Johannes of Speyer's Printing Monopoly, Venice (1469)

Source: scanned from the manuscript held in the Venetian State Archives: ASV, NC, reg. 11, c. 55r

Johannes of Speyer's Printing Monopoly, Venice (1469), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer,

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Full title:
Printing monopoly granted to a German master printer, Johannes of Speyer, conceding a five-year exclusive right to print in Venice and its dominions

Full title original language:

The first known record of a printing privilege granted by a European government. Unique in the history of Venetian copyright, for it concedes an extensive commercial monopoly over the entire art of printing. The commentary describes the early laissez-faire attitudes of the government towards the printing trade which combined with the natural play of economic forces to foster a thoroughly capitalistic structure of the book market in Venice. From this point of view, the emerging system of printing privileges could be defined as a primitive legal mechanism for the construction and maintenance of property and the re-introduction of scarcity into the book market.

1 Commentary:

  • Pozza, Neri, 'L'editoria Veneziana da Giovanni da Spira ad Aldo Manuzio', in 'La stampa degli incunaboli nel Veneto, Saggi e note' (Verona: Tipografia Editoriale Aldo Manuzio, 1983), 9-35

  • Gerulaitis, Leonardas V., 'Printing and Publishing in fifteenth-century Venice' (Chicago: American Library Association, 1976)

  • Castellani, Carlo, 'I privilegi di stampa e la proprietà letteraria in Venezia: Dalla introduzione della stampa nella città fin verso la fine del secolo XVIII' (Venice: Fratelli Visentini, 1888)

  • Brown, Horatio Fortini, 'The Venetian Printing Press 1469-1800: An Historical Study Based upon Documents for the Most Part Hitherto Unpublished' (London: John C. Nimmo, 1891)

Related documents in this database:
1474: Venetian Statute on Industrial Brevets
1486: Marco Antonio Sabellico's Printing Privilege
1498: Ottaviano Petrucci's Music Patent
1503: Aldus Manutius's Warning against the Printers of Lyon
1516: Appointment of Andrea Navagero as Literary Censor
1527: Venetian Decree on Pre-publication Censorship

Author: N/A

Publisher: N/A

Year: 1469

Location: Venice

Language: Latin

Source: scanned from the manuscript held in the Venetian State Archives: ASV, NC, reg. 11, c. 55r

Persons referred to:
Cicero, Marcus Tullius
Contarini, Bertuccio
Dandolo, Francesco
Gradenigo, Angelo
Johannes of Speyer
Morosini, Giacopo
Pliny 'the Elder'
Venerio, Angelo

Places referred to:

Cases referred to:

Institutions referred to:
Venetian Senate


Università di Stampatori e Librai (Venetian Guild of Printers and Booksellers)
book market
book trade
classics, Greek and Latin
free trade
patents, for invention
printing, history of
privileges, Venetian
translations, of classic works

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