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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, www.copyrighthistory.org

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Chapter 1 Page 1

                                    1469, 18 September

The art of printing books has been introduced into our renowned state, and from
day to day it has become more popular and common through the efforts, study and
ingenuity of Master Johannes of Speyer, who chose our city over all the others. Here he
lives with his wife, children and whole household; practices the said art of printing
books; has just published, to universal acclaim, the Letters of Cicero and Pliny's noble
work On Natural History, in the largest type and with the most beautiful letter-forms; and
continues every day to print other famous volumes so that [this state] will be enriched by
many, famous volumes, and for a low price, by the industry and fortitude of this man.
Whereas such an innovation, unique and particular to our age and entirely unknown to
those ancients, must be supported and nourished with all our goodwill and resources and
[whereas] the same Master Johannes, who suffers under the great expense of his
household and the wages of his craftsmen, must be provided with the means so that he
may continue in better spirits and consider his art of printing something to be expanded
rather than something to be abandoned, in the same manner as usual in other arts, even
much smaller ones, the undersigned lords of the present Council, in response to the
humble and reverent entreaty of the said Master Johannes, have determined and by
determining decreed that over the next five years no one at all should have the desire,
possibility, strength or daring to practice the said art of printing books in this the
renowned state of Venice and its dominion, apart from Master Johannes himself. Every
time that someone shall be found to have dared to practice this art and print books in
defiance of this determination and decree, he must be fined and condemned to lose his
equipment and the printed books. And, subject to the same penalty, no one is permitted or
allowed to import here for the purpose of commerce such books, printed in other lands
and places.

It is now without force,
since the master and author has died.

                  Ser Angelus Gradenico
                  Ser Bertuccius Contareno
                  Ser Angelus Venerio
                  Ser Iacobus Mauroceno
                  Ser Franciscus Dandulo

Translation by: Joanna Kostylo


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