Commentary on:
Basel Printers' Statute (1531)

Back | Commentary info | Commentary
Printer friendly version
Creative Commons License
This work by is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)

Identifier: d_1531


Commentary on the Basel Printers' Statute 1531

Friedemann Kawohl

Centre for Intellectual Property Policy & Management, Bournemouth University, UK


Please cite as:
Kawohl, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on the Basel Printers' Statute 1531', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. Early printing in Basel: Petri, Amerbach, Froben

4. Sixteenth-century privileges for books from Basel

5. The Basel Council and the printers; Curio vs. Cratander; and the Statute of 1531

6. The Basel Printers' Statute and the concept of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century "publishers' property"

7. References


1. Full title
Basel Printers' Statute of 28 October 1531 as documented in the Statute Book.


2. Abstract
This is the first municipal printers' ordinance enacted in the printing centres of the Upper Rhine region, and it is also the first general prohibition of reprinting in the German lands. The document is part of the Basel Council's Statute Book (lit. "Book of Findings" - "Erkanntnisbuch"). It provides for a fixed three-year term of protection and stipulates that a sum of 100 gulden is to be paid as a fine by those who violate it. Moreover, the Statute forbids the printing of anything that "could harm the city of Basel", as well as any attempts by printers to entice away colleagues' staff by offering higher wages and so on. The Statute, therefore, tacitly acknowledges that the printing business requires investments not just in terms of capital but also in terms of manpower: hence this provision to prevent printers from losing their staff to competitors. The Basel Printers' Statute has been recognised as the very first act of municipal printing regulation in the early centres of printing in the Upper Rhine region during the sixteenth century. This commentary will focus on the distinction between the concept of "publishers' property", as it was formulated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the eighteenth-century notion of "intellectual property".


3. Early printing in Basel: Petri, Amerbach, Froben
After Strasbourg and Mainz, Basel was the third place in which the new technique of printing was introduced. In 1463, Berthold Ruppel, a former apprentice of Gutenberg, is reported to have opened a printing press there. His first book, a Latin bible, was probably published in 1468. The Berlin Catalogue of Incunabula (i.e. fifteenth-century printed books)[1] lists 931 original editions from Basel, making it the eleventh busiest fifteenth-century printing place after Venice (4346), Paris (3767), Cologne (1752), Lyon (1597), Leipzig (1519), Strasbourg (1374), Augsburg (1356), Milan (1206), Nuremberg (1156), and Florence (1069). 709 fifteenth-century Latin prints from Basel have been identified, putting the city in thirteenth place, in this respect, after Venice (3487), Paris (2583), Rome (1870), Rouen (1559), Cologne (1448), Lyon (1247), Leipzig (1137), Milan (1077), Strasbourg (1063), Augsburg (1029), Nuremberg (909), and Florence (783).[2] Having learnt the art of printing in Mainz, Johann Petri (1441-1511) settled in Basel around 1480, acquiring citizenship in 1488. Five hundred years later, in 1988, he was commemorated as the founder of the oldest still existing publishing house, the Petrinische Offizin, now trading under Schwabe AG.[3] Johannes Amerbach (c. 1444-1513), who probably learnt printing in Venice, worked in Basel under the name "Hans of Venice" from around 1475 to 1478. 162 incunabula prints have been identified as coming from his printing office.[4] In 1480, there were 26 printing shops in this small Imperial Free City on the banks of the Rhine. [5]


It was Johann Froben (c. 1460-1527) who turned Basel into an early-sixteenth- century centre for the printing of Greek and Latin editions. These publications from Basel played a considerable role in the Humanists' endeavour to disseminate critical editions of classical texts, thus paving the way for the later reformatory movements in religion. Froben had worked with Koberger[6] in Nuremberg before coming to Basel in 1490. From 1502 he was in joint business with Amerbach and Petri, based in Amerbach's workshop, until he opened his own printing office in 1507. In 1520, he married Getrud Lachner, the daughter of the publisher and book trader Wolfgang Lachner (c. 1465-1518).[7] It was probably the latter who encouraged Froben to adopt the business model of the Venice- based Aldus Manutius (Aldo Manucci). Like the famous Venetian printer, Froben too concentrated on bringing out scholarly works in beautifully composed prints. From 1512 onwards, he started to use Antiqua types modelled on Manutius's founts (see i_1503), and he was also one of the first printers after Manutius to regularly use a trade-mark or logo. Interestingly, it was after reprinting a Manutius edition that Froben made the acquaintance of Erasmus - a meeting which was to add an even greater European dimension to his business. Manutius had published Erasmus's collection of proverbs under the title "Adagia" in 1508:[8] it was the latter which Froben reprinted in 1513 as a particularly splendid edition,[9] and which prompted Erasmus to anonymously call on the Basel printer in his workshop in 1514. As we know from the account Erasmus himself wrote in one of his letters, he had initially pretended to be a friend of Erasmus who had come to Basel with the authority to negotiate new publications of his works! Erasmus ended up staying in Froben's house for one and a half years, and from then on Froben was his main publisher. Erasmus came to Basel again in 1521 and lived there for a number of years until in 1529 he was forced to leave the city because of the Reformation: he settled in nearby Freiburg, one of the few towns in the Upper Rhine area where the Reformation did not prevail.[10]


As early as 1518, Froben had published a 488-page edition of collected works by Luther.[11] It was sold in France, Spain, Brabant, and England, and turned out to be the most profitable book of his career, as he himself told Luther in a letter of October 1518. After a second edition of 1519 sold out, it is possible that Erasmus persuaded Froben to cease printing Luther's writings. From 1521 onwards, Froben had in effect an exclusive right to publish all new works by Erasmus.[12] After Froben's death in 1527, Erasmus kept in touch with his son Hieronymus, staying at the latter's house after moving back to Basel in 1535. In a letter he compared Froben to Manutius:

"If our rulers [i.e. the rulers in the German lands] were as receptive to scholarly endeavours as those of the Italians are, Froben's serpents [Froben's trade-mark showed various serpents and a dove][13] would be as successful as Aldus's dolphins [Manutius's trade-mark][14] on the book market. Under his motto "festina lente" [make haste slowly] Aldus has acquired no less money than fame, and both deservedly so. Froben, on the other hand, who is always concerned with the benefit of the public, has become famous rather than rich, since he sticks to the naivety of his doves and shows a serpent's sagacity only in his printer's mark but not in his conduct."[15]

Apart from Petri, Amerbach and Froben, other important sixteenth-century Basel printers were:


Johannes Oporinus (Herbst, Oporin) (1507-1568), a Professor of Greek at Basel University, whose biggest printing enterprise was the publication of Andreas Vesalius' De Humani corporis fabrica Libri septem in 1543.


