Commentary on:
Imperial Senate privilege to the Sodalitas Celtica (1501)

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_1501


Privileges of the Imperial Senate for editions of works by Hrotsvit and Conrad Celtis 1501/1502

Friedemann Kawohl

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


Please cite as:
Kawohl, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on Imperial privileges for Conrad Celtis (1501/02)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,


1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. The book market in the Holy Roman Empire during the fifteenth century

4. Sixteenth-century Imperial supervision of books

5. Celtis and his literary projects in 1501 and 1502

6. The Privileges

7. References


1. Full title
Title, dedications and colophons with references to privileges awarded by the Imperial Senate to the Sodalitas Celtica for an edition of works by Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (1501) and a volume of works by Conrad Celtis, including Four Books of Love Poems for All Four Quarters of the Heavens in Germany (Quatuor libri amorum secundum quatuor latera Germanie) (1502)


2. Abstract
The first privileges for books covering the whole territory of the Holy Roman Empire[1] were granted by the Imperial Senate to a Humanists' academy ("Sodalitas") founded by Conrad Celtis. The original privilege has not been preserved, but there are references to it in an edition of works by the early medieval nun Hrotsvit of Gandersheim (1501) and in the Libri Amoris by Celtis (1502). The 1502 privilege specifies a ten-year term of protection. Ever since Pütter (d_1774) drew attention to them, the privileges for the editions brought out by Celtis's academy have been regarded as the first book privileges granted in the Holy Roman Empire. This commentary gives an overview of the book market in the Holy Roman Empire during the fifteenth century and of the sixteenth- century Imperial supervision of books, as well as some information on Celtis's life and his relations to Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519). Details of the dedications, which appear both as text and illustrations, are highlighted so as to give an indication of the Humanists' political and artistic aspirations. The granting of privileges by the Imperial Senate in favour of Celtis's "Sodalitas" was in fact conceived as a gesture by the high nobility to promote the arts and sciences and to encourage loyal and deserving subjects of the Emperor, rather than as an early form of regulation of the book market.


3. The book market in the Holy Roman Empire during the fifteenth century
The beginning of the Gutenberg era was marked by a legal dispute between a publisher and an investor. Johannes Fust had lent Johannes Gutenberg 800 gulden without interest and had accepted the latter's printing shop as a pledge. Gutenberg was then accused of having, in violation of the contract, spent the money not just for his publication of the Bible in 1454 but for other prints too - probably for a mass edition of indulgence letters ("litterae indulgentiales"). As a consequence Gutenberg forfeited his workshop together with all copies of his famous "42-line Bible".[2] The Fust vs. Gutenberg case demonstrates the economic challenges presented by the new medium. Printing was a risky and capital-intensive business ventured on by members of the urban bourgeoisie, whereas most of the traditional manuscript workshops were run by monasteries and universities.


Printing techniques spread rapidly throughout Europe: there were 17 European cities and towns with printing presses by 1470; 121 by 1480; 204 by 1490; and 252 by 1500, of which 62 were located within the Holy Roman Empire. German printers established themselves in Rome in 1464-65; in Venice, in 1469; at the Sorbonne in Paris, in 1470; and in Hungary, Spain, and the Netherlands during 1473. In 1476, the English printer William Caxton set up his famous press. (See Section 3 in the commentary for uk_1518) Of the c. 25,000 titles brought out in Europe during the fifteenth century, 37% were published in Italy, 32% in the Holy Roman Empire, 17% in France, 7.5% in the Netherlands, 3.5% in Spain, and 2% in England.[3]


Book historians have traced the crucial point in the boom period of the new medium of printing to around 1480: by then, the printed book, suitable as it was for mass distribution, had firmly established itself on the book market, alongside the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts. The diversity of printing techniques and types began to give way to a standardisation in most areas of book production. For example, the inclusion of a title-page became standard practice, and the folio format was gradually replaced by smaller formats. A considerable amount of contemporary texts began to appear in print. Traditional manuscript workshops, on the other hand, entered into a steep decline. Moreover, publishing had become a branch of the book industry in its own right, independent to a certain extent from printing and binding.[4]


In 1562, Peter Schöffer (c. 1525-1503), who, together with Fust, had taken over the former Gutenberg printing works, chose the Frankfurt fair as the centre for his commercial operations, which ranged from Paris all the way to the Baltic sea.


