Basel Printers' Statute, Basel (1531)

Source: Staatsarchiv of Basel-Stadt. 'Erkanntnisbuch' StABS, Ratsbücher B 4, p. 96 recto and verso

Basel Printers' Statute, Basel (1531), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

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Record-ID: d_1531

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Full title:
Basel Printers' Statute of 28 October 1531 as laid out in the Basel 'Statute Book'

Full title original language:
Verordnung der Stadt Basel vom 28. Oktober 1531 betreffend die Angelegenheiten der Buchhändler aus dem Basler 'Erkanntnisbuch'

This is the first municipal printers' ordinance enacted in the printing centres of the Upper Rhine region, and it is also the first general prohibition of reprinting in the German lands. The document is part of the Basel Council's Statute Book (lit. 'Book of Findings' - 'Erkanntnisbuch'). It provides for a fixed three-year term of protection and stipulates that a sum of 100 gulden is to be paid as a fine by those who violate it. Moreover, the Statute forbids the printing of anything that 'could harm the city of Basel', as well as any attempts by printers to entice away colleagues' staff by offering higher wages and so on. The Statute, therefore, tacitly acknowledges that the printing business requires investments not just in terms of capital but also in terms of manpower: hence this provision to prevent printers from losing their staff to competitors. The Basel Printers' Statute has been recognised as the very first act of municipal printing regulation in the early centres of printing in the Upper Rhine region during the sixteenth century. This commentary will focus on the distinction between the concept of 'publishers' property', as it was formulated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the eighteenth-century notion of 'intellectual property'.

1 Commentary:

  • Schnell, Johann. Rechtsquellen von Basel Stadt und Land (Basel: Schweighauser, 1856), 259

  • Rehbinder, Manfred. 'Die geschichtliche Entwicklung des schweizerischen Urheberrechts bis zum Bundesgesetz vom Jahre 1883', in Historische Studien zum Urheberrecht in Europa, ed. by Elmar Wadle (Berlin: Duncker & Humblot 1993), 65-80

  • Hilty, Reto. 'Das Basler Nachdruckverbot von 1531 im Lichte der gegenwärtigen Entwicklung', in Die Notwendigkeit des Urheberschutzes im Lichte seiner Geschichte, ed. by Robert Dittrich (Vienna: Manz, 1991), 20-45

Related documents in this database:
1591: A publisher's 'Friendly Reminder' about reprints
1549: Statutes of the Venetian Guild of Printers and Booksellers

Author: Council of Basel

Publisher: Unpublished

Year: 1531

Location: Basel

Language: German

Source: Staatsarchiv of Basel-Stadt. 'Erkanntnisbuch' StABS, Ratsbücher B 4, p. 96 recto and verso

Persons referred to:
Cratander, Andreas
Curio, Valentin

Places referred to:

Cases referred to:
Curio v. Cratander (1522)

Institutions referred to:
Basel City Council

Basel Printers' Statute 1531

Bible, the
Reformation, the
Renaissance, the
book market
book trade
books, protected subject matter
editions, new
employer/employee relations
foreign reprints
guild regulation
learning, the advancement of
licensing, Approbation
penalties, paid to fiscal authorities
printing, history of
privileges, French
privileges, German Imperial
privileges, Papal
privileges, Venetian
property theory
property theory, publishers' property
public good
scholarly writing

Responsible editor: Friedemann Kawohl

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