Johann Herwagen (Hervagius), a printer from Strasbourg, who, after marrying Johann Froben's widow, collaborated with his stepson Hieronymus Froben for a while. From 1532, however, he again started printing under his own name.


Andreas Cratander (Hartmann), who came to Basel from Strasbourg and worked with Petri until he began publishing under his own name from 1518 to 1536. In 1519, he brought out a Dictionarium Graecum.

Valentin Curio (Schaffner), who paid to become a member of the Basel printers' guild in 1520 and published a Lexicon Graeca in 1522, leading to a reprint dispute with Cratander.


Johann Bebel, who in 1530 published a reprint of the 1529 French-privileged edition of Budäus's Commentarii linguae Graecae, printed by Jodocus Badius Ascensius.


Michael Isingrin, who started working with Petri and from 1539 published under his own name.


Ruprecht (Robert) Winter, who was a member of the printers' guild from 1518 and started off as the business partner of his brother-in-law, Johann Oporin. He printed under his own name between 1536 and 1545


Thomas Plattner (1499-1582), a schoolmaster who worked as a printer between 1536 and 1538. His autobiography gives a vivid insight into the careers of sixteenth-century Basel printers:

"When I saw that Hervagius and others engaged in the printing trade were doing good business and that they were making a lot of money without having to do much work, I began to say to myself that I too ought to become a printer. Dr Oporinus had the same idea; he too was doing a lot of proof-correcting work in the printing-shops. [...] Between the two of us we worked out a good scheme for a business partnership, but none of us had any money. Ruprecht Winter, the brother-in-law of Oporinus, was married to a woman who was very keen on being a printer's wife: she had noticed that printers' wives lived in luxury, wanting for absolutely nothing, because they had money in plenty, as well as all kinds of pretensions to go with it! She persuaded her husband Ruprecht to take up the printing trade, together with his brother-in-law Oporinus. And this is how the four of us came to form an association - Oporinus, Ruprecht, Baltazar and myself. We bought Andreas Cratander's machinery and equipment because he and his son Polycarp had decided to become booksellers instead, after Cratander's wife had declared that she didn't want to have anything more to do with all that paraphenalia,[16] as she put it. We gave him eight hundred gulden for the equipment, to be paid within a specified period [...] two of us would regularly go to Frankfurt. Our wives wanted us to buy them a lot of things there - one wanted pretty cushions, the other wanted pewter dishes. However, I bought iron cooking pots instead. We often came back to Basel with a barrel full of the various things we had bought, but hardly ever did we return with any money."[17]

4. Sixteenth-century privileges for books from Basel
In general, privileges were requested and granted for expensive books with many pages and/or in large formats. The first privileges for a Basel print, awarded by the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor in 1516,[18] are referred to in an edition of works by St Jerome, whose translations of the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Psalms into Latin constituted the core of the ‘Vulgate', the canonical medieval version of the Bible. The Basel nine-volume edition was a collective achievement of the printers Amerbach (who died in 1513), his sons, his business partner Froben, and several editors, including Johannes Reuchlin[19] and Johannes Cuno.[20] Erasmus was responsible for the first four volumes and wrote a dedication to William Warham, Archbishop of Canterbury.[21] The elaborate edition includes side-by-side columns of the Psalms in Latin/Greek and Latin/Hebrew.[22] In all likelihood it was Froben who applied for the Imperial privilege. Since Froben, however, was unable to secure a Royal French privilege as well, Amerbach later asked Erasmus to dissuade the Paris publisher Jean Petit from his intention of bringing out a French reprint:

"The Paris printer Jean Petit is holding the knife to our throat: he is threatening to imitate the whole work. Perhaps you could try to stop him by sending him a short letter."[23]


Erasmus promptly sent a letter to the printer and author Josse Bade (Jodocus Badius) (1462-1535):

"The famous Amerbach brothers[24] have written to inform me that Jean Petit is threatening to print the works of St Jerome, thereby showing utter contempt for the papal prohibition, and, what is more, disregarding all considerations of ‘humanitas' [meaning here "good breeding" rather than "humanity" in a modern sense]"[25]

Just a month after the edition of St Jerome's works, Froben published Erasmus' New Testament. This two-column Greek/ Latin collation, in which Erasmus based his new Latin translation on a Greek version that he had collated from several manuscripts, is considered to be the starting point of modern critical studies of Holy Scripture. It is the first ever printed Latin non-Vulgate version of the Bible and the first published version of the Greek original, since another Greek version, printed in Alcalá (Spain), in 1514, at the request and expense of Cardinal Francisco Ximenez de Cisneros (1436-1517), was withheld by the Roman Curia until 1522. The 1200 copies of the first edition of Erasmus's New Testament were soon sold out, and in 1519 a second version was published - probably the one on which Luther's German translation in 1519-20 was based (see d_1545). Despite Froben's warning to the "imitators" in the preface,[26] reprints were published from 1520 onwards, most of them being in cheap quarto or octavo format and including only Erasmus's Latin text. In Basel alone, seven Latin reprints were produced: by Cratander and by Froben in 1520, twice by Froben in 1522, and one by Pamphilus Gengenbach, Thomas Wolff and Adam Petri respectively.[27] Editions which just included the Greek version also met with an apparently increasing demand, for Nicolaus Gerbel's edition (Haguenau, 1521) was followed by a Strasbourg edition of 1524 to which its printer and publisher Wolfgang Köpfel, who was a leading intellectual figure in the Strasbourg Reformation movement, contributed a preface. The Basel reprint of 1524[28] too contained a preface by the printer Johannes Bebel, praising the editor Jakob Ceporin and the publisher Schabler (Wattenschne). Although he doesn't explicitly refer to Froben's original version, Bebel explains that he has left out the introductions and critical apparatus, "so that the book wouldn't exceed pocket- book format"[29].


Concentrating on classical texts and Latin books, Basel publishers were producing for a European market. The "Commentarii Linguae Graecae", a major dictionary of Greek, first published in Paris, in 1529, by Guillaume Budé (lat. Guglielmus Budaeus 1467-1540) was reprinted in Basel by Johannes Bebel in 1530. The Basel reprint, edited by Simon Grynaeus (1493-1541), who in 1529 had been appointed Professor of Greek at Basel University, could not be imported into France, since Budé, a scholar in the service of the French king had been granted a royal privilege which forbade both reprints in France and the importing of reprints for five years, except in the case of those who had obtained a special licence from Budé.[30] Grynaeus informed Budeaus about the Basel reprint in a letter of 18 June 1530. This, in Frank Hieronymus's words, was a letter, whose author clearly counted on a favourable reception, either because Budé already knew about the reprint and, being certain of its high quality, was grateful that his work would thereby reach a wider public, or because Gryneaus, parting from the premise that Budé could allow reprints to anyone he wanted, was firmly expecting to receive such a licence which would allow the reprint to be imported into France.[31]


The Basel reprint included all the sections of the Paris edition by Jodocus Badius Ascensius, as well as the dedication to Francis I of France (1494-1547), but left out the privilege. Some marginalia were also omitted, but, according to Hieronymus, the reprint was on the whole more "reader friendly" since it used columns instead of lines, and it was probably also cheaper, given that the Paris version contained 972 pages, whereas the Basel one had just 712 pages.