Around 1480, Anton Koberger (c.1445-1513), the godfather of Albrecht Dürer and the biggest publisher in fifteenth-century Germany, set up a printing works in Nuremberg which employed dozens of assistants and comprised 24 presses. His representatives, who numbered almost 50, travelled round Poland, Austria, Burgundy, southern Germany, Lyon, Toulouse and Venice.[5] Koberger was both a publisher and bookseller. In southern Germany, for example, Aldus Manutius's cheap and highly sought-after Venetian editions of classical authors could be obtained only from Koberger. He was, moreover, the first German publisher known to have taken strategic action to secure himself against reprinting: with his more important colleagues he concluded agreements to this effect; he did not start selling any copies of new books until after the print run was completed; when reprints were imminent, he would sell off any remaining copies of his edition and he would also try to corner the market of competing reprints.[6]


Only one fifth of fifteenth-century book production within the Holy Roman Empire was written in German. Most book buyers would be able to read in Latin, and it is due to this fact that the early book trade had such an international dimension. The best-selling "incunabulum" (= fifteenth-century book) was the Latin grammar of Aelius Donatus. Gutenberg alone published 24 editions of the "Donat grammar". Out of the c. 25,000 editions brought out across Europe during the fifteenth century, [7] around 45% were related to religion or theology (e.g. Bibles, liturgical books, sacramental manuals, works of scholastic theology, popular moral treatises, saints' lives, religious plays). Around 14-20% of the "incunabula" dealt with canon or civil law. Another sizable proportion consisted of books related to medicine, science, and education. According to Howard Jones, this means that "we can estimate that books which catered to reading that was essentially recreational rather than utilitarian in nature represented around 30% at most of all books printed."[8]


Of immense significance for the early book market was the Humanists' interest in original sources, their striving to read whole books rather than rely on collections of excerpts in the medieval tradition, and - under the influence of Manutius and Erasmus - their turning towards original Greek and Hebrew texts rather than Latin translations. Fifteenth-century editions of classical texts were mainly produced in Italy, with Venice (see Aldo Manutio's petition, i_1502), Rome, and Milan being the major centres for such publications. In these three territories 961 classical editions were brought out, amounting to 10% of the total Italian book production and to 65% of the total number of classical editions circulating in Europe.[9] Whilst the Venetian printing industry entered into decline during the closing years of the fifteenth century, production in Leipzig and Paris was on the rise. In the early sixteenth century, Basel became a new important centre for Latin, Greek and Hebrew editions: the Amerbach publishing house, which was based there, employed notable scholars like Beatus Rhenanus (1485-1547), Sebastian Brant (1458-1521), Johannes Reuchlin (1455-1522), and Erasmus of Rotterdam (c.1466-1536) as authors and editors (see d_1531).


4. Sixteenth-century Imperial supervision of books
The first reference to the Holy Roman Emperor's "regalium" (authority) over books is often traced back to 1496, when Maximilian I. appointed a certain Dr. Jacobus Oessler (Oesler) from Strasbourg as a "general superintendent of books in the whole of Germany".[10] Other books with references to Oesler were published in 1514, 1515 and 1517.[11] In an edition from 1517, for example, Oesler is referred to as a "censor by authority of Emperor Maximilian and a judge of everything that is composed with letters [printing types]".[12] Johann Stabius (c. 1460-1522), who was in effect the official Imperial historiographer, was authorised to grant privileges either on behalf of Emperor Maximilian I. or at his own discretion.[13] In principle, supervision of books remained the Emperor's duty right up to the dissolution of the Empire in 1806. However, the ongoing shift of constitutional power from the Emperor towards local authorities also impinged on responsibility for the supervision of books. According to Eisenhardt,[14] the Emperor did not deliberately relinquish his authority in this field: what happened was that the territorial rulers increasingly began to reinterpret their obligation to assist the Emperor in exercising this supervision as a right to which they themselves were entitled. In 1774, at a time when local privileges were the norm, Pütter[15] assumes that each of the "Reichsstände" - i.e. persons like the Electors and other sovereign rulers, and corporations like the Imperial Free Cities and episcopacies - had the power to grant privileges, and accordingly he identifies both an Imperial and a local supervisory authority for books.[16]


In practice, the Emperor had to delegate control to the local authorities from quite an early stage. In 1521, the Edict of Worms explicitly banned Luther's writings and introduced "censura praevia" (pre-publication censorship) as a general rule. In 1524, the Imperial Diet convoked in Nuremberg passed a bill against "ignominious writings and pictures" ("Schmachschriften und Gemälde"), charging "the electors, rulers, prelates, counts, and the common people in their capacity as obedient members of the Holy Empire"[17] with the duty of supervising their local printing works. In return, the Imperial authorities were to assist them in case of any problems.


