Luther's 'Admonition to the Printers', Wittenberg (1525)

Source: Würtembergische Landesbibliothek Stuttgart, Theol.fol.1085, sheet 229 verso, Photographer: Finkbeiner

Luther's 'Admonition to the Printers', Wittenberg (1525), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

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            Chapter 1 Page 1 of 1 total


What do you mean by this, my dear Sirs ye
printers, / that one steals and publicly robs
the other of what is his, / and that you bring
ruin on yourselves in this way? Have you too
now become highway-men and thieves? or do you
imagine / that God will bless and nourish you /
by such evil pieces of work and tricks? I had
started writing the Postils for the period
from the Feast of the Epiphany to Easter, / when
suddenly a knave comes along / - it was the
typesetter / who lives on our toil - / and
steals my manuscript before I've even finished
it / and makes off with it / and has it printed
abroad, / thereby misprinting our sustenance and
work. / Well! God will see to it / that the
profit you make on this will just suffice / for
you to smear [tar] your shoes with it! / You are
a thief / and are before God obliged to make
restitution! Now, the damage might still be
sufferable, / were it not for the fact that they
handle my books so wrongly and infamously. For
what they do is to print these in such a hurry /
that when they come back to me, / I cannot
recognise my own books! / Here something has been
omitted, / there something is displaced, / there
again the wrong word is printed, / and everywhere
one sees a lack of revision. And they've also
learnt the trick / of printing Wittenberg at the
top of [the title-page of] several books, / which
were never produced in Wittenberg, nor have they
so much as alighted here. / These are fine knavish
tricks / with which to deceive the man in the
street, / because by the grace of God we are
well-known for taking great pains / and, as far as
it is in our power, / never allowing a book to
appear that isn't useful. Thus it is that avarice
and envy incite them to deceive people under the
cover of our name / and to ruin us. It is truly
unfair / that we do all the work and are expected
to spend our money on this, / just so that others
reap the profit and we are left with the loss. So
may everyone be warned about the Postils for the
last six Sundays / and just let them go to the
scrap-heap. / For I simply do not acknowledge them
as mine, / since when revising my works, I often
have to correct myself / what I have overlooked in
my manuscript and done wrongly, / so that my
manuscript copy [of these last postils] cannot be
relied upon. However, if someone still wants to
keep them, / may he amend and correct them in
accordance with the present copy. / For our [printer's]
type-face design is well known, / and readers should

[2nd column:]

go by this in order to distinguish counterfeit books
from the true ones. Although I for my part would be
happy / if I never had to publish any books, / since
in the end it just demands from me futile efforts
and work. For this reason, be warned, my dear printers / who
art so busy stealing and robbing! / Since you must
know / what St Paul said to the Thessalonians: /
"That no man go beyond and defraud his brother
in any matter: / because the Lord is the avenger of
all such." This passage will some day come to smite
you too. Even so, before that happens, such robbery
will not make you any richer, / for, as Solomon says:
"The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: /
but He blesseth the habitation of the just." And,
similarly, Isaiah: "Woe to thee that robbest / thou
shalt be robbed yourself." Shouldn't one printer be
able to show consideration to another out of Christian
charity / and wait for one or two months before
reprinting the other's work? However, if avarice is to
be encouraged more / and we Germans do want to be
beasts of prey, / then go ahead and run wild with your
avarice, / albeit not in God's name. / You
      will be duly brought to justice.
            May God grant that
                  you mend your
                        ways in time.
                              / Amen.

from Advent to Easter / with
a complete index, /which is
not in the other





Gnade und frie=
de / Was soll doch das seyn /
meyne lieben druckerherrm / das
eyner dem andern so offentlich raubt und
stillt das seyne / und unternander euch
verderbt? Seyt yhr nu auch strassen reu=
ber und diebe worden? odder meynet yhr /
das Gott euch segenen und erneeren wird /
durch solche böse tücke und stücke? Ich
habe die Postillen angefangen von der
heyligen Drey könige tage an / bis auff
Ostern / so feret zu eyn bube / der setzer / der
von unsem schweys sich neeret / stilet mey=
ne handschrifft ehe ichs gar aus mache /
und tregts hynaus / und lesst es draussen
ym lande drucken / unser kost und erbeyt zu
verdrucken / Wolan Gott wirds finden /
was du dran gewynnest / da schmyre die
schuch mit / Du bist eyn dieb / und für Gott
schuldig die widderstattung. Nu were
der schaden dennoch zu leyden / wenn sie
doch meyne bücher nicht so falsch und
schendlich zu richten. Nu aber drucken sie
die selbigen un eilen also / das, wenn sie zu
myr widder komen / ich meyne eygene büch=
er nicht kenne / Da ist etwas ausse / Da
ists versetzt / Da gefelscht / Da nicht corri=
giert, Haben auch die kunst gelernt / das
sie Wittenberg oben auff etliche bücher
drucken / die zu Wittenberg nie gemacht
noch gewesen sind / Das sind ja buben=
stück / den gemeynen man zu betriegen / weyl
von Gotts gnaden wir im geschrey sind /
das wyr mit allem vleys / und keyn unnü=
tzes buch auslassen / so viel uns müglich
ist. Also treibt sie der geytz und neyd un=
ter unserm namen die leute zu betriegen / und
die unsern zu verderben. Es ist yhe eyn un=
gleych ding / das wyr erbeyten und kost
sollen drauff wenden / und andere sollen
den genies und wyr den schaden haben.
So sey nu yederman gewarnet für der Po=
stillen vn den sechs Sontagen / und lasse
sie untergehen / Ich erkenne sie auch nicht
für die meynen / Denn ym corrigiren mus
ich offt selbs endern / was ich ynn meyner
handschrifft habe ubersehen und unrecht
gemacht / das auff meyner handschrifft
exempar nicht zu trawen ist. Will sie aber
ia yemand haben / das er sie doch nach die=
sem exemplar bessere und corrigire / Man
kennet ia unseren buchstaben wol / dar=
nach man sich richten und falsche bücher

[2nd column:]

von den rechten scheyden möge. Wie wol
meynethalben ichs zu finden were / das ich
nymer keyn buch dürffte auslassen gehen /
Es kostet mich doch eytel mühe und er=
beyt. Der halben seyt gewarnet meyne lie=
ben drücker / die yhr so stelet und raubet /
Denn yhr wisset / was S Paulus sagt
zu Thessalonicern / Niemand vorteyle
seynen nehisten ym handel / Denn Gott ist
recher uber solchs alles. Diser spruch wird
euch auch eyn mal traffen. Auch so wer=
det yhr solcher reuberey nicht reycher / wie
Salomo spricht / Im hause des gottlo=
sen ist eytel verschlayssem / Aber des gerechten
haus wird gesegnet. Und Esaias / Der
du raubest / was gillts / du wirst widder
beraube werden. Solt nicht eyn drucker
dem andern aus Christlicher liebe eyn mon=
den odder zween zu gut harren / ehe er yhm
nachdrucket: Solls aber yhe gegeytzt
seyn / und wyr deutschen doch bestien seyn
      wöllen / so geytzt und tobet ymerhyn /
            nicht ynn Gotts namen / Das ge=
                  richt wird sich wol finden.
                        Gott gebe besserung
                              ynn der Zeyt /

vom Advent an bis auff Ostern / mit
eynem Register durch aus / wilchs
ynn andern Postillen
nicht ist




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