Commentary on:
Frankfurt Printers' Ordinance (1660)

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_1660


Commentary on Printers' and Booksellers' Ordinances and Statutes

Friedemann Kawohl,

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


Please cite as:
Kawohl, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on German Printers' and Booksellers' Ordinances and Statutes', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. The Legal Status of Early Modern Printers' Ordinances

4. Labour disputes, the 1578 Frankfurt Printers' Ordinance and the 1588 Ban on Reprinting

5. Reprinting Provisions in the Frankfurt Printers' Ordinance of 1588

6. The Printers' Ordinances of 1598 and 1660

7. The Nuremberg Printers' Ordinances of 1673

8. The Augsburg Printers' Ordinances of 1713

9. Seventeenth-century Reprinting Provisions in Printers' Ordinances and Privileges

10. References


1. Full title
Frankfurt Printers' and Booksellers' Ordinance and Statutes of 9 February 1660


2. Abstract
Frankfurt as a centre of the German book industry in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries regulated reprinting matters through several printers' ordinances. The Ordinance of 1660 is a well-known example and was in force until 1866. Apart from reprinting, diverse issues relating to the book industry are covered in it, such as censorship, competition between publishers, mechanisms to settle industrial disputes, an arbitration body, standard wages and insurance on a cooperative basis.

The reprinting provisions, adopted from earlier ordinances, granted to the first local publisher of any book an exclusive right in perpetuity, which could not be overridden by Imperial privileges. The publisher's right also covered reprints of amended versions and obliged publishers not to accept a revised edition of an author whose original edition had been published by a local colleague. Reprints are explicitly allowed for the case that the first publisher fails to bring out a new edition within two years and thus does not satisfy readers' demand.

The commentary covers early modern printers' ordinances in general and gives details on ordinances from Frankfurt (1578, 1588, 1598, 1660, 1690), Nuremberg (1561, 1673), and Augsburg 1713.


3. The Legal Status of Early Modern Printers' Ordinances
Within the German Empire the art of printing and the printing trade were both concentrated in the Imperial Free Cities. These 30 to 40 Cities - the status of some of which did change over time - were far from being as mighty and as independent as e.g. the Republics of Venice and Genoa. However, the Free Imperial Cities were free from any episcopal or other territorial rule and subject only and directly to the Emperor. Since the Emperor could not actually exert tight control these Cities had a certain autonomy. They governed their interior affairs; some of them were freed from taxes and from troop levies; some formed their own alliances; and a few were even big and wealthy enough to wage war and make peace. At the Imperial Diets the Imperial Cities had an independent representation. In general, however, they tended to be dominated by the mighty Electors.


Following the Basel Printers' Ordinance of 1553 (d_1531) at least 24 other printers' ordinances were issued within the Free Imperial Cities,[1] many of which include provisions on reprinting, censorship and the protection of privileges. In these cities, most legislation on trade and interior affairs was typically enacted by the city councils. Some of these ordinances and decrees would subsequently be confirmed by the Emperor. The Printers' Ordinance for Leipzig and Wittenberg, two very important centres of the printing and publishing trade, which was confirmed by the Elector of Saxony in 1609, did not include any provisions for reprinting matters[2]. These cities, however, had never been Free Imperial Cities and were thus subject to Saxon legislation, where reprinting had already been provided for in a statute of 1594.[3]


In the early sixteenth century, nearly all Free Imperial Cities welcomed the Protestant Reformation. Large Catholic and Protestant communities were to develop side by side in some of these cities, which were thus faced with special censorship issues. Printing was regarded as a major sphere for regulation in early modern cities, and the city councils were aware of both the beneficial and destructive effects of the products of the printing press. Thus, for example, a Strasbourg printers' regulation of 1766 mentions as a beneficial effect the spread of knowledge and ideas in the following spheres: Christian truth, moral doctrine, the ruler's will, legal rulings, and the arts and sciences. Possible detrimental effects are "desecration" of religion, subversion of public morals and disturbance of the State. As it says in the introduction to the Strasbourg regulation: [4]

"Among the advantages for which civil society is indebted to human ingenuity, that of the invention of book printing is unquestionably one of the most valuable. Through this felicitous discovery, the sublime truth of Christian religion and the incomparably pure moral teachings associated with it are spread throughout the world; the Sovereign's will is expressed; the verdict of Justice is made public; and the arts and sciences are conserved, propagated, and brought to ever greater perfection. However, the more admirable this art is seen to become in terms of its usefulness, the more it deserves to be preserved unsullied. In order to achieve this aim, our ancestors - who are now resting in God - were first and foremost concerned to take stringent measures against those who would misuse book printing to desecrate religion, subvert public morals, and provoke sedition."

Printers' regulations comprise both public law and civil law aspects. Apart from directives concerning reprinting, they typically also include censorship regulations, guild restrictions and certain aspects of labour law. Some printers' ordinances, e.g. Nuremberg 1673 and Augsburg 1713, also provided details on the organisation of societies of printers. Printers' societies or cooperatives had been established in many early modern European printing centres - some at the explicit request by the local authorities, like the Leipzig "Buchhandlungsgesellschaft" founded in 1595[5] and the "Universita delli Stampari et Librari", founded in Venice in 1567 and made obligatory in 1653 by the Council for everybody working in the book industry.[6]


Both the establishment of printers' societies and the enactment of printers' ordinances were used by the city councils and the persons working in the industry as a way of controlling local and foreign competition and to settle industrial disputes. The regulation of reprinting was one means to serve that end, strict limitation of professional membership another. None of the German cities ever granted a monopoly like the one which the Venetian Senate issued for Johann of Speyer in 1469 (i_1469), but many guild regulations did try to cap competition by limiting the number of accredited printers. For example, the Frankfurt City Council decreed in 1598 and 1660 that:

"henceforth no printers / (especially those who haven't learnt this art properly) or publishers will be tolerated / other than those / who are currently resident here and are citizens [of Frankfurt]"[7]

In Venice members of the "Universita" were authorised in 1603 to levy duties from non-members; the number of Nuremberg printers was limited in 1673 to 7 plus 2 in the nearby university town of Altdorf;[8] in Augsburg, in 1713, the number of printing shops was limited to ten "for all times".[9]


4. Labour disputes, the 1578 Frankfurt Printers' Ordinance and the 1588 Ban of Reprinting
Frankfurt was a major centre of the sixteenth and seventeenth-century book trade. From around 1500 onwards, the fair regularly attracted booksellers from Augsburg, Strasbourg, Speyer, Haguenau, Vienna, Cologne and Antwerp.[10] In 1564, the fist Book Catalogue was published listing all the books offered at the fair, and in 1569 the office of Imperial Books Commissioner was created in Frankfurt: the latter was invested with authority extending over the whole Empire in matters of the book trade in general, and of censorship in particular.


A considerable printing industry had started growing in Frankfurt since 1530, the year in which Christian Egenolph[11] opened his printing shop. In 1579, the Books Commission listed six local booksellers, ten printing shops (of which five were run by publishers and four were printing by order of other publishers), and one combined bookseller and publisher (Sigmund Feyerabend)[12]. In 1579 there were nine, in 1599 eight printing shops, the maximum number having been restricted by subsequent guild statutes. Competition between printers was harsh: many booksellers and journeymen visited the fair, and although foreign printers were not allowed to set up new printing shops in the city, journeymen from other parts of the Empire did try to settle down there and find work with local printers.


A labour dispute on holidays was the cause of the first appeal for regulation of the printing industry. Saxon journeymen had been used to 48 holidays a year apart from Sundays, whereas Frankfurt printers did not allow that many. In 1573, the Frankfurt Ordinance laid down 29 holidays a year.[13] In a petition to the city council, submitted on 22 April 1563, printers complained about their assistants from other German lands, who

"are of the opinion that when there are holidays in Saxony and Meissen, or choral holidays in Catholic territories, these feast days can also be celebrated in our city by not working on those dates."[14]

The journeymen, however, successfully resisted this pressure, and it was not until 1572 that nine Frankfurt printers proposed a draft for a future printers' ordinance. To strengthen their position in such disputes, they referred to a Basel decision of 24 September 1571,[15] where the mutual duties of employers and employees had been stipulated so as to end a journeymen's strike. The city council consulted the lawyer Konrad Humprecht (who was also a councillor) on the draft before approving it for enactment. The Frankfurt Ordinance of 5 March 1573 is regarded as the first comprehensive industrial code for the printing trade within the German Empire. It covered the rights and duties of printers, journeymen and apprentices, and included provisions on standard wages, working hours, holidays, apprenticeship diplomas, and provisions for ill and incapacitated journeyman. For the purpose of settling disputes, an arbitrating body was also set up. The Ordinance, however, did not provide any regulations on reprinting.


5. Reprinting Provisions in the Frankfurt Printers' Regulation of 1588
If the 1573 Ordinance was aimed at settling industrial disputes, the new Regulation issued in 1588 concentrated on the master printers and their reprinting activities. The 1660 Frankfurt Regulation and later printers' statutes in Frankfurt, Augsburg and Nuremberg comprised both reprinting provisions and an industrial code. In 1588, however, reprinting was the main focus.


After the preamble (section 1) a general ban on reprinting is announced, including reprints carried out in different formats or indicating different titles and/or author's names (section 2). Rights derived from any Imperial privilege are curtailed in favour of those who have printed a certain book without privilege but prior to the privileged one (section 3). Books printed in Frankfurt are protected not only against Frankfurt reprints but also against imported reprints (section 4). Authors are obliged to offer any revised versions of their books to the original publishers (section 5). An exemption from the general ban on reprinting is provided for out-of-print books (section 6). Publishers are obliged to deliver twice a year a list of any works they intend to bring out in future (section 7). A priority right similar to modern trademark provisions[16] is derived from that list (section 8). Fraudulent reference to privileges is penalised (section 9). Those who fail to obtain prior censorship approval are threatened with corporal punishment (section 10). Protection from reprinting is suspended for advertised books the publication of which is not completed within six months (section 11). New competitors are excluded from the printing industry (section 12), and any printing without the council's permission is declared to be an offence entailing corporal punishment (section 13). The original document is not preserved, but the wording has survived. It reads:

"Printers' and Booksellers' Ordinance:


1. Since in the past, though most particularly in recent times, this honourable Council has received a great deal of complaints from [our city's] printers about reprinting carried out by local colleagues as well as abroad, it is not without good reason that the aforesaid honourable Council has found itself compelled to deliberate on how in future such complaints are likely to become even more frequent and how, then, the printers are to manage to stay in peace and harmony amongst themselves and to make a living without harming this or that colleague. The Council has therefore resolved on the following points and it earnestly commands all printers living here at present and, in particular, all future printers, to faithfully abide by this regulation - on penalty of strict monetary and corporal punishment, depending on the circumstances of the offence in question, which punishment the offender is to be subjected to without delay. May all printers comply with these rules and thus avoid coming to grief.


2. First of all, no book printer is allowed to reprint, / in whatever way one might devise and attempt, / those books or authors - / irrespective of the importance or fame of the latter, / and not excluding anything, / that is, scholarly works too - / which another printer has so far been the only one to print / or which he may print in future. / The different ways in which a reprint might be attempted are as follows: / a reprinter might use a different page size or title, indicate as the author the name of someone else, arrange for new or different summaries, remove or add scholia [marginal notes], and any other way in which he might seek to deceive [as to the true nature of what he is doing]. / Therefore, none of these resorts is to be / tolerated or permitted.