Sixteenth-century Basel printers were successful in their applications for privileges from the Emperor, the Pope, the King of France, and, in at least one instance, from the Republic of Venice. From a sample of 100 title-pages of works published in Basel between 1516 and 1583 and including a reference to an Imperial privilege (these title-pages having been consulted online in May 2007),[32] we may conclude the following:


The title-pages of 34 books referred to a specific term of duration of the privilege, whereas 66 did not. Most early references to non-limited privileges are of the form: "Cum privilegio Caesareo" or "Cum gratia et privilegio Caesareo" (1523-1531), whereas later references read as: "Cum Gratia et privilegio Imperiali" (once in 1555), and, most frequently after 1560: "Cum gratia & privilegio Caesareae Maiestatis". There was one privilege granted for three years (1522), two for four years (1535, 1537), ten for five years (1416, 1443-1555), seven for six years (1540-1478), three for seven years (1542-1546), and eleven for ten years (1540-1582). There is a clear tendency towards longer terms. Imperial privileges for three and four years were not granted after 1537, and privileges for five years ceased to be awarded after 1555. Imperial privileges granted between 1556 and 1583 were either for a six- or a ten-year term of protection (four and seven instances respectively).


Basel printers and booksellers like Johann Schabeler (Schabler, Wattenschne) had begun to sell Basel prints to Lyon and Paris during the 1490s[33] and to actively cooperate with French printers from 1504 onwards.[34] A Royal French privilege, the first within the sample, was granted for a monumental Basel edition of the works of the ancient Greek physician Galen. The edition came out in five folio volumes of 567, 491, 487, 480, and 717 pages respectively (not including the prefaces) and was published in 1537-38 by a collective effort of the Basel printers and publishers Cratander, Bebel, Herwagen, Froben and Isengrin. According to the full Latin version printed at the beginning of the first volume,[35] the privilege was issued on 20 December 1536 in Fontainebleau, referred to Cratander, Herwagen and Bebel (actually to "Cratander and his associates" ["Cratander & socius suis"]), and granted protection against reprints and imports of reprints for each of the volumes for a period of five years.


Latin versions of Galen's works were first printed in Venice in 1490 and reprinted in Venice and Pavia in 1502, 1511, 1515/1516, 1522, and 1528; and in Basel by Cratander, in 1529. The first printed Greek version, issued in 1515 by Aldus Manutius's famous press in Venice, served as the basis for the Basel edition. According to the preface written by one of the editors, Hieronymus Gemuseus (Gschmus, 1505-1544, who in 1527 married Sibylla Cratander, the daughter of Andreas Cratander),[36] the Basel edition provided enhanced value with respect to the older edition, since the editors had collated different manuscripts, some of which were sent by the French physician and botanist Jean Ruel (Ruelle, c. 1479-1537), personal physician to King Francis I (1494-1547). Through these Royal French privileges the Basel printers secured for themselves a monopoly on the French market. The Basel printers, however, had for their part been reprinting French editions, e.g. Jean Ruel's De natura stirpium, wich was first published in Paris, in 1536, and reprinted in Basel the following year by Froben and Episcop.


In 1540, Robert Winter, according to the title-page of his edition of Homer's Iliad, had even been awarded a ten-year privilege: "Cum gratia & priuilegio tam Regio quam Caesareo ad decennium".[37] Fourteen book titles out of the sample of 100 refer to both Imperial and French privileges: two of these (1543, 1571)[38] do not indicate a term, two (1536, 1546)[39] refer to a five-year term, one (1546)[40] to a seven-year term, and six to a ten-year term of protection.[41] Three of these title-pages indicate a different term of protection for each of the two ‘countries' concerned: five years in the Empire and ten in France in one case,[42] ten in the Empire and six in France in another,[43] and, finally, ten in the Empire and nine in France.[44] One title refers to privileges from the Emperor, the King of France, and the Venetian Senate: "Cum Caesarea Maiest. Galliarum Regis, ac Senatus Veneti gratia & privilegio, ut in diplomatis eorundem continetur."[45]


Privileges were regarded as being strictly bound to the printed book as a commodity, rather than as dependent on an author's original achievement or covering an abstract "work" in the modern sense. New, original works were privileged, but so were collections or new editions of older texts. Some printers apparently assumed that privilege terms were calculated not from the year of appearance of the first edition, but that the same term started afresh with every new edition even if hardly any changes had been made to the earlier edition. Thus, on the title-page of Episcopius's 1563 edition of Münsinger von Frundeck's Apotelesma we find printed exactly the same phrase: "Cum gratia & priuilegio Caesareo quinquennium; Et regis Galliarum in decennium" as in the older edition of 1555.[46]


Within the sample of 100 books there is only one which includes a censorship authorisation: namely, Oporin's edition of the works of Nikephoros Kallistos Xanthopulos (c. 1256- c. 1335).[47] Oporin was granted a ten-year privilege by Emperor Ferdinand (issued on 17 October 1551)[48], a six-year privilege by Henry II of France (issued in Paris on 20 June 1552)[49], and received a censorship authorisation dated 19 February 1551 from the Faculty of Theology at Leuven.[50] This Faculty published three lists of prohibited books (in 1546, 1550, and 1558), which, all in all, comprised 450 titles, including 60 editions of Holy Scripture and the New Testament. These lists were the immediate precursors to the notorious papal "Index Librorum Prohibitorum", which was first published in 1557.[51] Oporin also managed to secure a Venetian privilege for his edition of Vesalius's medical treatise. The title-page there explicitly refers to documents ["diplomati"] which he claims to be in possession of ["continetur"]: "Cum Caesarea Maiest. Galliarum Regis, ac Senatus Veneti gratia & privilegio, ut in diplomatis eorundem continetur."[52]


5. The Basel Council and the printers; Curio vs. Cratander; and the Statute of 1531
In the early fifteenth century, the Basel City Council issued a resolution concerning the guild affiliation of craftsmen working in the printing trade:

