Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)
Commentary on Martin Luther's "Warning to the Printers" as part of the preface to his German translation of the Bible
Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management, Bournemouth University, UK
Please cite as:
Kawohl, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on Luther's Warning to the Printers (1541)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org
1. Full title
1. Full title
Martin Luther's "Warning to the Printers" as part of the preface to his German translation of the Bible
Luther's works were a huge success for both original printers and reprinters. Reprints helped considerably to promote the popularity of the author and the Reformation project in general. The German translation of the Bible was at first published in parts and often without an author's name. Some of the reprint editions were enlarged with translations from other authors.
Luther's "Warning" covers different levels of argumentation. A theological dimension, directing the reader to St. Paul's condemnation of "Avarice" as the root of all evil; a public moral argument marking illegal reprinting as a predatory practice; and what we nowadays might call a ‘moral rights' argument: reprinters do not reprint accurately.
Luther's and the Protestant Reformation's bearing on sixteenth-century printing history and reading culture can hardly be overestimated and Luther's "Warning" is a core part of the narrative on the history of German copyright.
Books and articles [in alphabetical order]
Volz, Hans. Martin Luthers deutsche Bibel (Berlin und Altenburg: Evangelische Haupt-Bibelgesellschaft, 1978)
Wendland, Henning. "Martin Luther - seine Buchdrucker und Verleger", Wolfenbütteler Schriften zur Geschichte des Buchwesens, 11 (1985): 11-35