3. Now, if someone has so far been printing, / or might happen to do so in future, / a particular book without having a privilege for it, / and that another printer, / being unaware of this / (for he would not have the right to do so deliberately), were subsequently to obtain a privilege for it, / he would not have to invoke that privilege, being henceforth entitled (regardless of such a privilege) / to republish / and reprint here / those books / which the first printer had until then been the only one to print, or might have happened to do so in future.


4. In the case of books that have been printed here by a local printer, / no one is to be allowed / to secretly publish them / in a different place, to the detriment of this city, / and then to bring here the copies published by such means, / so as to sell them here / under someone else's name / but to his own profit. Rather, if someone is convicted of this, / he is to be punished severely for this offence. / Or if there are strong reasons to suspect someone of acting in this way, / that person is obliged to take an oath of innocence, / should the other party request this.


5. Furthermore, in the case / that the author himself, or someone else, / should decide to modify, / expand, etc. / a book which had been printed here / and would like to have the modified or expanded version of the book printed here too, no printer other than the one who carried out the first impression of the book / is to have the right to accept for printing this new version. / It may, of course, happen / that the printer / who had brought out the first version of the book / does not want to print the new version that is offered to him (that is why this offer must take place in the presence of credible witnesses: / namely, so that there can be no subsequent disagreement as to whether the offer was made or not). In such a case, anyone else is definitely entitled to undertake to print the new version. / However, if the person / who was previously the only one publishing this book / still has in stock more than a hundred copies of the old version, / the printer / who has undertaken to bring out the new version / is to suspend its printing / until the old copies have been sold / or until he himself buys them all up for a reasonable price.


6. Now, if a printer who has so far been the only one to bring out the works of one or several authors / and who has had no trouble in selling all copies of his editions except for a hundred [or less] copies in each case, / does not subsequently, within two years [after the successful sale of the first edition], re-publish those very authors or books, and inquiries about this are made by foreign booksellers attending the fairs, / another printer may then with full right, / in the presence of trustworthy persons, / ask / the printer of the first edition of these books / whether he intends to republish them, / or whether he is willing to let him print them instead. In such a case, the printer / to whom specific authors or books have hitherto appertained, is obliged / either to republish them himself, / or to allow / the first person / who asks him for this / to print as many copies of these works as he himself had published earlier, / whereby he must then not attempt to republish them for his part / until, and provided that, the other printer has managed to sell without any trouble so many of his new copies that there are just a hundred or less left.


7. During the fairs or shortly after they have concluded - namely, the week after Easter for the Lenten fair, and a few weeks after the end of the autumn fair - every local book printer is obliged to provide the Mayor of the city with a list of the books that he intends to print in the course of the following six months.


8. If a book is on the list of one printer alone, it is to remain his [for exclusive publication]. But if it turns out that there are two or more printers who would like to print a particular book, they are to negotiate amongst themselves and reach an agreement with which they are all satisfied.


9. No book printer shall henceforth put on his books the following words: / "Cum gratia & privilegio, &c." ["With the grace and privilege of..."] or, likewise: / "With an Imperial privilege forbidding any reprinting of this book", / or suchlike, / unless he actually does hold such a privilege. If this is the case and he does have a privilege, / he must print / the text of this privilege, / in all its entirety / or at least the substantial part of it, / on the uppermost leaf of the book, / namely, on its reverse side; / or, failing this, he must provide this Council with the original of the privilege / so that authentic copies may be made of it. / Whosoever acts in contravention of this, / shall forfeit his privilege.


10. Moreover, no book printer is to venture to print or publish the slightest thing, irrespective of whether or not it has been printed previously, without having submitted it beforehand - in the form that he intends to print it - for scrutiny by this honourable Council. Where it is granted, the Council's explicit permission must be written in a few words on the submitted work, in case it is necessary to prove in future that authorisation for printing has been given. Any printer who fails to comply with this is liable to corporal punishment.


11. No book printer is to include in his catalogue / any book that he hasn't actually printed or which he has only printed in part, / or which he intends to print six months after its submission for censorship. / If he allows this period to lapse / and fails to start printing within these six months, / any other printer is then entitled / to print this book.


12. Furthermore, in order that the number of printers does not become too high, / We, the aforementioned Council, have decided that / henceforth no printers or publishers will be tolerated / other than those / who are currently resident here and are citizens [of Frankfurt].


13. Apart from these, no one else is in future to venture to print / or publish anything / unless he has the express permission of the honourable Council, / on pain of earnest, unrelenting punishment / and loss of all his printing equipment.


Given in the senate on 12 March 1588"[17]

The Printers' Regulation of 1588 shows a considerable degree of autonomy of the City Council with regard to Imperial legislation in such matters. The Frankfurt-based Imperial Books Commission is not mentioned at all, neither in its role as a central censorship authority nor in that of delivering copies of works to Vienna where they would be deposited in the court chancellery. Last but not least, the Emperor's privileges are curtailed so that they cannot be used to circumvent the "priority rule" which is to be observed among the Frankfurt printers. Thus a solution was provided here for a problem which kept causing disputes well into the nineteenth century (for the Austrian situation see d_1781; for the disputes concerning the privilege granted to the Baden-based publisher Schmieder, see d_1806 and d_1774b).