"On the Monday after St Catherine's Day, 1508, the Councillors have decided that all those who are engaged in the book printing trade in our city shall be free to join whatever guild they want, and that they may not be obstructed in their business by any of the other guilds."[53]

Henceforth, printing in Basel was regarded as belonging to the liberal arts rather than to the crafts. In 1505, Amerbach, Petri and Froben, who had just printed a Bible on behalf of the Nuremberg publisher Anton Koberger, were explicitly freed from the Basel export tariff. In addition to this, they were also permitted to bring imported paper directly to their workshops, releasing them from the obligation to first offer such paper for sale at the public market hall.[54] In 1506, all printers in general were granted a reduced tariff, and in 1521 an abolition of all export tariffs for Basel prints was announced whilst at the same time all import duties on books were reduced. The first censorship regulations were introduced in a proclamation of 12 December 1524, which stated that from then on no printers were allowed to print anything (be it in Latin, Hebrew, Greek or German), or authorise others to do so, without first having obtained the approval of certain officials appointed by the Council. Printers always had to print their name on those works for which they received printing authorisation. Censorship questions, however, often led to disputes: for example, in 1525 the City Council requested several expert opinions from theologians and lawyers when Johannes Oekolampadius (1482-1531) applied for permission to publish a work which gave an interpretation of the Eucharist in the spirit of the Reformation.[55]


After Petri's plans for an edition of the Koran had been turned down by the City Council in 1536, Oporin secretly began printing a Latin version in 1542, adding to it a commentary and refutations from a Christian perspective which Theodor Bibliander (1504-1564) had collated from older Latin and Arab sources. The City Council prohibited the work on 1 August 1542 and asked several Basel theologians for expert opinions.[56] Although the number of those arguing in favour of publication and that of those who were against it was the same, the already printed sheets were confiscated on 31 August 1542,[57] and Oporin was arrested and imprisoned for a while.[58] Just a few days earlier, on 26 August 1542, the Council had agreed on a fine of 100 gulden for offences against the censorship regulations.[59] Oporin, however, wrote several letters soliciting support for the Koran project, and after a number of scholars from Strasbourg and Luther in Wittenberg pleaded in favour of the publication, the Council agreed to the publication provided that:

"Oporin manages to find someone else from another authority to whom he can submit this book [...] and that it is printed under that person's name and title [...], so that it does not contain any reference to us [the Council, F.K.], our city, or to our printers; and that it is not offered for sale here, but only outside of our territories".[60]

After Oporin pledged himself to observe these restrictions and Bibliander agreed to market the book, the Basel Koran edition was authorised on 11 January 1543. In 1550, a general ban on the production of French, Italian, English and Spanish prints was ordered, in order to prevent "defamation and damage" to the town of Basel caused by clandestine exports of Italian books. Even Bibles were not allowed to be printed "if they weren't in Latin, Greek, Hebrew or German".[61]


The reprint dispute, which was eventually to lead to the Printers' Statute of 28 October 1531, concerned a Greek dictionary. The Carmelite monk Giovanni Crastone from Piacenza had edited the first Renaissance Dictionarium graecum.[62] It was published in Milan, in 1478; in Vicenza, in 1478; and in 1497 by Aldus Manutius in Venice.[63] The first Basel edition of 1519 was printed by Andreas Cratander,[64] who worked with Petri from 1515 to 1518, and after that, until his death in 1536, printed under his own name. In the epilogue Cratander mentions Valentin Curio's important contribution to the dictionary.[65] Curio, however, soon afterwards started his own printing office and, in 1522, he brought out a new version of the Lexicon Graecum[66], expanded by over 3,000 new entries. An elaborate title-page designed by Hans Holbein adorned Curio's edition.[67] Nine years later, a "tension" occurred, as the records of the Basel City Council put it, because "Andreas Cratander ventured to reprint the Greek dictionary that had first been printed by Valentin [Curio]".[68] Curio wanted to prevent the reprint altogether, but the Council decided that "[...] since both of them have already begun printing and incurred expenses, this time they may both carry on with the impression".[69] However, Cratander was explicitly forbidden to use certain annotations and supplementary features with which Curio intended to enhance his new edition. In 1532, both versions were published. Valentin Curio's Lexicon Graecolatinum was edited by Pierre Gilles (Petro Gillio Albiense) and supplemented by a preface written by Simon Grynaeus. Cratander's Lexicon Graecolatinum included contributions by Adrien Amerot, Philipp Melanchthon, and also by Simon Grynaeus.


The Printers' Statute of 1531 was designed for disputes of this kind between local printers. However, it is still unclear how the three-year ban on reprinting announced earlier could have helped to resolve the problem. The first Curio Lexicon had been published nine years earlier and was thus already in the public domain. Bappert, who has seen the records, does not specify whether Curio's complaint about Cratander's reprint refers to a reprint of his 1522 edition - which Bappert does not mention at all - or to a reprint of his new edition, which was being printed sheet by sheet and could easily have been smuggled out of his printing office by Curio's employees and brought to Cratander's workshop. Perhaps there is a clue in the prohibition on luring away employees from other printing shops - this prohibition comes immediately after the three-year ban on reprinting (lines 12-18). If Cratander's "reprint" was a reprint of already printed sheets of an unfinished work, which was still "passing through the press", someone must have taken the sheets from Curio's office and brought them to Cratander's. It was exactly this problem which was addressed in the new provision to prevent ‘headhunting' of rivals' employees. Since the Council explicitly prohibited Cratander from making use of the "supplementary" features in Curio's edition, we may deduce that it was the new edition - which had already been prepared and was in the process of being printed - that Curio wanted to have protected in Curio vs. Cratander.


6. The Basel Printer's Statute and the concept of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century "publishers' property"
The Basel Printer's Statute has attracted the attention of copyright historians who have described it as "the first general ban on reprinting in the German lands".[70] Moreover, the Council's finding in Curio vs. Cratander is interpreted as evidence that "the right-generating effect of the printing and publishing costs borne by publishers and printers has been formally recognised here for the first time", as Walter Bappert puts it, since the Basel Council had considered "equal rights derived from both the earlier and the later print and taken into account the expenditure incurred by each of the two parties". [71]

Thus, Curio vs. Cratander and the Printer's Statute have been identified as starting points for the "principle of publishers' property" (Bappert),[72] or for the "theory of publishers' property", as Gieseke put it some years earlier.[73]


From a chronological point of view, it is correct that the concept of "publishers' property" developed "in the course of the sixteenth-century [...] in light of the deficiency of the privilege system". However, it is not really an early form of the eighteenth-century concept of "intellectual property",

