Privilege of the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg, Würzburg (1479)

Source: Universitätsbibliothek Würzburg, Inc. f. 43, fol 38.

Privilege of the Prince-Bishop of Würzburg, Würzburg (1479), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

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Full title:
Privilege granted by Rudolf of Scherenberg, Prince-Bishop of Würzburg for the Printers Reyser, Dold and Beckenhub in a Breviary for the Würzburg Diocese

Full title original language:
Breviarium Herbipolense

In the foreword, Prince-Bishop Rudolf (c.1400-1495), together with two ministers and the whole diocesan chapter of Würzburg Cathedral, explains why they had commissioned a new edition of the breviary. Reference is made to three printers commissioned to edit and print this book for its use within the diocese. The three printers, who were recruited from Strasbourg, are granted protection of their property, and it is specified that they alone have been commissioned to do this work. Thus, the foreword contains the first exclusive right bestowed on a printer in the German Empire with regard to a specific book. Furthermore, it is the oldest episcopal privilege, as well as appearing to be the first one to have been embellished with, and authorised through, a sovereign prince's emblem. In this commentary it will be argued that the integrity and uniformity of the print edition were the prince-bishop's two main concerns, and it will be shown why Rudolf of Scherenberg is regarded to be one of the first sovereign rulers to make tactical use of the new art of printing, in order to achieve clerical and political goals. This foreword of 1479 illustrates the common roots of copyright, trademark practice, and censorship.

1 Commentary:

  • Ohly, Kurt. 'Georg Reysers Wirken in Straßburg und Würzburg', in Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, 31 (1956): 121-140

  • Engelhart, Helmut. 'Die frühesten Druckausgaben des Missale Herbipolense (1481-1503)', Würzburger Diozesangeschichtsblätter, 62/63 (2001): 69-174

  • Eisermann, Falk. 'Buchdruck und Herrschaftspraxis im 15. Jahrhundert. Der Würzburger Fürstbischof Rudolf von Scherenberg und sein Drucker Georg Reyser', in Horst Brunner (ed.) Würzburg, der Große Löwenhof und die deutsche Literatur des Spätmittelalters (= Imagines Medii Aevi 17) (Wiesbaden 2004): 495-513

Related documents in this database:
1485: Censorship Edict of the Archbishop of Mainz
1511: Privilege of the Bishop of Strasbourg

Author: Rudolf of Scherenberg (c.1401-1495)

Publisher: Dold, Reyser, Beckenhub

Year: 1479

Location: Würzburg

Language: Latin

Source: Universitätsbibliothek Würzburg, Inc. f. 43, fol 38.

Persons referred to:
Beckenhub, Johannes
Cilian of Bibra
Dold, Stephan
Reyser, Georg
Rudolf of Scherenberg
Wilhelm of Limburg

Places referred to:

Cases referred to:

Institutions referred to:
Würzburg Cathedral Chapter


books, protected subject matter
printing, history of
privileges, German Imperial
privileges, printing
public good
religious works

Responsible editor: Friedemann Kawohl

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