According to the resolution of the Diet summoned in Speyer, in 1529, no piece of writing was to be printed before it "had been scrutinised by a learned person appointed by the local authority".[18] Printers, publishers, booksellers or authors were to be punished by the local authority if what they wrote or brought out gave cause for objection. The resolution passed at Augsburg in 1530 went a step further. The local authorities were themselves held liable if they failed to supervise their local printers. The Imperial Statute Book of 1548 ("Reichspolizeiordnung") confirmed earlier regulations, and in 1570 the Imperial Diet of Speyer banned printing presses in the countryside. Henceforth, printing works were only allowed in the Imperial Free Cities, in towns where a sovereign resided, and in university towns. The Imperial Statute Book of 1577 explicitly provided for intervention by the Imperial authorities where the local authorities failed to proceed with sufficient rigour against banned writings.


Imperial supervision of books meant having both the supreme authority in censorship matters and the power to grant privileges. It still isn't clear how the idea of book- and printing privileges reached the German lands from Italy.[19]. It is equally plausible that Emperor Maximilian or Humanist authors such as Celtis and his confederates in the "Sodalitas" could have come up with this idea. Early Holy Roman Imperial privileges, however, were not easy to enforce. Whilst Venetian privileges were limited to the Republic of Venice and its overseas territories, the Emperor's privileges in principle were supposed to be valid throughout the whole Empire, which was made up of powerful kingdoms, as well as small independent towns and dukedoms, and extended over an area approximately equivalent to the present territories of the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, the Czech Republic and parts of Northern Italy. There was no administration covering the whole Empire, and before the Imperial Chamber Court of Justice was installed in 1495, there was no mechanism for bringing actions against those who violated privileges.[20]


Various attempts have been made to list sixteenth-century privileges. Schottenloher[21] has identified 159 full-text privileges granted by several European sovereigns between 1511 and 1601. Because the full wording has not been preserved, the Celtis privilege is not included in Schottenloher's list, which begins with the 1511 privileges for Schlick (d_1511) and Peutinger. Gieseke has identified 65 book privileges between 1501 and 1530 -[22] quite a small proportion of the total number of books produced during that time. 57 of these privileges were granted by the Emperor; one by both the Emperor and the Pope; two by the Pope alone; three by the Duke of Bavaria; one by the Duke of Saxony; and one by the City of Leipzig. Pohlmann has drawn up a list of 352 Imperial privileges granted to authors between 1511 and 1699, of which he notes that 21 were granted for musical compositions and 55 for artistic works.[23] It has been estimated that around one fourth of total book privileges were awarded to authors, editors, compilers and translators, the remainder being granted to printers, book sellers, publishers, religious orders, and bookbinders - especially for calendars, almanacs, and prayer books, that is, books which were subject to heavy usage and thus required a firm binding.[24


5. Celtis and his literary projects in 1501 and 1502
Conrad (also: Konrad) Celtis (1459-1508) was a scholar of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and wrote on poetics and rhetoric. Alongside these interests, he was an expert in geography, mathematics and astronomy.[25] In 1487, he was crowned a "poet laureate" at Nuremberg - one of around 30 crowned by Emperor Frederick III, the father of Maximilian.[26] Celtis travelled widely throughout Europe (Italy, Krakow, Buda), worked as a tutor to the sons of the Count-Palatine in Heidelberg, and taught at the universities of Erfurt, Rostock, Leipzig, Ingolstadt, Regensburg, and Vienna. He founded various centres for Humanistic studies, including a "Sodalitas Litteraria Danubiana". In 1492, he borrowed a manuscript by the nun Hrotsvith of Gandersheim from the St. Emeran monastery in Regensburg: his subsequent edition of Hrotsvith's works is regarded as one of his main achievements as an editor. In 1504, he discovered a crusaders' epos by Ligurinus (c. 1150-1220, edited in 1507), and, in 1507, a fourth-century Roman street map (Tabula Peutingeriana).[27] In 1497, Maximilian I appointed him Professor of Poetics and Rhetoric at Vienna, a post which he held until his death. In early 1501, while Maximilian I was residing in Linz, Celtis and some members of the "Sodalitas Litteraria Danubiana" staged a performance of the musical drama "Ludus Dianae" in honour of the king. In October 1501, Celtis visited Maximilian in Bolzano to propose the setting up of a "Collegium poetarum et mathematicorum", which eventually opened its doors on 1 February 1502. To mark the occasion, Celtis's assistant, Vincentius Longinus, presented a panegyric poem which was to be included in the 1502 edition of Celtis's works.[28] The Collegium was authorised to grant the title of "poet laureate". Celtis, however, never exercised this privilege but acted, instead, as the official panegyrist at the ceremonies in which younger poets were crowned by Maximilian during 1502-1509.[29] Maximilian attended the Imperial Senate from 24 October to 7 November 1500, and from 13 to 21 April 1501, but after that he stayed away from the Senate and from Nuremberg. Celtis followed his patron to Augsburg, where he stayed in the house of Konrad Peutinger. Most of Celtis's later works and editions were published in Augsburg. During all his career he played an active and influential role in the dissemination of Humanist ideas throughout the Empire.


