Fust and Schoeffer in Mainz

1457-1466

Johann Fust, citizen of Mainz, was Gutenberg’s financial partner for the 42-line Bible project. In late 1455 Fust sued Gutenberg in a dispute over the costs of their joint “Work of the Books,” claiming that Gutenberg owed substantial amounts for misuse of loans involving paper, vellum, ink, an unnamed apparatus, and workers’ wages. Gutenberg countered that most of Fust’s funding was an investment toward their mutual profit, and not subject to repayment with interest.

Fust then joined with Peter Schoeffer, a young scribe who had practiced in Paris, to form a second and very successful printing enterprise. Between 1457 and Fust’s death in 1466, they printed liturgical books of remarkable beauty and technical mastery; the first lengthy book by a post-biblical author; the first law book; the first texts printed with surrounding commentary; and the first classical text published north of the Alps.

Their first publication was a Royal folio Psalter, presenting the Latin psalms and traditional canticles for church worship. Completed 14 August 1457, it was the first book to announce the names of its makers and the date of production. It introduced two sizes of a square gothic typeface showing significant advances on the Gutenberg Bible type. Ornamental red and blue initials were printed simultaneously with the black text in perfect register. Spaces were left for musical notation to be added by hand. The Scheide Library copy, one of ten surviving, is the only one in America.