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Statutes of the Venetian Guild of Printers and Booksellers, Venice (1549)

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Statutes of the Venetian Guild of Printers and Booksellers, Venice (1549), Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org

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Chapter 1 Page 1


Approved, praised and confirmed by
the Renowned Gentlemen Provveditori di Comune*

of the Illustrious and Most High Council of Ten,
on 18 January 1548.

                  GOD the Almighty and GLORIOUS
                  grants this favour to us Printers and
                  Booksellers who have opened workshops
                  and publishing houses in this noble City:
namely that we may do and carry out things which serve His
Holy ends, as well as the glory and renown of this Most Serene
Republic, in particular to lay down orders and rules for the
things which pertain to our Art, so that in future this Art of
ours can direct its actions for the glory of the Divine Majesty
and the benefit of all, under the protection of the glorious
Virgin Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of this blessed
and well instituted Republic.


                  First of all, a guild will be created for our
                  art, to be made up of printers and book=
                  sellers who have workshops and sell books,
                  which booksellers and printers shall from now
                  on be obliged to assemble

*) A title used by Venetian state officials.

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all together in the Church of Sts John and Paul, a place
which is intended for our congregation alone, in the
Chapel of the Confraternity of the Rosary, and there to
have a mass of the Holy Spirit said by these Reverend
Fathers at the altar of the Virgin Mary, our patroness and
protectress, and at the Sacristy of these Reverend Fathers
alms are to be given on the day which is deemed suitable
by the current Presidents, and on that very day, again in
the Chapel of the Rosary, a Prior,* two Counsellors, and
six members of the Council are to be appointed, in the
manner that follows, and all the owners of printing presses
and workshops are each one of them to pay on that day one
lira and four soldos every year; and when this mass is said
there shall always be present the Prior, the Counsellors,
and the six Council members, together with the rest of
our association. And the Prior, Counsellors, and six
Council members who will then immediately be elected
are to remain in their offices during all of the coming month
of February.


                  That every year, on the feast-day of St
                  John the Evangelist, an election by ballot-
                  box will be held, whereby the whole corps
                  of our Guild of Printers and Booksellers will
elect one Prior, two Counsellors and six Council members
from amongst the most apt and competent for the needs and
administration of this Art, and that these must not be younger
than 30 years of age. Which officials are to be elected following
the rules given below, namely that the six Council members
are to assemble and always sit together with the aforesaid [???]



*) i.e. the head of a guild

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                  That once our Guild is assembled, it being
                  understood that it is to count as a full and
                  perfect assembly when two thirds of the
                  total number of matriculated members have
come together, our syndics must take an oath before each and
everyone of the congregation, that they will elect and choose
the best, most competent and useful persons for our Guild.
After that each one of the assembled members is entitled to
nominate someone in accordance with his conscience, and
all the suggested names will be put in the ballot-box, and one
name will be extracted at random from the latter during each
round, whereby this ballot must be secret so that all the
nominated persons are put in the ballot, and afterwards the
ballot-boxes are to be opened, and those who have scored
two thirds of the ballot or upwards are understood to have
been elected and appointed. Those two members who have
truly obtained two thirds of the vote but came just under the
aforesaid six Council members are understood to hold
honorary positions, and they must take the place of any
of the elected officials who are unable to come to meetings
of the Guild because of some accident. The Prior, the
Counsellors and six Council members are to take up their
offices on the 1st of March and serve until the last day
of February, and so on every year.


                  That in the same manner and procedure
                  two Syndics are to be elected by ballot,
                  who shall always be present, or at least
one of them, at all the ballots which are held in our Guild,
and no ballot will be considered to be valid without the
presence of one of them,

Chapter 1 Page 4

and it is these who shall take the oaths from the Prior,
Counsellors and any other of our ministers who are
elected, as well as from the whole Chapter of our Guild
just before the ballot commences, and both separately
and jointly they can open an investigation in our Chapter
into any transactions by any one of our officials which
they consider to go against our rules. And they are
entitled to convoke the whole Chapter in order to
decree these inspections of theirs, and they shall have
the same authority as the syndics of the larger guilds.


                  That whosoever is nominated for
                  balloting as described above may
                  not ask to be exempted; rather, the
Prior and the Counsellors are obliged to ensure that
anyone who does ask this is balloted just like everyone
else, so that it shall not be possible for anybody to
shirk the duties which may fall to his lot, and, likewise,
once someone has been appointed, he may not refuse
the office, on pain of having to pay ten ducats.


