Censorship Edict of the Archbishop of Mainz, Würzburg (1485)

Source: Stadtarchiv Iphofen B 303

Citation:
Censorship Edict of the Archbishop of Mainz, Würzburg (1485), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

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Rudolf, by the Grace of God Bishop of Würzburg and Eastern Franconia

[...]

says the following: Berthold by the Grace of God Archbishop of the See of Mainz,
Archchancellor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and Elector: Although
one can easily and abundantly arrive at human learning and gain access to the books
of the individual sciences thanks to the divine art of printing, we also know
for certain that some men have been induced by vain ambition or greed for money
to abuse of this art, and through something that was originally given [by God] for
the education of mankind have been led into ruin and disgrace. For we have seen
how Christ's books containing [details of the] celebration of divine services, as
well as works on divine matters and the most important principles of our religion,
have been translated from Latin into German to be handled by the common people,
which must inevitably be considered an offence to religion. Would such translators
claim, assuming that they care about the truth - irrespective of whether they
carry out their translations in good faith or with evil designs - that the German
language is capable of containing all that Greek and Latin writers have written,
in the most careful and distinct way, about the highest ideas of Christian
religion and matters of science?! One must confess the poverty of our language,
its inability to suffice these writers in the least,and that if these [translators]
fabricate unknown words out of their entrails, or even if they do make use of some
ancient [texts], they will inevitably corrupt the sense of the truth - something
that we have reason to fear most in the case of holy Scripture because of the
magnitude of the danger posed by this. For what is there to enable the ignorant
and unlearned men and women, into whose hands the books of holy Scripture might
then fall, to pick out the true meanings? Having seen the text of the holy
Gospel or the Epistles of St Paul, no one with good sense will deny that they
are the result of combining and supplementing many different writings. Some of
these are generally accepted. But what is one to make of those which are the
subject of the most bitter disputes amongst scholars of our universal Church? We
could cite many more things, but for the purposes of our argument the few points
we have put forward will suffice. Since it is true that the art of printing
books had its origin in an office here in our splendid Mainz, for us to be able
to make use [i.e. pride ourselves on] of this title [of being its inventors],
for it to fully deserve to be called divine, and so that it continues to
be highly refined and faultless, it is only fair that the honour of this art
should be defended by us. It is most certainly important for us to preserve the
immaculate purity of holy Scripture, and for this purpose [...] we decree that
no works whatsoever, of whatever science, art or [fame?] they may happen to be,
whether they are composed in Greek, Latin, or any other language, may be translated
into German; nor may any such translated books be sold or purchased anywhere -
publicly or secretly, directly or indirectly - unless they have been examined -
before printing, in the case of works which are to be printed, or before their
sale, in the case of books that have already been printed - by [...] the Doctors
and Masters of the University in our city of Mainz, or by Doctors and Masters
in our city of Erfurt whom we have selected for this purpose, and have been
approved for printing or selling by an honest testimony.

[...]


    


Rudolfus dei gratia Episcopus herbipolensis et francia orientalis Dux

[...]

subsequit et est talis: Bertholdus dei gratia Sancte Moguntine Sedis Archiepiscopus, Sacri
Romani Imperii per Germaniam Archicancellarius ac Princeps Elector[*] Etsi ad mortalium
eruditionem diuina quadam imprimendi arte ad singularum scientiarum codices habunde
facilequeperueniri possit, compertum tamen habemus, quosdam homines inanis gloriae aut
pecuniae cupiditate ductos hac arte abuti, et quod ad vite hominum institutionem datum est
ad perniciem et calumniam deduci. Vidimus enim Christi libros missarum afficia continentes
et praeterea de diuinis rebus et apicibus nostrae religionis scriptos, e latina in germanicam
linguam traductos nec sine religionis dedecore versari per manus vulgi, Quid denique de
sacrorum canonum legumque praeceptis? que etsi a jure consultis viris vtque prudentissimis
atque eloquentissimis aptissime limatissimeque scripta sint, tantam tame scientia ipsa habet
nodositatem, vt etiam eloquentissimi sapientissimique hominis extrema vix sufficiat etas.
Huius artis volumina stulti quidam temerarij atque indocti in vulgarem linguam traducere
audent, quorum traductionem multi etiam docti viri videntes confessi sunt, se propter
maximam verborum impropriationem et abusum minime intellexisse. Quid denique dicendum
de reliquarum scientiarum operibus, quibus etiam nonnumquam falsa, commiscent aut falsis
titulis inscribunt tribuuntque autoribus egregiis eorum figmenta quo magis emptore inueniant.
Dicant translatores tales, si verum colunt, bono etiam siue malo id faciant animo, an ne lingua
germanica capax sit eorum, que tum greci tum et Latini egregij scriptores de summis
speculationibus religionis christiane et rerum scientia accuratissime argutissimeque scripserunt?
Fateri oportet ydeomatis nostri inopiam minime sifficere necesse que fore, eos ex suis
ceruicibus nomina fingere incognita, aut, si veteribus quibusdam vtantur, veritatis sensum
corrumpere, quod propter magnitudinem periculi in literis sacris magis veremur. Quis enim
dabit idiotis atque indoctis hominibus et femineo sexui, in quorum manus codices
sacrorum literarum inciderint, veros axcerpere intellectus? Videatur sacri evangelij aut
epistolarum paulj taxtus, nemo sane prudens negabit, multa suppletione et subauditione
aliarum scripturarum opus esse, Occurrerunt hec, quia vulgatissima sunt. Quid putabimus de
his, que inter scriptores in ecclesia katholica sub acerrima pendent disputatione? Multa afferre
possemus de quibus tamen ad propositum paucula ostendisse suddiciat. Verum
cum inicium officine huius artis imprimendi codices in hac aurea nostra maguntia, vt vera eius
appellatione vtamur, divinitus emerserit, hodieque in ea politissima atque emendatissima
perseueret, iustissime eius Artis decusa nobis defensabitur; Nostra etiam intersit divinarum
literarum putitatem immaculatam servari, vnde prefatis erroribus et hominum impudentium aut
sceleratorum ausibus, prout possimus, autore domino, cuius res agitur, occurrere frenoque
cohibere volentes, omnibus et singulis, ecclesiasticis et secularibus personis nostrae ditionj
subiectis, aut intra eius terminus ne gotiantibus, cuiuscumque gradus, ordinis, professionis,
dignitatis, aut conditionis existant, tenore presentium districte precipiendo mandamus, ne ali
qua opera, cuiuscunque scientie, artis vel notitie, e greco, latino vel alio sermone, in vulgare
germanicum traducant, aut traducta, quouis commutationis genere vel titulo distrahant, vel
comparent, publice vel occulte, directe vel indirecte, nisi opera deinceps imprimenda ante
impressionem et impressa ante distractionem per clarissimos honorabilesque nobis dilectos
doctores et magistros vniuersitatis studii in ciuitate nostra maguntina, aut doctores et
magistros vniuersitatis studii in opido nostro Erfordiae ad hoc deputatos fuerint visa et patenti
testimonio ad imprimendum vel distrahendum admissa; Vel si in opido Frankfordie nostrae
dioecesis librj venales expositi fuerint. per honorabilem nobis deuotum dilectum loci
plebanum in theologia Magistrum ac vnum vel duos doctores et licentiatos per
Consilium dictj opidj annalj stipendio conductos, visi et approbati fuerint. Si quis vero huius
nostre peouisionis contemptor fuerit, aut contra huius modi mandatum nostrum consilium,
auxilium vel fauorem quouis modo, directe vel indirecte prestiterit, Sententiam
excommunicationis ipso facto et praeterea amissionis librorum expositorum, ac etiam centum
florenorum auri penam Camere nostrae applicandam se nouerit incurrisse, a qua sententia
nemini citra auctoritatem nostram specificam liceat absolvere. Datum apud arcem Sancti
Martini in ciuitate nostra Maguntia, sub sigillo nostro die vicesima secunda mensis Martii
Anno domini Millesimo quadringentesimo octagesimo quinto.

[...]
________________________

*) According to Heinrich Pallmann, "Des Erzbischofs Berthold von Mainz aeltestes
Censuredikt", Archiv für Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels, 4 (1884):
234-241, at this point in the manuscript version held in the Frankfurt archives the following
text is included: "honorabili Deuoto nobis in Christo dilecto Conrado Hensel sacre theologie
doctorj, plebano ecclesie sancti Bartholomei opidi Franckfordiensis nostre Moguntine
diocesis Salutem in domino sempiternam apraesentium executionem." The Frankfurt version
of the Edict is accompanied by a letter in German demanding the Frankfurt Council to
instruct "one or two doctors" to examine all the books offered at the Frankfurt fair.


    

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