Commentary on:
Schupp: The Book Thief (1658)

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_1659


Commentary on Schupp's The Book Thief (1659)

Friedemann Kawohl

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


Please cite as:
Kawohl, F. (2008) ‘Commentary on Schupp's The Book Thief (1659)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

1. Full title

2. Abstract

3. Schupp's claim to an inheritable editor's prerogative and a Swedish book privilege

4. References


1. Full title

"The Book Thief. Warned and admonished by J.B. Schupp"


2. Abstract

The Book Thief is a pamphlet by an author who had himself suffered reprinting and wanted to publicly warn and deter further reprinters. Johann Balthasar Schupp (1610-1661) was a trained theologian and worked as a preacher in Hamburg, as well as writing a number of satirical works, poems and historical treatises.[1] The Book Thief includes open letters to Schupp's legal and commercial representative in Frankfurt, as well as a Royal Swedish privilege, the full text of which is given.


Related to this document is a book by Aegidius Henning on book production from an author's perspective which includes chapters on the relationship between authors and publishers, on "thievish reprinting", and on plagiarism. Another related document is the preface to a chant book by the mystic poet and composer Angelus Silesius which shows his awareness of the issue of plagiarism.


These documents provide an insight into the state of mid-seventeenth-century authors' sense of their rights, their bargaining power, and their thoughts on plagiarism.


3. Schupp's claim to an inheritable editor's prerogative and a Swedish book privilege

The book consists of four parts. At the beginning there is a letter of 14 March 1658 requesting the Frankfurt publisher and lawyer Johannes Martin Porß to take care that no other reprint of the Theatrum Historicum was published. The Theatrum Historicum, a history textbook in Latin, had been compiled and edited by Schupp's father-in-law Christoph Helwig (Helvicus) (1581-1617)[2] and first published in 1609 by Nicolaus Hampel (Hampelius) in Gießen. Hampel brought out new editions in 1618, 1629, and 1638 (or 1639). After moving to nearby Marburg he produced a "recently expanded and revised" ("nunc continuatum et revisum") version edited by Schupp himself.[3] Unlicensed reprints were published by Hampel's Gießen-based rival Caspar Chemlin in 1612, 1616, and 1618; as well as in Magdeburg (1614), Frankfurt (1628, 1666), Greifswald (1637), Oxford (1651, 1662, 1687), and London (1687). An advance notice made in the Frankfurt fair catalogue of a planned unlicensed edition prompted Schupp's public warning, which may actually have deterred the reprinter, since no Frankfurt edition of the Theatrum Historicum was actually published before 1666.


Schupp threatens twice "to rap the Frankfurt publisher on the knuckles" (d_1659_im_001_0005) if he should undertake anything "without my consent" ("ohne meinen Consens", and on the grounds of his revision of the Theatrum Historicum twenty years earlier he claims to have an exclusive right to make additions to ("augiren") Helwig's work. He wants this exclusive right to be transferred to his eldest son, and publicly urges his son to defend this exclusive right and transfer it in his turn to his descendants:

"And I know that my eldest son, even though he is still young, will prove capable of achieving everything in the field of history that his late grandfather managed to do. I therefore wish that this book, which no learned man could easily do without, should be entrusted to his care, and that he should expand it continually, defend [his right to it], and transfer it to his descendants."[4]

The second, untitled part relates to Schupp's work Salomo: Oder der Regentenspiegel, a nobility treatise first published pseudonymously in 1657 "by Antenor, an enthusiast of Holy Scripture" (Von Antenore, Einem Liebhaber der H. Schrift"). An Augsburg reprint of 1657 was followed in 1658 by another Hamburg edition.[5] Schupp does not disclose his pseudonym directly, but reports instead that Antenor had received the news of the reprints with the remark: "It was the first publisher's fault, since he had not sent copies to Frankfurt" (p.10). By this he meant that other publishers had not been able to barter their books for copies of the popular work and so had taken recourse to the production of unlicensed reprints. Thereupon Antenor, according to Schupp, had execrated the reprinters, referring to Luther's famous "Warning" (d_1541) and quoting extensively from the latter's catechism on the Seventh Commandment. By way of a warning, Schupp (again using the pseudonym Antenor) quotes in the third part of his pamphlet a printing privilege issued on 29 December 1657 by Karl X Gustav of Sweden (1622-1660) in Wismar, a German town on the coast of the Baltic Sea which had been Swedish territory since 1632. The Swedish privilege apparently followed the wording of Schupp's request, as one may gather from its detailed references to Helwig's and Schupp's kinship and the contributions which both had made to the Theatrum Historicum. The privilege bestowed exclusive rights to all and sundry of Schupp's and his late father-in-law's works for the following twenty years. Half of the "twelve gold mark" fine was to be paid to Schupp or his heirs, and half to the Swedish Royal Treasury, whenever one of these works happened to be "reprinted or sold without the consent and previous knowledge of him [Schupp] or one of his sons, and even more so if counterfeit copies were issued under his name". ("Ohne seinen oder seiner Söhnen Consens und Vorbewußt nachdrucken oder verkauffen / viel weniger unter seinem Nahmen falsche Exemplarien außgehen lassen").


At the end of his pamphlet Schupp points out that his works were available in Hamburg and at the bookshop of Johannes Martin Porß in Frankfurt. The reference to Porß can be regarded both as a hint at Schupp's ties to a powerful legal adviser who was based in the centre of the German book trade, and as an objection to the excuse which he was anticipating from reprinters: namely, that a sought-after work had not been available at the Frankfurt fair.


4. References

Books and articles [in alphabetical order]


Anonymous article on Schupp in "Pluralisierung und Autorität in der frühen Neuzeit". Available online at:


Philipp, Michael. Article "Schupp", Fürstenspiegel vom Mittelalter bis zur Aufklärung. Available online at:


Quak, Arend. Article "Schupp", Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon. Available online at:


Wittmann, Reinhold. Geschichte des deutschen Buchhandels (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1999)

[1] For biographical details see Arend Quak, article "Schupp", Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (available online at: <>); and the anonymous bibliography of the Munich-based Sonderforschungsbereich 573 on early-modern institutions of authority ("Pluralisierung und Autorität in der frühen Neuzeit"). The article on Schupp is available online at:


[2] In 1636, Schupp had married Anne Elisabeth, the only daughter of Christof Helwig. For biographical details on Helwig see <>

[3] See references to Schupp's contribution on the opening copper plate and the title-page of the digitised copy held by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich. Available online at:

<> and


[4] "Und ich weiß / daß mein ältester Sohn / der zwar noch jung ist / in Chronologia alles thun könne / was sein seeliger Großvater gethan hat. Wolte demnach gern / daß er dieses Buch / dessen ein gelahrter Mann nicht wol entrahten kan / ihm liesse recommendiret seyn/ dasselbe immer fort und fort augirte, defendierte, und auff die Nachkommen transferiret."

[5] Michael Philipp, article "Schupp", Fürstenspiegel vom Mittelalter bis zur Aufklärung. Available online at: <>

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