"since the publisher's claims to the right of reproduction and the right of distribution were not derived from anything vested as such in the author, or in any legal act of the author [italics in original]. The concept of ‘property' is just a label for the publishers' exclusive right to the proceeds of their investments [...]. Unlike the later concept of ‘intellectual property', the ‘publishers' property' was in no way derived from a property in an original manuscript or book [italics in original]. Thus, the representative sources for the principle of ‘publishers' property' do not provide any evidence or put forward any claim that the original author, by virtue of his ‘ownership' of the work as an object of property, is entitled to usage rights for his work[74] [...] Any references to the acquisition of a manuscript are not meant to identify the source of the publisher's right, but rather to define the first amount of expenditure incurred by the publisher [...]. The notion of author's rights had no intrinsic value as yet."[75]

Gieseke and Bappert derived their concept of "publishers' property" mainly from sixteenth-century printers' statutes (see d_1660) and contracts between publishers. In his 1995 book, Gieseke on the whole adhered to the concept of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century "publishers' property" which he had outlined in his book of 1957, albeit conceding that it was "an early form and basis"[76] of the eighteenth-century concept of "intellectual property" rather than an independent legal institution.


The most convincing argument presented by Gieseke concerns a preface to the 1591 "Adelsspiegel" (a treatise on the nobility) by Cyriakus Spangenberg (1528-1604). It was the publisher Michel Schmück,[77] not the author, who wrote the foreword.[78] Schmück's request that no one reprint his book is based on the claim that he had produced the book at "quite significant expense".[79] Gieseke comments on this:

"It would have seemed obvious if publishers had regarded the expenses incurred in acquiring a new work ( i.e. the author's fee, in particular), not merely as a debit entry in the publishing account but, rather, as what they had to pay in return for obtaining a special exploitation right (in the modern sense)[80] to the work embodied in the manuscript (that is, a right going beyond mere physical ownership of the manuscript)."[81]

From the observation that Schmück did not put forward such an argument, Gieseke concludes that "the notion of an exploitation right to the work acquired [by the publisher] from the author did not exist as yet".[82]


The 1950s and 1960s' discussion of the historic concept of "publishers' property" might sound strange to some readers, since projecting modern concepts back into the past in order to identify (if possible) their precursors is now perceived as an unhistorical method. Furthermore, readers familiar with the common law concept of "copyright" rather than with continental European "authors' right" may have considerable trouble understanding the above distinction between sixteenth- and seventeenth-century "publishers' property" and eighteenth-century "intellectual property". Another problem is that the term "property" may actually obscure what Gieseke and Bappert really are concerned with. Neither the printer's statutes nor Schmück nor any of the parties in Curio vs. Cratander explicitly claimed any "property"[83] whatsoever. In view of this, Reto Hilty has suggested that the Basel printers were given what European continental legal systems call a "neighbouring right" rather than a proper copyright.[84]


However, when used in a comparative legal analysis, the notion of "publishers' property" may help to identify the causes that led to a major conceptual change in the history of copyright. Why were publishers and lawyers in the German lands so reluctant to substantiate their property claims by invoking a natural property acquired from the authors? Why did sixteenth-century German authors not assert their interests to a greater extent, say, like their counterparts in Venice, where, as early as 1551, publishers were required to obtain the authors' consent before publication.


7. References

Anonymous, Johannes Froben und der Basler Buchdruck des 16.Jahrhunderts (Basel: Benno Schwabe & Co, 1960)

Bappert, Walter, Wege zum Urheberrecht (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1962)

Bietenholz, Peter G, Basle and France in the sixteenth century: the Basle humanists and printers in their contacts with francophone culture (Genève: Droz, 1971)

Crousaz, Karin, Érasme et le pouvoir de l‘Imprimerie (Lausanne: Éditions Antipodes, 2005)

Enay, Marc-Edouard, "Der Islam und der Reformator Theodor Bibliander", publ. 3 October 2003 at:


Füssel, Stephan, "Die Bedeutung des Buchdrucks für die Verbreitung der Ideen des Renaissance-Humanismus", in Die Buchkultur im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert ed. by the Maximilian-Gesellschaft and Barbara Tiemann (Hamburg: Hiersemann, 1999) II/2: 121-61

Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, available online at:


Gfeller, Jules, "Einiges über den Schutz des geistigen Eigentums auf bernischem Gebiete in früheren Jahrhunderten", Zeitschrift für schweizerisches Recht, 15 (1896): 460-66

Gieseke, Ludwig, Die geschichtliche Entwicklung des deutschen Urheberrechts (Göttingen: Otto Schwarz 1957)

Gieseke, Ludwig, Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht: Die Entwicklung des Urheberrechts in Deutschland bis 1845 (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1995)

Goldfriedrich, Johann, Geschichte des Deutschen Buchhandels vom Westfälischen Frieden bis zum Beginn der klasischen Litteraturperiode (1648-1740) (Leipzig: Verlag des Börsenvereins der Deutschen Buchhändler, 1908)

Gramlich, Jürgen, "Rechtsordnungen des Buchgewerbes im Alten Reich", Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens, 41 (1994): 1-145

Haegen, Pierre L. van der, Der frühe Basler Buchdruck : ökonomische, sozio-politische und informationssystematische Standortfaktoren und Rahmenbedingungen (Basel: Schwabe, 2001) (=Schriften der Universitätsbibliothek Basel 5)

Hagenmaier, Winfried, Das Verhältnis der Universität Freiburg i. Br. zur Reformation (Dissertation Freiburg, 1968), available online at:


Hagemann, Hans-Rudolf, Die Rechtsgutachten des Bonifacius Amerbach (Basel and Frankfurt: Helbing & Lichtenhan, 1997)

Hartmann, Alfred (ed.), Die Amerbachkorrespondenz (Basel: Universitätsbibliothek, 1958), vol. 5

Heller, Marvin J, "Ambrosius Froben, Israel Zifroni and Hebrew printing in Freiburg im Breisgau", Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, 80 (2005): 137-48

Hieronymus, Frank, Griechischer Geist aus Basler Pressen, Katalog der frühen griechischen Drucke aus Basel in Text und Bild (Basel: Öffentliche Bibliothek, 1992). An online version, edited in 2003 by Christoph Schneider and Benedikt Vögeli, is available at:


Hilty, Reto, "Das Basler Nachdruckverbot von 1531 im Lichte der gegenwärtigen Entwicklung", in Die Notwendigkeit des Urheberschutzes im Lichte seiner Geschichte ed. by Robert Dittrich (Vienna: Manz'sche Verlags- und Universitätsbuchhandlung, 1991), 20-45

Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz. Online at:


Illustrated Incunabula Short-Title Catalogue (IISTC), which is available online at:


Jones, Howard, Printing the Classical Text (Utrecht: Hes & de Graaf Publishers, 2004)

Kölner, Paul, "Buchdrucker", in Die Safranzunft zu Basel und ihre Handwerke und Gewerbe (Basel: Schwabe, 1935), which is available online at:


Lotz, Ernst Felix, Die geschichtliche Entwicklung der Urheberrechtsgesetzgebung auf dem Gebiete der schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, (Dissertation: Zürich, 1941)

Rehbinder, Manfred, "Die geschichtliche Entwicklung des schweizerischen Urheberrechts bis zum Bundesgesetz vom Jahre 1883", in Historische Studien zum Urheberrecht in Europa ed. by Elmar Wadle (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1993), 65-80

Steiff, K, "Wattenschnee", in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (1875-1912), 41: 244. Online version at:


Stevens, Linton C, "How the French Humanists of the Renaissance Learned Greek", Proceedings of the Modern Language Association of America (=PMLA) 65, nr 2 (1950): 240-248

Wolf, Hubert, Index: Der Vatikan und die verbotenen Bücher (Munich: C.H. Beck, 2006)

[1] Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, which is available online at: <>

[2] Howard Jones, Printing the Classical Text (Utrecht: Hes & de Graaf Publishers, 2004). The Illustrated Incunabula Short-Title Catalogue (IISTC) is available online at: <>

[3] See the homepage of Schwabe AG, <>

[4] According to the Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke.

[5] Manfred Rehbinder, "Die geschichtliche Entwicklung des schweizerischen Urheberrechts bis zum Bundesgesetz vom Jahre 1883", in Historische Studien zum Urheberrecht in Europa ed. by Elmar Wadle (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1993), 65-80, with reference to Ernst Felix Lotz, Die geschichtliche Entwicklung der Urheberrechtsgesetzgebung auf dem Gebiete der schweizerischen Eidgenossenschaft, (Dissertation: Zürich, 1941).

[6] For Koberger see also the commentary on d_1501.

[7] Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, available online at: <>

[8] An earlier, shorter version had been published in Paris 1500 and was reprinted several times - in Basel by Schürer in 1509. See: Frank Hieronymus, Griechischer Geist aus Basler Pressen, Katalog der frühen griechischen Drucke aus Basel in Text und Bild (Basel: Öffentliche Bibliothek, 1992). There is an online version of this catalogue, edited in 2003 by Christoph Schneider and Benedikt Vögeli, at: <>. After Erasmus' whole oeuvre was included in the "Index auctorum et librorum prohibitorum" by the Council of Trent in 1559, Aldus Manutius's son Paolo began to adapt and publish "cleaned" versions. Manutios's version, published in 1603 under his own name, can be read at: <>

[9] See the title page with a wood print designed by Urs Graf on A further expanded version of the "Adagia" was published in 1515. Cf. the title and preface referring to Aldus Manutius's earlier edition at: <>

[10] For details of the Freiburg situation around 1520, see Winfried Hagenmaier, Das Verhältnis der Universität Freiburg i. Br. zur Reformation (Dissertation: Freiburg 1968), available online at: <> For Erasmus' letters of 1529 and 1531 complaining on the University of Freiburg's decline due to the absence of Protestant students, see p. 149 of this dissertation.

[11] For a database on prints of Luther and the Protestant Reformation see


[12] As Karin Crousaz, Érasme et le pouvoir de l‘Imprimerie (Lausanne: Éditions Antipodes, 2005), 107, puts it: "Froben bénéficie de la quasi-exclusicité des nouveautés érasmiennes".

[13] See e.g. "be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." Matthew 10:16, King James version.

[14] Aldus Manutius's printer's mark showed a dolphin and an anchor.

[15] Quoted by Stephan Füssel, "Die Bedeutung des Buchdrucks für die Verbreitung der Ideen des Renaissance-Humanismus", in Die Buchkultur im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert ed. by the Maximilian-Gesellschaft and Barbara Tiemann (Hamburg: Hiersemann, 1999), II/2: 121-161 (128).

[16] The original reads: "die will sin frow nit mehr mit der sudlerei wollt umbgan". The word "sudeley" most likely refers to how printers very easily ended up with ink-smirched hands.

[17] This is an excerpt of an anonymous English translation from the French edition (Armand Colin) of 1864, quoted from: The translation has been adapted for the sake of greater clarity.

[18] <>

[19] Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522) was a famous Hebraist who defended the study and preservation of Hebrew literature against an Imperial Order of 1409 to destroy Hebrew books.

[20] Cuno had worked with Aldus Manutius in Venice before coming to Basel in 1511.

[21] For vol. 1 see: <>

[22] Omnium operum divi Eusebii Hieronymi Stridonensis (Basel: Froben 1516), which is available online at: <>

[23] Letter of Bruno Amerbach to Erasmus, March 1518 "Jean Petit, l'Imprimeur parisien, nous met l'épée sur la gorge: il menace d'imiter tout l'ouvrage. Ses tentative, peut-être que tu pouras les arrêter par une petite lettre." Quoted by Crousaz, 109.

[24] Johann Amerbach died in 1513, leaving behind three sons, Bruno (1485-1519), who had studied in Paris; Basilius (1488-1535); and Bonifacius (1495-1562), a famous lawyer.

[25] Letter of Erasmus to Bade ( Louvain, 17 April 1518): "Scribunt a me optimi fratres Amerbachii Ioannem cognomente Paruum nescio quid minari, sese excusurum Opera Hieronymi, contemto summi Pontificis interdicto, imo neglecta omni humanitate. Videat etiam atque etiam ne dum aliis studio nocere parat, sibi ipsi noxam accersat. Non dubito quin tibi sit cum homine familiaritas, Oro ut tam inhumano facto coherceas." Quoted by Crousaz, 103.

[26] "Quin istos etiam imitatores admoneo, ne si temere nogocium aggrediatur, autore superstire, mihi et pro sua humanitate amicissimo, idem illis eueniat, quod nonnullis euenit, in priore Chiliadum aeditione", in fol. 2 of Erasmus, Novum Instrumentum omne, diligenter ab Erasmo Roterodamo recognitum & emendatum (Basel: Johannes Froben, 1516), which is available online at: <>

[27] Hieronymous (1992/2003), Commentary on Tes Kaines Diathekes hapanta. Novi Testamenti omnia (Basel: Johannes Bebel and Johannes Wattenschne, 1524), available online at: <>

[28] The logo of the publisher Schable (a.k.a. Wattenschne), which was designed by Hans Holbein and shows his signature, can be seen on the last page of the edition. Online at: <>

[29] "ne libellus enchiridij formam excederet", ibid. Online at: <>

[30] "praeterquam cui quibusve Budaeus id licere voluerit", quoted in Hieronymous (1992/2003), Commentary on Budaeus, Commentarii linguae Graecae, Gulielmo Budaeo (Basel: Johannes Bebel 1530). Available online at:


[31] "eine Mitteilung, von der man eine freudige Aufnahme ihres Inhalts erwartet, sei es, dass Budaeus um den Nachdruck schon weiss und, der Qualität gewiss, von ihm dankbar eine weitere Verbreitung seines Werkes erhofft, sei es dass Grynaeus aus dem Passus, dass Budaeus den Nachdruck, wem er wolle, erlauben dürfe, eine solche Aufnahme und die Erlaubnis der Einfuhr dieses Druckes auch nach Frankreich erwartet." ibid.