6. The Printers' Ordinances of 1598 and 1660
Conflicts between printers and journeymen from other parts of the Empire were at the heart of the complaints which led to the Regulation of 1573, but the latter couldn't stop all industrial disputes in subsequent years. Thus, the 1598 Ordinance was issued as a result of a strike by 27 journeymen the year before. Their employer Johann Sauer, who was printing on behalf of various publishers, had ordered them to fetch water - required for moistening the paper and washing the printing-blocks - from a well outside the printing shop. Since according to their contract these printer's assistants were paid per print sheet, having to do this menial task meant that they lost time for the actual work on which their wages depended. They claimed that journeymen in other printing shops didn't have to fetch water - either because there was a well in the shop itself or because unskilled workers were employed for this task.[18] A draft for the new Ordinance was presented by the master printers and, after the arguments for and against had been considered in the course of about eight months, it was enacted on 10 October 1598, appearing in 71 unnumbered sections and twice the length of the 1573 Regulation. The earlier ordinances had aimed solely at either settling industrial disputes (1573) or regulating reprinting (1588). Through the 1598 Ordinance, the Frankfurt City Council tried for the first time to address both sources of discord simultaneously.


The Printers' Ordinances of 1598 and 1660 were published in print and thus distributed beyond the territory of Frankfurt. Both title-pages display the Imperial eagle, which had been used as the local coat of arms, since Frankfurt had been granted the status of an Imperial Free City in 1245. The 1598 title-page explicitly refers to the "Imperial City", while the 1660 title does not. The general structure of the Ordinances of 1598 and 1660 is quite similar. After a nearly identical preamble, the first part deals with "printing-offices, publishers, printers and journeymen in general".[19] It is here that we find the main provisions regarding reprinting and censorship matters. The Ordinance stipulates that persons involved in the printing industry must be of good repute. Strict compliance with censorship provisions is expected. In both the 1598 and 1660 Ordinances a reference to Imperial legislation is included (d_1660_im_001_0003, and d_1598_im_001_0003). A general ban on small prints like "love poems, leaflets, broadsheets, songs, newspapers and other useless, over-abundant prints"[20] is pronounced in 1598 but omitted in 1660. After this general first part, the following sections are concerned with issues relating to printers, printers' journeymen, standard wages and apprentices.


The reprinting provisions of 1588 were by and large left unchanged in the general parts of the Ordinances of 1598[21] and 1660[22]. There are two new reprinting provisions in 1598, both literally repeated in 1660. In the general first part it is stipulated that publishers must not lure away authors by offering higher fees. As a result, authors are bound to their original publishers, whilst publishers, on the contrary, are free to either continue collaboration or, if they so choose, to reject the offer of bringing out a new edition, under the advantageous condition that the publisher who does undertake the new edition is obliged to buy from him a certain number of the copies of the original edition that he might still have in stock. The other novelty is a special provision in the later part, addressed specifically at journeymen and apprentices:

Since reprinting, which in some cases is carried out even before the first [original] impression is completed, causes great damage to printers and publishers, journeymen and apprentices are herewith - on pain of a fine of 20 gulden and, depending on the work concerned and the degree of criminality involved, a prison sentence (which we may determine at any time) - wholly forbidden to take out any printed sheets from the printing shop or, without prior knowledge of their employers, to reveal anything to whosoever it may be concerning the printing-types, size of the paper, or format [of the edition they are working on], or in any other way to aid and abet someone seeking to carry out a reprint of that work.[23]

Breach of confidence here is identified as an offence, and the very act of taking printed sheets out of the shop is alone sufficient for prosecution, irrespective of what the journeyman concerned was intending to do with them. Getting hold of sheets from other printing shops appears to have been a common way of immediately bringing out reprints of new books. Luther[24] in his time had already complained about reprints after some sheets were stolen from the Wittenberg printing shops.


The censorship rules of 1588 were tightened in 1598, repeated in 1660 and again tightened further in the amendment of 1690. According to the 1588 Regulation (sections 7 and 10), printers were obliged to submit, twice a year at the time of the fairs, a catalogue of works they intended to publish. In 1598 (see d_1660_im_001_0005), however, a pre-censorship rule was instituted for every single publication. According to the 1588 provision, the catalogue compiled by a printer and approved twice a year by the authorities was sufficient proof that he had complied with the censorship rules, whereas from 1598 onwards a register of works having passed censorship was kept by the censorship authority. The 1690 amendment even imposed an obligation on the printer to get a censorship certificate which he had to show to his journeymen, who were otherwise expressly forbidden to assist their employer in the impression of the work concerned. Another new rule in 1690 was the obligation to indicate both the publisher's and printer's name, as well as the place and year of printing,[25] not only in the books themselves - something that had already been decreed in the Imperial Statute issued at the Augsburg Diet (1530) and the Imperial police order of 1548[26] - but also in the catalogue of books kept in the censors' office.


Major changes implemented in other parts of the 1660 Ordinance included a shift from daily to weekly wages and the introduction of a basic wage - in contrast to the older form of payment, which depended on the size of the printing-types used.[27] Since the gulden, however, had lost half of its value during the Thirty Years' War, printers' journeymen came off worse in 1660. Certain privileges normally accorded to journeymen in other crafts were omitted in the case of printers' assistants, but for the first time at least a provident fund for journeymen was set up. Thus, all in all, the 1660 Ordinance heralds the emancipation of the book industry within the early modern guild system of urban craftsmen. This act of industrial legislation was effectively in force right up to 1866, when the Prussian annexation of Frankfurt led to a general freedom of trade being instituted.


7. The Nuremberg Printers' Ordinances of 1673
In most printers' ordinances - e.g. Frankfurt 1588, 1598, 1660, Strasbourg 1619, Hamburg 1651, Zurich 1660[28] - protection against reprinting was for an unlimited period. The only exceptions are the three-year term in Basel 1531[29] (d_1531) and the six-month term in Nuremberg 1561, which was renewed in 1629 but replaced by unlimited protection in 1673. If a period of protection was at all specified in printers' ordinances, it was always considerably shorter then the term granted by privileges.[30] Printers' ordinances were designed so as to respond directly to current grievances and disputes. Thus, the short terms stipulated in Basel and Nuremberg were a sensible reaction to the demands of the market. The eight or ten-years-terms of sixteenth and seventeenth-century Imperial privileges, on the other hands, did not respond to the needs of market regulation but were instead fixed according to the merits of the applicant or just by chance.