Great hopes were placed on Maximilian by the German Humanists.[30] Many expected a restoration of Imperial greatness accompanied by a flourishing of the sciences and the arts in Germany to rival that of the Italian Renaissance. Celtis was among the first who expressed the idea of a cooperation between Humanist scholars and Maximilian, who was then just King of the Romans (not becoming Emperor until 1493), for the benefit of the fatherland. In various letters he declared his intention of carrying out a number of ambitious literary projects - an epic praise of the deeds of Maximilian and a historical and geographical description of Germany - which, however, were not completed. As a poet laureate, Celtis and other crowned poets had agreed on special fiduciary relations. The coronation ceremony involved the playing of an instrument and a vow sworn by the poets to the Emperor, "to sing your praises here and everywhere" ("Cantabo laudes hic et ubique tuas").[31]


The 1501 edition of Hrotsvith of Gandersheim's works was dedicated to Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, (see d_1501_im_001_0002), in thanks for his earlier patronage of Celtis, which had led to the latter's coronation as poet laureate in 1487.[32] On the dedication drawings of 1501 (d_1501_im_001_0002) Celtis can be seen handing over the book to Frederick, with three fellow-members of the Sodalitas standing behind him.[33] The poet's right hand is shown holding a birreta and laurel wreath - the insignia of academic achievement and of the title of poet laureate.


On 5 April 1502, the first part of a series of Celtis's Collected Works was published in Nuremberg, including the "Quattuor Libri Amori", a description of Nuremberg, love poems and geographical essays. Also included were 12 full-page woodcuts, some of them carved from images by Dürer. Celtis changed his original intention of dedicating the 1502 edition to his fellow poets after Maximilian promised his support for the "Collegium poetarum et mathematicorum" as well as for the quite expensive publication of the Collected Works.[34] Celtis also intended to dedicate the following volumes to Maximilian, but no other volume was published during his lifetime.


The title page (d_1501_im_001_0001) of the "Quattuor Libri Amori" identified Celtis as "the first of the Germans to receive the crown of poet laureate from the hands of the Emperor" ("primo inter Germanos Imperatoriis Manibus poete laureat"). The dedication is a vote of thanks for both the title of poet laureate, which Celtis had been granted by Maximilian's father, as well as for Maximilian's patronage of the "Collegium" and his financial support of the edition. We can see from the ears of corn, fruits, leaves and the four rivers depicted on the title-page of the 1502 edition that Celtis wanted to praise the beauty, fertility, and natural wealth of Germany, "in a deliberate antithesis to Tacitus's disdainful description in ‘Germania' and in emulation of Virgil's praise of Italy in the ‘Georgica'".[35] Even the layout of the title is modelled on Italian examples. The typesetting of the 1502 title within a triangle standing on its peak - a trend set by Italian Humanists - has been identified as the first example of its kind in a German print.[36] The position of the allegoric "Philosophia" directly behind the preface is meant to allude to Maximilian's promotion of the arts and sciences. Compared with most other illustrations used in dedications of works to Maximilian, the 1502 edition (d_1502_im_001_0002) dispenses with references to the Imperial entourage and suggests, instead, a certain familiarity between author and Emperor. They are seen interacting face-to-face, and Celtis is shown kneeling on the first step, rather than submissively before the throne.


6. The Privileges
The references to the privileges are quite similar in each case. In the 1501 edition of Hrotsvit's works, the privilege is declared as follows: "Printed in Nuremberg under [the protection of] a privilege obtained by Celtis's Academy from the Imperial Roman Senate" ("Impressum Norunbergae sub Priuilegio Sodalitas Celticae a Senatu Rhomani Imperii impetratae."), and in 1502 we read: "These works by C.C. were completed in Vienna, the city of residence of the august Emperor Maximilian, and printed in Nuremberg on 9 April 1502. Under [the protection of] a privilege obtained by Celtis's Academy from the Imperial Roman Senate, so that for ten years from now no one may reprint them in any of the Imperial Cities" ("Absoluta sunt haec C.C. op[er]a in Vienna Domicilio Max. Augusti Caesa. Anno M D noui seculi II. kale. Febru. Inpressa autem Noribergae eiusd[em] anni Nonis Aprilibus. Sub priuilegio Sodalitatis Celticae nup[er] a senatu i[m]p[er]ia li i[m]petrato ut n[u]llus haec i[n] dece[m] an[n]is i[n] Imp[er]ii vrbibus inprimat.")