[32] The sample is based mainly on the Basel sources, the kadmos project (=Hieronymus 1992/2003), which concentrates on Latin and Greek versions of Greek originals, and the Opera Poetica Basliliensia (available online at: <>) that lists poetic books originating in Basel in the sixteenth century. In addition to this, the following databases have also been used: the catalogue of the Albert Ritzaeus Hardenberg Collection, provided by the Johannes A Lasco Library in Emden (<>), the Verteilte Digitale Inkunabelbibliothek (vdIb) (<>), the Digital Collection of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (<>), the Digitale Bibliothek of the Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt (<>), and the Brazilian Digitisation project Obras Raras (<>).

[33] See the chapter "Buchdrucker" in Paul Kölner, Die Safranzunft zu Basel und ihre Handwerke und Gewerbe (Basel: Schwabe, 1935), which is available online at: <>

[34] Eleven books were published in collaboration by Wattenschnee and the Paris printer Jean Petit between 1504-1518. See the article "Wattenschnee" by K. Steiff in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (1875-1912), 41: 244. There is an online version at: <>

[35] Galen, Galeni Pergameni summi semper viri (Basel: Andreas Cratander, Johannes Bebel, Johannes Herwagen, Johannes Erasmius Froben, Michael Isingrin, 1536-1538), fol 2. Online at:


[36] For biographic details on Gemuseus see Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz, which is available online at: <>. The specific reference here is to: <>

[37] Homer, Poetarum omnium seculorum longe principis Homeri Ilias (Basel: Robert Winter, 1540). Online at: <>

[38] Vesalius, Andreae Vesalii Brvxellensis, Scholae Medicorum Patauinae professoris, de Humani, corporis fabrica Libri septem (Johann Oporinus, Basel, 1543). Online at: <>

[39] Sebastian Castellio (ed.), Sibyllina Oracula de Graeco in Latinum conversa (Basel: Johannes Oporin, 1546). Online at: <>

[40] Heinrich Pantaleon, Heinrichi Panthaleonis Basiliensis Philargirus : comoedia nova & sacra de Zachaeo publicanorum principe (Basel: Cratander, 1546). Online at: <>

[41] Joachim Münsinger von Frundeck, Apotelesma, id est, corpus perfectum scholiorum ad Institutiones Iustinianeas pertinentium Corpus iuris civilis. Institutiones (Basel: Episcop, 1563), which is online at: <>; Homer, Ilias (Basel: Winter, 1540), which is online at: <>; Johannes Cuspinianus, Ioannis Cuspiniani, viri clarissimi, divi quondam Maximiliani imperatoris à consiliis, & oratoris (Basel: Johannes Herwagen, 1553), which is online at: <>; Sigmund von Herberstein, Rerum Moscoviticarum commentarii (Basel: Oporin, 1556), which is online at: <>; St Bede, the Venerable,Opera Bedae Venerabilis presbyteri, Anglosaxonis (Basel: Herwagen, 1561-1563), which is online at: <>; and Andreas Alciatus, D. Andreae Alciati Mediolanensis iurecos. opera omnia (Basel: Thomas Guarin, 1582), which is online at: <>

[42] Joachim Münsinger von Frundeck, Apotelesma, id est, corpus perfectum scholiorum ad Institutiones Iustinianeas pertinentium Corpus iuris civilis. Institutiones (Basel: Episcop 1555). Online at: <>

[43] Georgii Pachymerii Hieromnemonis, in universam fere Aristotelis philosophiam, epitome (Basel: Episcop, 1560) Online at: <>

[44] Nazianzenus Gregorius, Operum Gregorii Nazianzeni tomi tres (Basel: Herwagen und Episcop, 1571). Online at: <>

[45] Andreas Vesalius, Andreae Vesalii Brvxellensis, Scholae Medicorum Patauinae professoris, de Humani, corporis fabrica Libri septem (Johann Oporin, Basel, 1543). Online at: <> Oporin's edition of 1555 displays the same phrase, as reported in an e-mail to the author from 30 May 2007 by Christoph Calaminus, from the antiquarian book dealer Ketterer Kunst, who offered a copy in May 2007.

[46] Münsinger von Frundeck. Apotelesma (Basel: Episcop 1555), which is online at: <>; Münsinger von Frundeck. Apotelesma (Basel: Episcop 1563), which is online at:


[47] Nikephoros, Nicephori Callisti Xanthopuli , scriptoris vere Catholici, Ecclesiasticae historiae libri decem & octo (Basel: Oporin, 1553). Online at: <>

[48] The full text of Emperor Ferdinand's privilege is printed in the book. Online at:


[49] The full text of King Henri's privilege is printed in the book. Online at:


[50] The full text of the censorship authorisation is printed in the book. Online at:


[51] Hubert Wolf, Index: Der Vatikan und die verbotenen Bücher (München: C.H. Beck, 2006), 27.

[52] Vesalius, Andreae Vesalii Brvxellensis, Scholae Medicorum Patauinae professoris, de Humani, corporis fabrica Libri septem (Johann Oporin, Basel, 1543). Online at: <>

[53] Kölner, Paul, "Buchdrucker", in Die Safranzunft zu Basel und ihre Handwerke und Gewerbe (Basel: Schwabe, 1935) ), available online at: <>

[54] Ibid., fn 3.

[55] Hans-Rudolf Hagemann, Die Rechtsgutachten des Bonifacius Amerbach (Basel and Frankfurt: Helbing & Lichtenhan, 1997), 88.

[56] The lawyer Bonifacius Amerbach, a son of the printer, gave an expert opinion which is published in Alfred Hartmann (ed.), Die Amerbachkorrespondenz (Basel: Universitätsbibliothek 1958), 5: 494-501.

[57] Hartmann, 378f.

[58] Marc-Edouard Enav, "Der Islam und der Reformator Theodor Bibliander". Published online on 3 Oktober 2003 at: <>

[59] Ibid., fn. 7.