The first decision by the Nuremberg City Council concerning reprinting matters dates from 20 December 1530. It is a short notice which reads: "The Law concerning reprinting and re-engraving shall be made known to printers and booksellers".[31] With reference to a privilege recognising the validity of a complaint by Dürer's widow, Nuremberg booksellers were specifically admonished on 1 October 1532 not to sell reprints of books by the late Dürer.[32] The earliest printers' ordinances were not printed - they were instead read out to the city's printers from time to time, as is documented for Nuremberg in 1545, 1547 and 1557.[33] In 1561[34], however, a detailed ordinance was issued:

"Since the book printers and engravers of this city have so far not had any qualms about reprinting each other's engravings, works, and illustrations - something that has caused great damage, ruin, and harm to those who originally invented, wrote, and engraved these books, illustrations, and works, and who proceeded to publish them at great expense to themselves - and since We are determined to prevent this, this noble and honourable Council herewith decrees that from now on no book printer, engraver, bookseller, publisher, or anyone else who is a member of a guild accredited by this Council, may secretly or openly reprint, re-cut, or re-engrave someone else's books, poems, illustrations, works, and engravings, which that other person had written, invented, cut, or engraved himself, or arranged to be published at his own expense, and for the printing and sale of which he had obtained the permission of the officials appointed for this purpose by this Council, during a period of six months from the appearance of these, or arrange for others to do so at his own expense and initiative. Anyone who contravenes this and is reported as an offender to this honourable Council is liable, without any scope for mitigation, to pay ten Rhenish gulden as well as to forfeit the [re-]engraved or printed engravings, copies, and books."[35]

Reprinting here was banned for six months after publication of the original work. This short period was reaffirmed in 1629, but the Ordinance of 1673 did not specify any limited term of protection, just as with the Frankfurt ordinances from 1588 onwards. The Nuremberg councillors were aware of the Frankfurt Ordinance, since on 2 February1673, just a few days before signing the Nuremberg Ordinance, they decided that the "renewed" Ordinance would be "put in public print so as to make it known to everybody, as has been done in Frankfurt."[36] The structure of the Nuremberg reprinting provisions appears to have been modelled on the Frankfurt provisions. The wording, however, is more concise than the corresponding Frankfurt sections (these having by and large been adopted from the 1598 Ordinance). There are, however, interesting differences: whilst no absolute value for the fine was specified in Frankfurt, in Nuremberg and Augsburg it was. In the Nuremberg 1673 Ordinance, even the volume of the reprinted work was taken into account - one gulden per sheet - in contrast to the round fine of ten gulden stipulated in earlier provisions.


8. The Augsburg Printers' Ordinances of 1713
The Augsburg Printers' Ordinance of 9 November 1713 is one of the latest of its kind. It is divided into thirteen sections and was printed as the first and main part of a collection which also includes an ordinance of 12 October 1709 directed to the censorship board, a reconfirmation of older censorship ordinances and an Imperial censorship decree signed on 18 July 1715 on behalf of Emperor Charles VI (1685-1740).


The preamble refers to the Imperial police order of 1577, which had laid down that author's names be indicated on the title-pages of books. Then it is specified that only honest persons may work in the book industry (section 1). Imperial statutes are reconfirmed and a decree of 1682 is identified as the legal basis for local censorship regimes (section 2). The establishment of a printers' committee is decreed (section 3), whose purpose is to assist the censors and which is to receive a share of collected fines (section 4). A record of the journeymen employed by master printers is to be kept (section 5). Anyone taking over one of the ten licensed printing shops (ten printers had been mentioned already in 1520)[37] is to pay a contribution to a printers' fund (section 6). This fund is to be used to support printers suffering hardship (section 7). Fines are stipulated for failing to attend the printers' meetings (section 8), whereby a fee is prescribed whenever such a meeting is called (section 9). Printers are required to report new apprentices to the committee (section10). Industrial disputes are to be settled by an agreement (section 10) and employers may not lay off journeymen during the fairs. Finally (section 13), unskilled competitors are excluded from the book industry, and at the same time a short provision on reprinting is included. It reads:

"The local authorities hope that printers or journeymen will not aid or abet those few bunglers who haven't learnt the art of printing in the proper way, or who may not even have learnt it at all, and who just ruin other printing shops by their botchy work and the trouble they cause and who, moreover, do all this without heeding the censorship rules. The authorities also hope that none of the local printers will [re]publish and [re]print without due authorisation any work which a colleague of theirs had already submitted for censorship and thereby obtained a privilege for the exclusive printing of it, and that in no other conceivable way will they try to reprint someone else's publications (even if that person has no privilege for them), this being equally valid of religious and secular works. However, necessity demands that a fine of 12 gulden be imposed on those who aid and abet these troublemakers and bunglers, and one of 20 gulden on those who are found to be guilty of the other offence - whereby half of the sum is to be paid into the [hardship] fund and the other half to the society. In the case that it is a journeyman or member of the society who is found guilty of the first offence, the severity of this fine may, at the discretion of the society, be mitigated in accordance with the nature of his guilt, taking into account any pressing circumstances that may have driven him to act in this way. However, where book printers and journeymen are concerned this fine may not be increased."[38]

The Augsburg ordinance had been elaborated by the censorship board and was "officially confirmed"[39] afterwards by the City Council. The incorporation of printers into the censorship board might be interpreted as a modern means of self-regulation within the book and newspaper sectors of the publishing industry. However, it could also be regarded as a perfidious way of recruiting insiders to assist a tight system of censorship within an absolutist monarchy striving to police the media and to erode the autonomy of guilds and city councils.