                  That after the election of our Prior,
                  Counsellors, and six Council members,
                  as well as the honorary officials, the
same procedure is to be used by our Guild to elect a
Scribe who will have the task and duty of recording and
writing down in the present Statute-Book all the laws
and issued ordinances which may be made and decreed in
future by our Lords [the Doge and Council of Ten],
regarding the affairs of printing and the book trade, or

Chapter 1 Page 5

of our guild, and also all the things which may be declared
by our present Statute-Book. And likewise for all the rules
and all the directions which are laid down by our Guild, as
well as for all the things which shall be performed by our
ministers, such as they happen to be done on various
days and occasions.


                  Similarly, after the Scribe, a person
                  is to be elected who is competent to be
                  our Beadle, with the salary that is deemed
to be appropriate. The duties of the latter are to include
summoning the Prior, Counsellors and both the regular
and the honorary members of the Council, as well as the
whole Guild when he is commanded to do so. Which
summons are to be carried out by him either personally
or by leaving a card in a member's workshop or house
which indicates the day, time and place where the Guild
is to assemble, and he must provide the Scribe with a list
of those who failed to attend. And ensure that these are
indeed recorded, so that we may execute our rules against
those who, despite having been summoned, did not come.
      That all the aforesaid officials may not be re-elected
until at least one year has passed since they left their post,
with the exception of the two honorary Council members
who may be balloted again in the following year.


                  That our Prior is appointed to keep a separate
                  account of our Treasury, which is to be
                  regulated as is seen appropriate, declaring, in
particular, all the money that comes into

Chapter 1 Page 6

the Treasury, and for what reason, and likewise for any
expenses, so that the funds of our Guild may be preserved
and increased. And to the aforesaid Treasury-box three
different locks will be affixed, and of the three keys one
will be given to the Prior, and the two others to the two


                  That the Prior and Counsellors must,
                  eight days before the tenure of their offices
                  is due to end, present a report, on the
administrative and directive measures which they have
taken, to the new Prior and Counsellors, and hand over
to these the Treasury-box with all the money that is inside
it, and also with any money that was due to be paid to
them during their tenure of office, but no deductions are
to be made for debts they may have incurred on their
own account. And they must also hand over the Statute-
Book and all other records that belong to our Guild. And
a note is to be made of everything that is handed over in
a book which is specially allocated for this purpose alone.
These notes are to be made by our Scribe, on pain of a fine
of ten ducats to be imposed on each person through whose
fault something fails to be handed over. Half of this fine is
to go to places of worship at the discretion of our Lord Magistrates
the Provveditori di Comune, and the other half is to be put
into the Treasury-box of our Guild, and the same applies to
all the fines mentioned in our Statute-Book. But no member
of our Guild who owes money to our Treasury, for whatever
reason, is to be allowed to enter our Chapter to take part in
the ballot, nor may he be nominated and balloted

Chapter 1 Page 7

for any office, until he has paid his debt, and the Prior and
subsequent Counsellors are obliged, on the strength of their
oath, to force by legal means such debtors to satisfy their


                  That all ballots which are carried out by
                  our Guild are understood to be valid
when the number of members attending exceeds two thirds
of the total.


                  Our Prior, Counsellors and six Council
                  members have the task and duty of appearing
                  on behalf and in the name of our Guild
                  before our Most Worthy Lords [of the
Council of Ten], or any other magistrate, when this is
required by the needs of our Guild, and to reply and give
information in all matters involving the latter, either all of
its members, or a majority of them, and they must
execute whatever our Statute-Book commands them to
do in such cases.


                  That if the Prior or any one of the
                  Counsellors, having been held up
                  for some legitimate reason, should
                  be unable to intervene in any action
on behalf of our Guild, his place must be taken by the
eldest of the regular adjuncts, and, similarly, when
one of the regular adjuncts is absent, one of the
honorary members must then substitute for him.


            That when it seems to our Prior, Counsellors

Chapter 1 Page 8

and the six Council members that the matter they have to
deal with is particularly difficult or of great importance,
and that for this reason they need to confer together with
the honorary officials, they may arrange for our Beadle to
notify the aforesaid honorary officials that they have to
join the regular officials, and that if they should refuse
or fail to join them and take part in the action, they are
to incur a fine of one ducat, unless they were held up by
some legitimate reason.


