantz & Michael Friburger, ca. 1472]
The earliest French printers based their Royal quarto edition of Virgil’s works on a manuscript, probably from the Sorbonne library, independent of the versions in the earlier editions. Until the Princeton copy came to light in 1906, this Paris edition, known only from the incomplete Spencer-Rylands copy, was thought to consist solely of the Bucolics and Georgics, omitting the Aeneid. Once owned by the Dominican friars of Limoges, Princeton’s complete copy preserves its original binding. The book is opened to the beginning of the Aeneid.