Pütter was one of the first to write on the history of book privileges and it was he who pointed to the Celtis Academy's privileges as the first that were granted by an Imperial institution.[37] Both books, in fact, probably invoked one and the same privilege. The privilege itself is not quoted and has not been preserved in any form. The references in the books, however, are quite precise. In the 1501 edition a term is not specified, whereas the 1502 edition specifies a ten-year term. A ten-year term was often granted in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but shorter terms can sometimes be found (see d_1531). Both privileges were requested from the Imperial Senate: "a senatu Rhomani Imperii impetratae" (1501) "a senatu Imperiali impetrato" (1502). The Senate ("Reichsregiment") had been established to satisfy the aspirations of some territorial princes for a greater say in Imperial policy in return for the financial support they had given to Emperor Maximilian during his wars with France and the Ottoman Empire. It was made up of the Emperor and twenty representatives from the sovereign territories and Imperial Free Cities. The first assembly was called in September 1500 and it remained in session until early summer 1502. In both cases, the beneficiary of the privilege is the "Sodalitas Celtica": in late medieval Latin, "sodalitas" (engl. "sodality") can refer to quite a wide range of types of association. Celsis's "Sodalitas", as well as the later "Collegium", may well be regarded as early forms of what eventually came to be called an ‘academy': a group of scholars who communicated regularly on "academic" topics, both in meetings and through correspondence. The "Sodalitas Celtica" was set up in conjunction with the undertaking to publish Hrotsvit's works.[38] In an epigram appended to the Quattuor Libri Amori, Johann of Dalberg, the Bishop of Worms, refers to the "Sodalitas" as "the first literary academy in the whole of Germany" ("sodalitas litterariae per universam Germaniam princeps.")[39]


Frederick III, the Elector of Saxony, to whom Celtis had dedicated his edition of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim's works, was a member of the Imperial Senate. From the fact that the reference to the 1502 privilege explicitly mentions the Imperial Cities ("in imperii urbibus") Pütter concluded that "the Imperial senate must have been inclined to the view that privileges granted by Imperial authority were more readily enforceable in the Imperial Cities than in the territories of the electors and other sovereign rulers."[40] Although Pütter was an expert in constitutional law, one must bear in mind that his book of 1773 was intended to legitimise full Saxon authority in enacting legislation on reprinting, so it is understandable why he may have tried to reduce downplay the extent to which Imperial authority in such matters was recognised. Moreover, the emphasis on the Imperial Cities might also be attributed to the Senate being aware that there were no printing places of any significance outside of the Imperial Cities and that it was therefore sufficient to confine the privilege just to these cities: the Senate may well have seen this provision as a means of clarifying the issue rather than as a limitation.


The privileges of 1501 and 1502 contain the earliest documented references to a book privilege covering the whole of the Holy Roman Empire. Since the privilege itself has not been preserved, it is not clear whether it was confined to just these two books or whether it applied to all subsequent book projects envisaged by Celtis's Academy. The privilege (again assuming that the two references are to one and the same privilege) is the only one that was awarded by the Imperial Senate while it was in session from 1500-1502 and, later, from 1521-1531. Another unique feature is that apart from the privileges granted to religious orders it is the only one which is directed to a group of scholars rather than to a single scholar, printer, or publisher. Close personal relations between Celtis, the Emperor, and other members of the Imperial Senate are well documented in book dedications of the period and in Celtis's correspondence. The publications of 1501 and 1502 in Nuremberg were assured the best reception since the Imperial Senate made Nuremberg the political and intellectual centre of the Empire. Celtis strategically took political considerations into account when choosing his texts, dedications and woodcuts.[41] Thus, the granting of privileges by the Imperial Senate in favour of Celtis's Academy should be interpreted as part of the high nobility's striving to promote the arts and sciences by privileging a group of scholars, rather than as an early form of regulation of the book market.