Augsburg censorship had a tradition of being liberal, something that may have been promoted by strong international trade relations and by a great intellectual tradition. First and foremost, though, it was due to the parity between Lutherans and Catholics instituted for the Council of Augsburg and three other Imperial Free Cities in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. Like the Council, the censorship committee was henceforth made up of equal numbers of Catholics and Lutherans, who tended to neutralise each other's reservations about confessional writings (though not only these). In 1632, a censor was even fined 50 gulden (to be paid to charity) for being too liberal.[40] The 1713 ordinance also stipulates that of the printers assisting the censorship committee two must be Lutherans and the other two Catholics.


If we leave aside the actual practice of early-eighteenth-century censorship in Augsburg, it is significant that according to the Ordinance censorship offences were regarded as less serious than violations of the first printer's exclusive right. The fine for the former was 20 gulden, whereas that for the latter offence just 12. Moreover, the fine could be reduced to some extent for censorship offenders but not for those who infringed the reprinting regulations.


9. Seventeenth-century Reprinting Provisions in Printers' Ordinances and Privileges
Early modern reprinting provisions in both printers' regulations and sovereigns' privileges resemble modern systems of copyright in one respect. They award an exclusive right of reprinting to authors or printers. There are, however, substantial differences between these two forms of legislation, as well as in comparison to modern copyright. Most printers' regulations within the Empire provide indefinite protection (e.g. Frankfurt 1588, 1598, 1660, Nuremberg 1673, Augsburg 1713). The Basel three-year term in 1531 and the Nuremberg six-month term in 1561 were exceptions which may arguably have been introduced by strong city councils reacting to current disputes but ignoring the guilds' interests. However, in sixteenth and seventeenth-century markets, where calendars and political news caused the most reprint disputes, the length of protection did not matter to the same extent as was to be the case in the eighteenth century, when translations of French and English novels began to flood the German book market.


Two basic concepts of modern thinking on copyright play no part whatsoever in early modern printers' regulations: "property" and "author". No concepts of "intellectual property" were developed before the early eighteenth century. Neither do the reprinting provisions in printers' regulations refer to manuscripts as physical property, from which publishers might derive an exclusive right to copy. Even when adequately supporting the original publishers' exclusive right to bring out a new edition of a revised version, the Frankfurt Regulation does not mention any property, be it of the manuscript or of the first edition.


The "author" is mentioned once in the Frankfurt Regulation, but this term does not entail here any right on how to proceed with second editions. It clearly does not matter whether it is "the author himself or someone else" who decides to modify or to expand a book. Early sixteenth-century printing privileges favouring authors had often referred to the merits of the author, to the expenses incurred by him in printing his work, and to the benefit that readers could expect to gain from its publication. Authors like Celtis, Schlick, Peutinger and Rösslin had obtained privileges protecting their works for up to ten years. Why, then, is the author's role marginalised in urban printing regulations?


A possible answer from a sociological point of view is that although Imperial privileges and printers' regulations are both concerned with reprinting and are part of the prehistory of what we call copyright, these legal institutions are based on completely different social premises. Privileges were granted by sovereigns in favour of one of their subjects and in order to award them with both a certain prestige and future legal protection against reprints. Urban printing regulations, on the other hand, were a product of negotiations among competing publishers and printers, who sometimes themselves formed part of the city council or had submitted drafts to the council, or who had otherwise consulted the latter. Stemming from such conflicts, printers' regulations were concerned with balancing the divergent interests of printers and publishers, employers and employees, competing local publishers, and of local and foreign publishers. Book privileges granted by sovereign rulers, in contrast, focussed just on one person who was to be awarded a right against everyone else.


Within both legal institutions authorship as such did not matter at all. When an author was awarded a privilege, he could try to enforce his right on the grounds that he was the privileged person, but not on the grounds that he was the author. In principle, people from any walk of life and rank could be awarded a book privilege, but the situation was different in the case of printing ordinances. Here a person's affiliation to a professional group was the basis of his rights or duties. In urban printing disputes, writers did not form a professional group and thus, from a sociological point of view, they did not exist as "authors". The Gdansk regulation of 1684 is the only one in which so-called "authors" are granted a specific right.[41] The provision in question prohibited printers from printing more copies than had been commissioned by the authors, who were at the same time their own publishers. Thus, the Gdansk provision was, in fact, also meant to settle disputes between publishers and printers rather than between authors in a modern sense.


10. References

Baader, Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte Nürnbergs (Nördlingen 1860)

Diefenbacher, Michael and Fischer-Pache, Wiltrud (eds), Das Nürnberger Buchgewerbe (Nürnberg: Stadtarchiv 2003)

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

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

Jegel, August, Alt-Nürnberger Handwerksrecht und sein Beziehungen zu anderen (Neustadt/Aisch: Schmidt 1965)

Kapp, Geschichte des Deutschen Buchhandels, 1886

Kirchhoff, Albrecht, "Beiträge zur Geschichte der Preßmaßregelung", Archiv für Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels, II (1879)

Neuland, Franz, Die Frankfurter Buchdruckerordnungen (Frankfurt: IG Druck und Papier, 1972)

Pallmann, Heinrich, Ein Buchdruckerstrike zu Frankfurt a. M. im Jahre 1597, Archiv für Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels 8 (1883)

Schmidt, Benno (ed.), Frankfurter Zunfturkunden bis zum Jahre 1612, 2 vols (Frankfurt: Historische Kommission der Stadt Frankfurt, 1914 [reprint 1968]), 1: 147-50