[60] "yemanden von andern obrigkeiten [...] finden möge, der im ditz buch abnemmen und das under sinem titell und namen [...] also. das unser, unser statt und truckers darin nienen gedacht, publiciren lassen, dazu ouch, nit hie, sonder usserthalb unsern obrigkeiten verkouffen wollte". Letter from Basel City Council to Martin Luther (Basel, 8 December 1542), quoted by Hartmann, 379.

[61] "denn allein lateinisch, griechisch, hebräisch und tütscher sprochen". Kölner, fn. 10.

[62] Linton C Stevens, "How the French Humanists of the Renaissance Learned Greek",

Proceedings of the Modern Language Association of America, 65, nr 2 (1950): 240-248.

[63] A very poor-quality scan of the preface to this edition (Venice: Manutius 1497) can be viewed at: <>

[64] Dictionarium Graecum (Basel: Cratander, 1519). Online at: <>

[65] "Valentinus Curio, [...] cui debes magna utilitatis partem ad te uenientis ex hoc nostro labore", Cratander's epilogue on p. 96. Online at: <>

[66] Lexicon Graecum (Basel: Valentin Curio, 1522). Online at: <>

[67] <>

[68] "span [Spannung] [...] in dem das Andreas Cratander Im [ihm] Valentin [Curio] den allexicon grecum, den Valentin zum ersten getruckt, nachzutrucken vnderstoht." Quoted by Walter Bappert, Wege zum Urheberrecht (Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1962), 220, from the Staatsarchiv Basel, Ratsbücher, Book 4: 96f.

[69] "dwyl sy beide den ze trucken angefangen haben vnd kosten daraan gewendet, das sy dan den dyser zit beyde wol trucken mögen." Ibid., 220.

[70] Manfred Rehbinder, "Die geschichtliche Entwicklung des schweizerischen Urheberrechts bis zum Bundesgesetz vom Jahre 1883", in Historische Studien zum Urheberrecht in Europa ed. by Elmar Wadle (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, 1993), 65-80 (65).

[71] Bappert, 220.

[72] Bappert, 217ff. Gieseke is explicitly acknowledged here to have "discovered" the principle ("Verlagseigentumsprinzip") and have "worked out it from the sources".

[73] "Lehre vom Verlagseigentum" - Ludwig Gieseke, Die geschichtliche Entwicklung des deutschen Urheberrechts (Göttingen: Otto Schwarz 1957).

[74] Here Bappert has adopted a modern copyright term. According to German copyright theory, an "author's right" is unalienable as such. A "usage right" ("Nutzungsrecht") is a right which the author can dispose of. It can be granted for one or several specified forms of exploitation, either as a simple right to use the work for some purpose or as an exclusive licence allowing the licensee to prevent others from using the work in the specified form.

[75] Bappert, 225 f. "daß der Ursprung des vom Verleger beanspruchten Vervielfältigungs- und Verbreitungsrechts nach dem Grundsatz vom Verlagseigentum noch nicht auf den Autor, bzw. das mit diesem getätigte Rechtsgeschäft zurückreichte. [italics in original] Der Eigentumsbegriff diente der Verlagseigentumsvorstellung nur zur Bezeichnung des in Gestalt des ausschließlichen Verlagsrechts beanspruchten Rechts auf den Ertrag der Verlagsinvestitionen [...] Keineswegs diente das (besessene oder erworbene) Sacheigentum am Werk selbst [italics in original] bereits zur Ableitung des beanspruchten Rechts auf die Vervielfältigung und Verbreitung, wie dies später beim ‘geistigen Eigentum' der Fall war. So legen denn die Quellen, die den Bewußtseinsstand des Verlagseigentums spiegeln, weder auf den Nachweis noch auch die bloße Feststellung Wert, daß auch der Werkschöpfer bereits aufgrund seines ‘Eigentums' Nutzungsrechte am Werk hat, über die er verfügen kann [...] Hinweise auf denerfolgtenErwerb des Manuskripts vomAutor wollen nicht die Quelle des verlangten Verlagsrechts, sondern den Posten bezeichnen, der den Verlagsaufwand eröffnete [...] Der urheberrechtliche Gedanke hingegen besaß noch keinen Eigenwert."

[76] Ludwig Gieseke, Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht: Die Entwicklung des Urheberrechts in Deutschland bis 1845 (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1995), 93.

[77] Michel Schmück (Michael Schmuck) was a member of the Schmalkaden town council ("Ratsherr"). See the anonymous article on his son Vincentius Schmuck (1565-1628) in Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, 32: 62.


[79] Schmück's preface has been translated into English by Luis Sundkvist in d_1591.

[80] The "exploitation right" ("Verwertungsrecht") or "economic right" in modern German copyright theory is understood as the complement to the "moral rights" ("Urheberpersönlichkeitsrecht").

[81] Giesecke, Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht, 95: "Es hätte nun nahe gelegen, wenn Verleger die Aufwendungen für den Erwerb eines neuen Werkes, insbesondere also ein Honorar, nicht nur als Posten des Verlagsaufwandes, sondern als Gegenwert für ein über das Sacheigentum an dem Manuskript hinausgehendes besonderes Verwertungsrecht (im heutigen Sinne) an dem im Manuskript verkörperten Werk angesehen hätten."

[82] Giesecke, Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht, 95 "weil generell [...] das Bewußtsein eines vom Autor erworbenen Verwertungsrechtes an dem Werk noch nicht vorhanden war."

[83] See the commentary on d_1824 for general discussions of the conflict between concepts of "intellectual property" and "property" in the Roman Law tradition.

[84] Reto Hilty, "Das Basler Nachdruckverbot von 1531 im Lichte der gegenwärtigen Entwicklung", in Die Notwendigkeit des Urheberschutzes im Lichte seiner Geschichte ed. by Robert Dittrich (Wien: Manz'sche Verlags- und Universitätsbuchhandlung, 1991), 20-45.


Our Partners

Copyright statement

You may copy and distribute the translations and commentaries in this resource, or parts of such translations and commentaries, in any medium, for non-commercial purposes as long as the authorship of the commentaries and translations is acknowledged, and you indicate the source as Bently & Kretschmer (eds), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900) (

You may not publish these documents for any commercial purposes, including charging a fee for providing access to these documents via a network. This licence does not affect your statutory rights of fair dealing.

Although the original documents in this database are in the public domain, we are unable to grant you the right to reproduce or duplicate some of these documents in so far as the images or scans are protected by copyright or we have only been able to reproduce them here by giving contractual undertakings. For the status of any particular images, please consult the information relating to copyright in the bibliographic records.

Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, 10 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DZ, UK