7. References

Books and articles [in alphabetical order]

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

Eisenhardt, Ulrich, Die kaiserliche Aufsicht über Buchdruck, Buchhandel und Presse im Heiligen Römischen Reich Deutscher Nation (1496-1806) (Karlsruhe: C.F. Müller, 1970)

Freyberg, Max Freiherr von, Pragmatische Geschichte der bayerischen Gesetzgebung und Staatsverwaltung seit den Zeiten Maximilians I., 4 vols (Leipzig: n.p., 1836-1839)

Geiger, Ludwig, "Ein Obercensor unter Maximilian I. Eine bibliographische Anfrage", Serapeum 30 (1869): 235-237 <>

Geiger, Theodor, Conrad Celtis in seinen Beziehungen zur Geographie (München: Kgl. Hof- und Universitätsdruckerei von Dr. C. Wolf & Sohn, 1896)

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

Hase, Oskar von, Die Koberger (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1885)

Hoffmann, Gottfried Daniel, Von denen ältisten Kayserlichen und Landesherrlichen Bücher-Druck- oder Verlag-Privilegien (Tübingen: n.p., 1777)

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

Kapp, Friedrich, Geschichte des Deutschen Buchhandels bis in das siebzehnte Jahrhundert (Leipzig: Verlag des Börsenvereins der Deutschen Buchhändler 1886)

Kemper, Raimund, "‘Soliditas litteraria a senatu rhomani Imperii impetrata'. Zur Interpretation der Druckprivilegien in der Editio princeps der Roswitha von Gandersheim (1501) und in der Ausgabe der ‘Quatuor Libri Amorum Secundum Quatuor Latera Germanie' des Conrad Celtis (1502)", Euphorion 68 (1974): 119-184

Koppitz, Hans-Joachim, "Kaiserliche Privilegien für das Augsburger Druckgewerbe", in Augsburger Buchdruck und Verlagswesen von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart ed. by Helmut Gier and Johannes Janota (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 1997), 41-53

Lehne, Friedrich, "Zur Rechtsgeschichte der kaiserlichen Druckprivilegien", Mitteilungen des Österreichischen Instituts für Geschichtsforschung, 39 (1939): 323-409

Ludewig, Johann Peter, "Vom kayserlichern Generalsuperindentenden aller Buchtrucker des Römischen Reiches", Wöchentliche Hallische Anzeigen, nr 21 (1740), col. 331-34

Luh, Peter, Kaiser Maximilian gewidmet: die unvollendete Werkausgabe des Conrad Celtis und ihre Holzschnitte (Frankfurt et. al.: Lang, 2001)

Mertens, Dieter, "Sodalitas Celtica impetrata? Zum Kolophon des Nürnberger Hrotsvith-Druckes von 1501", Euphorion 71 (1977): 277-80

Mertens, Dieter, "Maximilians gekrönte Dichter über Krieg und Frieden", in Krieg und Frieden im Horizont des Renaissancehumanismus ed. by Franz Josef Worstbrock (Weinheim: VCH, 1986), 105-23 <>

Mertens, Dieter, "Die Dichterkrönig des Konrad Celtis, Ritual und Programm", Pirckheimer Jahrbuch für Renaissance - und Humanismusforschung, 19 (2004): 31-50

Pohlmann, Hansjörg, "Neue Materialien zum deutschen Urheberschutz im 16. Jahrhundert", Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens, 4 (1963): 90-172

Pütter, Johann Stephan, Der Büchernachdruck nach ächten Grundsätzen des Rechts geprüft (Göttingen: Verlag der Witwe Vandenhoek 1774)

Rupprich, Hans (ed.), Der Briefwechsel des Konrad Celtis (München: Beck 1934)

Schottenloher, Karl, "Die Druckprivilegien des 16. Jahrhunderts", Gutenberg-Jahrbuch (1933): 89-110

Sotzmann, Daniel Friedrich "Über J. Stabius und dessen (vorgelegte) Weltkarte vom Jahre 1515", Monatsberichte über die Verhandlungen der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin, nr 5 (1948): 232-56 <>

Venzke, Andreas, Johannes Gutenberg: Der Erfinder des Buchdrucks und seine Zeit (Munich, Piper 1993/2000)

Wehmer, Carl, "Zur Beurteilung des Methodenstreits in der Inkunabelkunde", Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, (1933): 250-325

Wiener, Claudia, "Celtis' Beziehungen zu Maximilian I", in Amor als Topograph: 500 Jahre Amores des Conrad Celtis (Schweinfurt: Catalogue Bibliothek Otto Schäfer 2002), 75-84

Wittmann, Reinhard, Geschichte des Deutschen Buchhandels: Ein Überblick (Munich: Beck, 1991)

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

[1] The conglomeration of mostly German lands called the "Holy Roman Empire" had been ruled from the fifteenth century until its demise in 1806 by emperors from the Habsburg dynasty. The Emperors were elected by territorial sovereigns (Elector-Princes).

[2] Venzke, 190.

[3] Howard Jones, Printing the Classical Text (Utrecht: Hes & de Graaf Publishers, 2004), 21.