[1] See Jürgen Gramlich. "Rechtsordnungen des Buchgewerbes im Alten Reich", Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens, 41 (1994): 1-145 (8-10), for references and details on these 25 ordinances, listed as follows:

1531 Basel

1573 Frankfurt-on-the-Main

1578 Vienna

1588 Frankfurt-on-the-Main

1588 Konstanz

1596 Munich

1598 Frankfurt-on-the-Main

1606 Leipzig and Wittenberg

1628 Strasbourg

1633 Nuremberg

1647 Lübeck

1651 Hamburg

1655 Jena

1660 Frankfurt-on-the-Main

1661 Basel

1673 Nuremberg

1684 Gdansk

1711 Zurich

1713 Augsburg

1749 Strasbourg

1761 Basel

1766 Strasbourg

1767 Bern

1771 Vienna

1786 Strasbourg

Gramlich's research was confined to these craftsmen's ordinances covering all the important issues. The short document from Basel (1531) is thus something of an exception in his sample. There are many other short reprint provisions not included in Gramlich's article.

[2] Ludwig Gieseke, Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht. Die Entwicklung des Urheberrechts in Deutschland bis 1845 (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1995), 74.

[3] An earlier version of the Statute of 1629, commented in d_1549.

[4] "Unter den Vortheilen, welche die Bürgerliche Gesellschaft dem menschlichen Witz zu verdancken hat, ist ohnstreitig die Erfindung der Buchdruckerey einer der schätzbarsten: vermittels dieser glücklichen Entdeckung wird die erhabene Wahrheit der Christlichen Religion und die mit solcher verknüpfte reinste Sitten-Lehre in der Welt ausgebreitet, der Wille des Regenten ausgedruckt, der Ausspruch der Gerechtigkeit kundgetan, auch Künste und Wissenschaften beibehalten, fortgepflantzet, und zu grösserer Vollkommenheit gebracht. Je erhabener aber diese Kunst in Rucksicht ihrer Nutzbarkeit ist, je mehr verdienet dieselbe unbefleckt beybehalten zu werden. Diesen Endzweck zu erreichen war Unser in GOtt ruhender Vorfahren erste Sorge, diejenigen zu scharfer Strenge zu ziehen, die der Buchdruckerey zu Entheiligung der Religion, zum Umsturz guter Sitten, und zu Beunruhingung des Staats mißbraucht würden." From: "Police Regulation Concerning Booksellers, Publishers, and Printers" (Strasbourg 1706), quoted in Gramlich, 4.

[5] Albrecht Kirchhoff, "Beiträge zur Geschichte der Preßmaßregelung", Archiv für Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels, II (1879): 33 ff.

[6] Gramlich, 27, who cites: Horatio Brown, The Venetian Printing Press, 1891, as well as Marcel Silberstein, Erfindungsschutz und merkantilistische Gewerbeprivilegien, (Zurich and Winterthur: Polygraph, 1961).

[7] See d_1660_im_001_0007.

[8] See d_1673.

[9] See d_1713_im_001_0017.

[10] See d_1608 for details of the Frankfurt Book Fair.

[11] See d_1532.

[12] Gramlich, 11.

[13] Franz Neuland, Die Frankfurter Buchdruckerordnungen (Frankfurt: IG Druck und Papier, 1972).

[14] "...daß sie vermeynen, wenn man etwa Feyertage in Sachssen unnd Meissen, oder auch will ettliche Chorfeste inn Bäpstlichen Stetten zu halten pflegt, dieselbigen inn dieser Stadt gleichfals mit unterlassung der Arbeit zuhalten sein sollen." Heinrich Pallmann, Ein Buchdruckerstrike zu Frankfurt a. M. im Jahre 1597, Archiv für Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels 8 (1883): 11.

Here quoted after Gramlich, 12.

[15] The decision is quoted in full in: Basler Taschenbuch auf das Jahr 1863, 250.

[16] In modern German Law see § 5 Section 3 MarkenG

[17] Two identical original fascicles were destroyed during a fire in 1944/45. For the transcription see: Benno Schmidt (ed.), Frankfurter Zunfturkunden bis zum Jahre 1612, 2 vols (Frankfurt: Historische Kommission der Stadt Frankfurt, 1914 [reprint 1968]), 1: 147-50. The numbering in the transcription was probably added by Schmidt.

[18] Pallmann, 264, quoted in Gramlich, 12.

[19] "Die Buchdruckereyen [in 1598: Truckereyen]/Verläger/Trucker vnd Gesellen ins gemein betreffende". (d_1660_im_001_0003), (d_1598_im_001_0002).

[20] "Bulenbrieffe / Anbindtzettel / Haußzettel / Lieder / neuwe Zeitungen / und was dergleichen unnütze / uppige Trück mehr seind"

[21] pp. 4-7.

[22] pp. 4-7.

[23] "Dieweil das Nachdrucken/bevorab da es dem ersten Truck gleich kompt/den Truckern und Verlägern zu ihrem eussersten Schaden gereichen thut / so soll den Gesellen und Lehrjungen hiemit / bey vermeidung 20 Gülden / und darzu nach Ermessigung des Wercks und der corruption / einer Gefängnuß Straff (welche wir jederzeit zu bestimmen) gänzlich bebotten seyn / einigen gedruckten Bogen aus der Truckerey zu tragen / oder jemanden / der sey auch wer er wölle ohne Vorbewußt des Truckerherrenjchtwas zu communiciren / dardurch der Litera, Grösse des Papyrs / oder Formats verrathen / oder zum Nachdruck Anleytung und Vorschub gegeben werde." (d_1598_im_001_0016 and d_1660_im_001_0019).

[24] Cf. d_1541.

[25] To this day, the German Press Laws ("Landespressegesetze") still require that the publisher's and printer's names, as well as the place of printing, are listed. See, for example, the Baden-Württemberg "Gesetz über die Presse", sec. 8,

[26] For details on early Imperial legislation see d_1608.

[27] Gramlich, 14.

[28] Gieseke, 74-75.

[29] See d_1531.

[30] For the terms of Imperial privileges see the commentary on d_1531.

[31] "Das gesetz nachdruckens und nachschneiden halben den druckern und buchführern anzeigen", in: Michael Diefenbacher and Wiltrud Fischer-Pache (eds), Das Nürnberger Buchgewerbe (Nürnberg: Stadtarchiv 2003): 1. In 1532, the Council confirmed the protection from reprinting for Dürer's widow on the grounds on an Imperial privilege: see d_1511b.

[32] See d_1511b. Diefenbacher (2003): 1. "Die puchfürer allhie zu beschicken und sie zu warnen, Albrechten Thürers gemachte und nachgedruckte pücher nit fayl zu haben, oder ain rate müss der Thürerin vergönnen, in krafft irer freihait gegen inen zu handeln."

[33] Diefenbacher (ed.), Nürnberger Buchgewerbe, 2ff.

[34] There has been some confusion in the literature on the date of origin. It was first quoted in Baader, Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte Nürnbergs (Nördlingen 1860): 2, 79f. and dated there as "c. 1550"; and quoted again in August Jegel, Alt-Nürnberger Handwerksrecht und sein Beziehungen zu anderen (Neustadt/Aisch: Schmidt 1965), 331 without a date. Gramlich (1994) and Gieseke (1995) have identified the document as being issued in 1561 and reconfirmed in 1629: Gramlich provides no further explanation, but Gieseke refers to a communication from the Nuremberg archive. In a letter of 20 September 2007, Manfred H. Grieb, points out that there is still no register for more than 1 m pages of the Nuremberg "Ratsverlässe" and thus the date can not yet be verified.

[35] "Nachdem die Buchdrucker und Formschneider in dieser Statt sich bißhero understanden haben, ihre Formen, Schriften und Gemähl einander nachzudrucken, welches aber denen, so solche Bücher, Gemähl und Schriffen anfengklich erfunden, gedicht, geschitten und mitr Verlegung derselben viel Kosten darauff gewendet haben, zu großem Schaden, Verderben und Abbruch ihrer Nahrung gereichet hatt,, solches aber züvorkommen, so verordnet und setzt ein Edler, Ehnvester Rat hiemit, daß nun hinfüro kein Buchdruckter, Formschneider, Buchführer, Verleger oder jemand anders, so einem Rat verwandt und zugehörig, dem andern seine Bücher, Gedicht, Gemähl, Schrifften und Formen, die er selbst gedicht, erfunden, geschnitten oder gerissen oder uf seine Kosten verlegt hatt und die ihme vn Eines E[hrbaren], E[hrnvesten] Rat dazu Verordenten zu drucke, außgeben und fail haben zu lassen zugelassen sein, in einem halben Jahr, dem nechsten, nach Ausgang derselben weder heimlich oder offentlich nachdrucken, schneiden oder reißen oder bei andern uf seinen Losten und Verlegung zu tun verfügen solle; dann, welcher solches uberfahren und einem E[hrbaren], E[hrnvesten] Rat von jemand als Verbrecher angezeigt wirdt, der soll ihren Herrlichkeiten darum ohne Gnadt zur Puß geben und verfallen sein zehen Gulden rheinisch und darzu die geschnittene oder gedruckte Form, Exemplaria und Bücher verfallen haben."

[36] Diefenbacher (ed.), Nürnberger Buchgewerbe, 34.

[37] Kapp, 1: 576.

[38] p. 14, (d_1713_im_001_0013): "Dreyzehenden allhiesige Oberkeit nicht hoffen will / daß die Buchdrucker oder Gesellen einigen Stimplern / so die Druckerey nicht rechtmässiger Weise / oder wohl gantz und gar nicht erlernet / und mit ihren Stimpel= und Frettereyen nur andere Druckereyen ruinieren / und auch ohne Censur fortarbeiten / hilffliche Hand leisten oder Unterschleiff geben werden / oder aber auch / daß einige aus hiesigen Buchdruckern jenes / so ein anderer allbereit in die Censur gegeben / und hierdurch ein Vorrecht / solches nemlich allein zu drucken / erworben hat / gleichfalls doch unbefugter auflegen / und drucken / oder in andere immer erdenckliche Weg einer dem anden seinen Verlag / ob er schon darüber nicht privilegirtist / [p. 15] sowol in Geistlichen als Weltlichen Sachen / nachdrucken werde; So erfordert doch die Nothdurfft / daß hierinnfals wider die ausser Art und zwar wider diejenige / so denen Frettern und Stimplern an Handen gehen / und Unterschleiff machen / eine Straff à 12 Gulden / wider die aber / so im andern fällig befunden werden / à 20 Gulden angesetzet werde / wovon die eine Helffte in die Cassa, die andere Helfft aber der Gesellschaft entrichtet werden solle / welche doch im Fall ein Gesell deß ersten Verbrechens wegen schuldig erfunden würde / nach Beschaffenheit der Schuld oder Ubertrettens / auch der entgegen waltenden Noth auf Gutbefinden der Gesellschaft moderirt / hingegegen aber weder bey den Buchdruckern noch den Gesellen überstiegen oder erhöhet werden kan".

[39] "Obrigkeitlich confirmirt und bestättigt." p. 17 (d_1713_im_001_0016).

[40] Kapp, 1: 576.

[41] See Gramlich, 89.

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