                  That in all cases of vacancy of the Prior,
                  Counsellors, and the regular Council, or
                  the honorary members, by death, or for
                  any other reason, to avoid our Guild being
deprived of its normal administration, by order of the afore-
said officials an assembly of the Guild must be convoked
immediately and someone elected to fill the vacant post, in
accordance with the rules and procedure given above.


                  Our Prior, Counsellors, and the six members
                  of the Council are obliged to come together
                  on any day and at any time that is conveyed
                  to them by our Beadle on orders from above,
under pain of a fine of one ducat, except where one of these
officials was prevented from attending for a legitimate reason.


                  That each member of our Guild, when he is
                  summoned by our Beadle, following the
                  procedure explained above, to attend an
                  assembly at our general Chapter, is obliged
to come to this, on pain of a fine of six [silver] grossos when
he misses the first ballot round, and of

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twelve [silver] grossos when he misses the second round,
and of one ducat if he fails to come to the third, in which
case he will also forfeit the right to take part in the ballots
for a whole year, unless he can justify his failure to attend
with some legitimate reason.


                  When our Chapter has come together,
                  if our Prior or any of the Counsellors
                  should make some proposal or
speak, no one else must speak or interrupt that
official's proposal or speech, on pain of a fine of two
ducats, and no member of our Guild must dare to
reply or propose anything without having first asked
for permission, and while that person is speaking,
he is not to be interrupted by anyone else, on pain
of a fine of one ducat to be levied from those who
do not comply with this rule, and in this way every
member will be able to speak in an orderly manner and
reply what he thinks is correct without causing any
confusion, as it should be.


                  That every member of our Guild,
                  whoever he may happen to be, is
                  obliged to show respect and reverence
towards our Prior, Counsellors and the six Council
members in all places, and no member must dare, in
any way, in deed and in word, to injure or offend the
person of any of these ministers, on pain of forfeiting
for a whole year the right of taking part in ballots, of
being disqualified for any office, and of having to pay
three ducats into our Treasury. Likewise, these ministers
must not presume to use injurious words against any
member of our Guild, be it when we are all gathered
in the Chapter, or be it outside, on pain of being
dismissed from their office and having to pay six
ducats, and, similarly,

Chapter 1 Page 10

no other members of our Guild, whether assembled
in the Chapter or elsewhere, must dare to injure one
another in any way, on pain of a fine of six ducats.


                  That no one else may make proposals
                  or introduce legislation in the Chapter
                  of our Guild, apart from the Prior and
                  the Counsellors, and also the Syndics
in matters which concern their official duties.


                  No one who is matriculated in our
                  Guild may be nominated for a ballot
                  nor occupy any office unless he has
been running a workshop or selling and printing books
from his house for at least five years.
      And, similarly, all matriculated members who
do not exercise the profession of bookselling, or the
art of printing, may not take part in ballots or occupy
any office.

14 May 1567

                  The Most Worthy Signori Francesco Donato,
                  Paolo Contarini, Iacomo Marcello, honourable
                  Provveditori di Comune, according to the resolution
                  adopted by the Most Illustrious Council of the Ten
on 18 January 1548, whereby they were assigned the task of issuing,
for the regulation of the Art of Printing and the Book Trade, any

Chapter 1 Page 11

rules which seemed appropriate to their Lordships, and likewise
the judgement passed by the Most Illustrious Signori at the head
of this Council on 29 November 1566, regarding how these
deliberations were to be implemented, and now that the Ten
have given this matter their careful and diligent attention, and
also examined the appeals submitted to the Presidents of the
Guilds on 23 April last year, and heard, moreover, the arguments
which they and some other of these booksellers presented, their
Most Illustrious Lordships, by the authority which has been
granted to them in the aforesaid resolution, have decreed that
the aforesaid rules which have been magnificently laid down
by them for the good governance and regulation of this Art,
are to be inviolably observed by Printers and Booksellers, on
pain of the penalties specified in these, and…

                  Francesco Donato. Provveditor di Comune.
                  Paolo Contarini. Provveditor di Comune.
                  Iacomo Marcello. Provveditor di Comune.

                              Ioannes Pulverinus. Notary.
                                    On official orders.

Translation by: Luis Sundkvist


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