[4] Carl Wehmer, "Zur Beurteilung des Methodenstreits in der Inkunabelkunde", Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 1933: 250-325 (282), quoted in: Reinhard Wittmann, Geschichte des Deutschen Buchhandels: Ein Überblick (Munich: Beck, 1991), 28.

[5] Wittmann 37.

[6] Oskar von Hase, Die Koberger (Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1885), 226, quoted by Wittmann, 37.

[7] 26,550 separate substantial works are listed in the British Library's Incunabula Short-Title Calalogue (ISTC). Burger's Indices gives a figure of 24,421. For details see Jones, 9-10.

[8] Jones, 12.

[9] Jones, 16, 21.

[10] "Generalsuperintendent des Bücherwesens in ganz Teutschland", quoted by Ulrich Eisenhardt, Die kaiserliche Aufsicht über Buchdruck, Buchhandel und Presse im Heiligen Römischen Reich Deutscher Nation: 1496-1806 (Karlsruhe: C.F. Müller, 1970), 5, with reference to files held by the Imperial Chancellery in Vienna; Pütter (1773) (d_1774_im_001_0187), 174 refers to Johann Peter Ludewig, "Vom kayserlichern Generalsuperindentenden aller Buchtrucker des Römischen Reiches"; in Wöchentliche Hallische Anzeigen, nr 21 (1740), col. 331-34, there is a description in col. 332 of a book of sermons published in Strasbourg in 1496, on the first folio of which it says: "Jacobus Oessler I.V. Doctor, per imperium Romanum IMPRESSORIAE CENSOR & SVPERATTENDENS GENERALIS, praesentibus edicit & cauet: nequis alius subscripto PRESSORE dempto, ab hinc lapsu triennis opus hoc, probe, CASTIGATVM, SECUNDARIO nel imprimat nel secundario impressum, in imperii limitibus uenale praestet. Multa decem marcarum auri, unos cum huiusmodi librorum, SECUNDARIO., impressorum, CONFISCATIONE. Datum ad 14. kal. Febr. anno Chri. 1498 (sic!) & postea saepius."

[11] Ludwig Geiger, "Ein Obercensor unter Maximilian I. Eine bibliographische Anfrage", Serapeum 30 (1869): 235-237 (236), which is available online <>, and mentions three books with references to Oesler from 1514, 1515, 1517, all published in Strasbourg by Grüninger. Karl Schottenloher, "Die Druckprivilegien des 16. Jahrhunderts", Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, 1933: 89-110, refers to three other privileges undersigned by Oesler in 1517 for books from Strasbourg and nearby Haguenau. A German privilege for Kaysersberg's Evangelia (Strasbourg 1517) is signed: "Jacobus Oessler, juris utriesque doctor and living in Strasbourg as Our, the Roman Imperial Majesty's, most graciously appointed general superintendent of all printing shops within the Holy Empire" ("Jacobus Oessler beyder Rechten Doctor und wohnhaft zu Strasburg als römischer keyserlicher Majestat vnsers allergnedigsten Herren verordneter General Superattendent der Truckereyen im heyligen Reiche"), quoted in Geiger, 236.

[12] "Cesaris Maximiliani authoritate censor atque arbiter omnibus qui formulis ereis excudunt literas", in Johannes Altensteig, Vocabularius Theologie, (Hagenau: Gran, 1517), which is available online at: <>

[13] Schottenloher, 96, quotes a document signed by Maximilian in Linz, 1 January 1512. Stabius was crowned "poet laureate" by Celtis. On Stabius's biography and his relation to Celtis and Maximilan, see Sotzmann, "Über J. Stabius und dessen (vorgelegte) Weltkarte vom Jahre 1515". Monatsberichte über die Verhandlungen der Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin, 5 (1948): 232-256, which is available online at: <>

[14] Eisenhardt, 7.

[15] Cf. Pütter, 168 (d_1774_im_001_0181).

[16] The "Reichsstände" (Imperial Estates) were the persons (prince-electors and other sovereigns) and corporations (Free Imperial Cities and archbishoprics) who made up the Imperial Diets ("Reichstage"). Most important were the Electors: three ecclesiastical Electors (the archbishops of Mainz, Cologne and Trier) and four lay ones: the King of Bohemia, the Duke of Saxony, the Count-Palatine of the Rhine, and the Margrave of Brandenburg.

[17] "des Heiligen Reichs Churfürsten, Fürsten, Prälaten, Grafen, und gemeine Stände, als gehorsame Glieder des Heilgen Reichs" quoted by Eisenhardt, 6.

[18] "von jeder Obrigkeit dazu verordnete verständige Person besichtigt", quoted by Eisenhardt, 6.

[19] For early Italian privileges, see: Venice 1.9.1486 (i_1486), 3.1.1492, Milan 6.7.1481, 15.3.1483.

[20] For early complaints heard by the Imperial Chamber Court see d_1533, for disputes between the Council of Nuremberg and other Free Imperial Cities see d_1673.

[21] Schottenloher, 25.

[22] Ludwig Gieseke, Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht: Die Entwicklung des Urheberrechts in Deutschland bis 1845 (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1995), 41-52.

[23] Hansjörg Pohlmann, "Neue Materialien zum deutschen Urheberschutz im 16. Jahrhundert". Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens, 4 (1963): 90-172 (137 ff.).

[24] Hans-Joachim Koppitz, "Kaiserliche Privilegien für das Augsburger Druckgewerbe", in Augsburger Buchdruck und Verlagswesen von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart ed. by Helmut Gier and Johannes Janota (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 1997), 41-53 (44).

[25] Geiger, 13According to a contract he signed in November 1493 with Sebald Schreyer, the publisher of Hartmann Schedel's 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle, Celtis was offered 216 gulden plus free board and lodging in Schreyer's house in return for carrying out editorial work on a second edition of the chronicle. However, as it turned out, he didn't take up this offer.

[26] Dieter Mertens, "Die Dichterkrönig des Konrad Celtis, Ritual und Programm", Pirckheimer Jahrbuch für Renaissance - und Humanismusforschung, 19 (2004): 31-50 (40).

[27] Peter Luh, Kaiser Maximilian gewidmet: die unvollendete Werkausgabe des Conrad Celtis und ihre Holzschnitte (Frankfurt et. al.: Lang, 2001), 26

[28] "Ad divum Maximilianum" in: Celtis, Quattuor libri Amorum, Bl. q8r - r2v.

[29] Claudia Wiener, "Celtis' Beziehungen zu Maximilian I", in Amor als Topgraph: 500 Jahre Amores des Conrad Celtis (Schweinfurt: Catalogue Bibliothek Otto Schäfer 2002), 75-84 (77).

[30] Luh, 30.

[31] Dieter Mertens, "Maximilians gekrönte Dichter über Krieg und Frieden", in Krieg und Frieden im Horizont des Renaissancehumanismus. ed. by Franz Josef Worstbrock (Weinheim: VCH, 1986), 105-123, which is also available online at:

[32] Mertens, "Die Dichterkrönig", 46.

[33] One of them (a certain Heinrich von Bünau) can be identified from the crutch he is using to support himself - Luh, 60.

[34] Luh, 31.

[35] Luh, 40.

[36] Luh, 44.

[37] Pütter (d_1774).

[38] Raimund Kemper, " ‘Soliditas litteraria a senatu rhomani Imperii impetrata': Zur Interpretation der Druckprivilegien in der Editio princeps der Roswitha von Gandersheim (1501) und in der Ausgabe der ‘Quatuor Libri Amorum Secundum Quatuor Latera Germanie' des Conrad Celtis (1502)", Euphorion 68 (1974): 119-184, has argued that the verb form "impetratae" in the 1501 edition refers to a privilege constituting the Sodalitas as an "association" which itself was authorised to grant printing privileges, whereas the form "impetrato" (achieved, obtained) in 1502 refers to a book privilege granted to the Sodalitas. While "impetrato" (achieved, obtained) is widely used, "impetratae" is a rare variant. However, Dieter Mertens, "Sodalitas Celtica impetrata? Zum Kolophon des Nürnberger Hrotsvith-Druckes von 1501", Euphorion, 71 (1977): 277-88 (278), sees no evidence for the "Sodalitas Celtica" being an association with administrative functions and has located a copy of the 1501 edition in which the common verb form "impetrato" is used.

[39] Hans Rupprich (ed.), Der Briefwechsel des Konrad Celtis (München: Beck 1934), 268.

[40] Pütter, 171 (d_1774_im_001_0184). "Es scheint also fast, das Reichsregiment muß schon dafür gehalten haben, daß solchen, aus Kayserlicher Macht ertheilten Privilegien eher in Reichstädten, als in chur- und fürstlichen Ländern Nachdrcuk zu geben sey."

[41] Luh, 31.

Copyright History resource developed in partnership with:

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) (

With the exception of commentaries that are available under a CC-BY licence (compliant with UKRI policy) you may not publish individual documents or parts of the database 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) is co-published by Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge, 10 West Road, Cambridge CB3 9DZ, UK and CREATe, School of Law, University of Glasgow, 10 The Square, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK