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those writers omitted to make inquiry of any member of the family on a
subject respecting which the family were the parties most interested,
and could have given the most authentic information? Perhaps they did;
and when they asked for the story of the invention, discovered that the
family had, like Canning’s knife-grinder, “no story to tell.”

To the objections, that no printed book bears the name of Coster or
his descendants, and that neither he nor they ever entered their
protest against the pretensions of Mentz, Koning replies:[90] - “We
agree that no such book has been found; but neither is any book to be
found bearing the name of Gutenberg. Must we, on this account, strike
his name out of the list of the first printers? The aim of the first
printers was to imitate manuscripts, and to make their printed books
pass for such; and therefore, lest their art should be found out,
it behoved them to keep their names a profound secret.... The first
inventor could have no idea of the astonishing influence which his art
would have in the world in future ages; and no person can feel surprise
that he did not affix his name to his first essays.

“Besides, the printers of the fifteenth century very commonly omitted
to put their names to the editions printed by them. The number of books
existing of this century, without either the name of the printer or
the place of their publication is prodigious. Ulric Zell, for example,
according to Santander, printed eighty books, and, out of this number,
has only put his name to two or three. With what appearance of reason
is it insisted, that the works, which are attributed to Laurent
Janssoen Coster, are not his, because they are not signed with his
name?

“But it is said, that neither Coster nor his descendants ever
vindicated their claims, against the pretensions put forth by the
Mentz printers.... Neither did Gutenberg vindicate his, against Faust
and Schœffer; who, in the colophon of the Psalter of 1457, and in
the subscriptions of numerous other books, took all the honor to
themselves, making no mention of him whatever; although it is not
doubted that Gutenberg set up a printing office of his own in 1455, and
he is regarded by the writers on the side of Mentz as the inventor and
perfector of the art of printing.”

As to the inventor having no idea of the astonishing influence which
his art would have in the world in future ages, it is plain from the
evidence given in the Strasburg law-suit, that Gutenberg and his
partners were fully persuaded, that the work they had undertaken was
one by which they would make their fortunes. And, although it is
asserted that Gutenberg never vindicated his claim against Faust and
Schœffer, yet it is certain that his merit as the inventor of printing
was known to the Elector of Mentz, and the King of France, _and it is
also expressly admitted_, not only _by his contemporaries_, in Germany,
Italy, and elsewhere, but by Peter Schœffer himself, who besides the
detailed account of the origin of the invention which he gave to
the Abbot Trithemius in the year 1484, allowed the insertion of the
following among other Latin verses at the end of the “_Institutes of
Justinian_,” printed by him in 1468: -

Hos dedit eximios sculpendi in arte magistros,
Cui placet en mactos arte sagire viros,
Quos genuit ambos urbs moguntina Johannes
Librorum insignes protocaragmaticos;
Cum quibus optatum Petrus venit ad polyandrum,
Cursu posterior, introeundo prior;
Quippe quibus præstat sculpendi lege sagitus
A solo dante lumen et ingenium.

These lines are thus translated by Humphreys, - “He who is pleased
to create high talents has given us two great masters of the art
of engraving, both bearing the name of John, both being natives of
the city of Mayence, and both having become illustrious as the first
printers of books. Peter advanced with them towards the desired goal,
and, starting the last, arrived first, having been rendered the most
skilful in the art of engraving by him who alone bestows light and
genius.” There can be no doubt but the two Johns and the Peter here
referred to were John Gutenberg, John Faust, and Peter Schœffer.[91]

Up to the date of Junius’s publication, 1588, no writer had claimed the
honor of the invention for Coster; and but three, who wrote between
1549 and 1567, had asserted Haarlem to have been its birthplace; - and
one of these, as we have seen, expressly declines to vouch for the
accuracy of the tradition. On the other hand, we learn from the
researches of Dean Mallinckrot,[92] that up to the date of Junius’s
publication no less than sixty-two writers had awarded the honor of
the invention to Gutenberg, and fixed its birthplace, and the place of
its promulgation to the world at the cities of Strasburg and Mentz.
Although abundant proof has already been given upon these points, the
following selection from contemporary and historic evidence is added,
in order to shew the strength and solidity of the basis upon which
those claims rest, and how thoroughly it outweighs all that has been
brought forward by writers on the opposite side.

In 1457, on the publication of their Psalter, Faust and Schœffer
ascribed to themselves the merit of the new invention.

After Faust’s death, Schœffer inserted in the imprint or colophon on
the last page of his works, the words “in nobili urbe Magentiæ ejusdem
(_i. e._ artis imprimendi) inventriæ elimatriceque prima.”

In 1480, William Caxton, in his continuation of _Higden’s
Polychronicon_, printed at Westminster, says “About this time [1455]
the craft of imprynting was first found in Mogunce in Almayne.”[93]

In the _Fasciculi Temporum_ printed by Quentel at Cologne in 1478 and
1481, it is stated that the art of printing originated at Mentz.

In the Black book or Register of the Garter, it is said with reference
to the 35th year of the reign of Henry VI, anno 1457, “In this year of
our most pious king, the art of printing books first began at Mentz,
a famous city of Germany.” And in _Fabian’s Chronicle_, the writer, a
contemporary of Caxton, says, “This yere (35th of Henry VI,) after the
opynyon of dyverse wryters, began in a citie of Almaine, namyd Mogunce,
the crafte of empryntynge bokys, which sen that tyme hath had wonderful
encrease.” It was in this year 1457, that the first book appeared which
has the printer’s name, date, and place of printing, affixed. This is
the celebrated Psalter printed by Faust and Schœffer.

In 1486, Berthold, Archbishop of Mentz, in a mandate which will be
quoted at length in a subsequent chapter, states, “this art, [printing]
was first discovered in this city of Mentz.”

A single testimony similar to either of the above in favor of Haarlem,
would have been hailed with delight by any of the writers in the
latter half of the sixteenth century, and their tribe of followers
who advocate the claims of that city; but what follows is much more
forcible and decisive.

“Of all the authors to whom the world is indebted for a particular
account of the discovery of printing,” says, Mr. Palmer,[94] “Abbot
Trithemius justly claims pre-eminence; both upon account of his living
nearest to the time when the art originated, which he tells us was in
his younger years; as well as his care to derive his intelligence on
the subject from the purest sources. We have two noble testimonies
out of his chronicle; one from the first part entitled _Chronicon
Spanheimense_, wherein, speaking of the year 1450, he says: ‘That about
this time, the art of printing and casting single types was found out
anew in the city of Mentz, by one John Gutenberg, who having spent his
whole estate in this difficult discovery, by the assistance and advice
of some honest men, John Faust and others, brought his undertaking at
length to perfection; that the first improver of this art, after the
inventor, was Peter Schœffer de Gernsheim, who afterwards printed a
great many volumes; that the said Gutenberg lived at Mentz, in a house
called _Zum-junghen_, but afterwards known by the name of the printing
house.’

“The next passage, which is fuller, and for its singularity and
decisiveness deserves to be set down at length, is taken out of
the second part of Trithemius’s chronicle, entitled _Chronicon
Hirsaugiense_: - ‘About this time (anno 1450) in the city of Mentz in
Germany upon the Rhine, and not in Italy, as some writers falsely
affirmed, the wonderful and _till then unknown_ art of printing books
by metal types (_characterizandi_) was invented and devised by John
Gutenberg, citizen of Mentz, who, having almost exhausted his whole
estate in contriving of this new method, and labouring under such
insuperable difficulties, in one respect or other, that he began to
despair of and to throw up the whole design; was at length assisted
with the advice and purse of John Faust, another citizen of Mentz,
and happily brought it to perfection. Having therefore, begun with
cutting characters of the letters upon wooden planks, in their right
order, and completed their forms, they printed the vocabulary called
the _Catholicon_; but could make no further use of those forms,
because there was no possibility of separating the letters, which were
engraven on the planks, as we hinted before. To this succeeded a more
ingenious invention, for they found out a way of stamping the shapes
of every letter of the Latin alphabet, in what they called matrices,
from which they afterwards cast their letters, either in copper or
tin, hard enough to be printed upon, which they first cut with their
own hands. It is certain that this art met with no small difficulties
from the beginning of its invention, as I heard thirty years ago
from the mouth of Peter Schœffer de Gernsheim, citizen of Mentz, and
son-in-law to the first inventor of the Art. For when they went about
printing the Bible, before they had worked off the third quire it had
cost them already above 4000 florins. But the afore-mentioned Peter
Schœffer, then servant, (_famulus_,) and afterwards son-in-law, to
the first inventor John Faust, as we hinted before, being a person
of great ingenuity, discovered an easier method of casting letters,
and perfected the art as we now have it. These three kept their
manner of printing very secret for some time, until it was divulged
by their servants, without whose help it was impossible to manage
the business, who carried it first to Strasburg, and by degrees all
over Europe. Thus much will suffice concerning the discovery of this
wonderful art, the first inventors of which were citizens of Mentz.
These three first discoverers of printing, viz. John Gutenberg, John
Faust, and Peter Schœffer his son-in-law, lived at Mentz, in a house
called _Zum-junghen_, but ever since known by the name of the printing
house.’”[95]

Equally clear and to the point, if not more so, as well as the
first published in point of time, is the statement given by Johan.
Koelhoff, who in 1499 printed the following particulars in the _Cologne
Chronicle_, on the authority of Ulric Zell of Hainault, by whom the
art of printing was first introduced to Cologne. Zell learned the art
directly from the first Mentz printers; and in the colophons of two
small works printed in the years 1466 and 1467, he styles himself a
clerk of the diocese of Mentz. The statement is as follows: -

“Of the printing of Books, and when and by whom, this Art was
discovered, of which the utility cannot be too highly appreciated, &c.

“Item: This most important art was first found out in Germany, at
Mentz on the Rhyne. And it is a great honour to the German nation that
such ingenious men were found in it. This took place about the year of
our Lord M.CCCC.XL., and from that time to the year L., this art and
whatever appertains to it were rendered more perfect. And in the year
M.CCCC.L. which was a jubilee year, they began to print; _and the first
book that was printed was the Bible in Latin_, and it was printed with
larger characters than those which are now used for printing Missals.
Item: Although this art, as we have said, was found out in Mentz in
the way in which it is commonly used; nevertheless the prototype of it
(‘_vurbildung_,’ præfiguratio) was found in Holland, in the Donatuses
(_den Donaten_) which had been before printed there; and it is from
and out of these, that the beginning of this art was taken. And this
manner has been found much more masterly and subtle than that which
before existed, and it has become more and more ingenious. Item: A
person named Omnibonus writes in the preface to Quinctilian, and in
other books, that a certain Frenchman, called Nicholas Genson, first
discovered this important art; which is clearly not true. For there are
persons now living, who can attest, that books were printed at Venice
before Nicholas Genson went there, and began to sculpture and set up
type. But the first inventor of printing was a citizen of Mentz, born
at Strasburg, called Johan. Gudenburch, Gentleman. Item: From Mentz
the said art was first carried to Cologne, then to Strasburg, and
then to Venice. The commencement and progress of this art has been
told me expressly by word of mouth, by the revered master Ulrich Tzell
of Hainault,[96] the printer, still living at Cologne in the present
year M.CCCC.XCIX., by whom the art was first brought to Cologne. Item:
There are ill-informed persons who say that books were printed in more
ancient times; but that is contrary to the truth, as in no country are
books to be found printed in those times.”

Zell’s account is confirmed by the writer of the _Nurimberg Chronicle_,
printed by Koburger in 1493, who states that in the year 1450, the
noble art of typography was first invented by John Gutenberg at Mentz.

To the like effect is the testimony of Marc Ant. Coccius Sabellicus
(_b._ 1436; _d._ 1506,) in the sixth chapter of his Universal History,
printed at Venice in 1504.

In 1502, Wimpheling, the earliest writer in favour of the pretensions
of Strasburg, states, in his _Epitome Rerum Germanicarum_,
that Gutenberg was “the inventor of a new art of writing (_ars
impressoria_), which might also be called a divine benefit, and which
he happily _completed at Mentz_.”

In 1505, John Schœffer, _eldest son and successor to Peter_, Faust’s
son-in-law, declares in a Dedication to the Emperor Maximilian of
an edition of Livy, printed that year, that the admirable art of
Typography was invented at Mentz in the year 1450, by John Gutenberg,
and afterwards improved and perfected by the study, perseverance and
labour of John Faust and Peter Schœffer.[97] This work was edited by
the learned Dr. Ivo Wittig, the same who in 1508 erected the memorial
tablet in front of the house Zum Gutenberg, the inscription on which is
given at page 198.

About 1510, Mariangelus Accursius, a Neapolitan scholar of distinction,
wrote on the first page of a Donatus, printed on vellum, “Johan Faust,
a citizen of Mentz, the maternal grandfather of Johan Schœffer, first
found out the art of printing with types of brass, for which he
afterwards substituted those of lead; his son-in-law, Peter Schœffer,
greatly assisting him in perfecting the art. But this _Donatus_ and
_Confessionalia_ was first of all printed in the year 1450. It is
certain that he took the idea from a Donatus which had been before
printed from engraved wooden blocks in Holland.” The Donatus in which
this was written was in the possession of the younger Aldus, who shewed
it to Angelo Rocca, by whom the memorandum was copied, and printed in
the year 1591.

Erasmus of Rotterdam, who was intimate with the most learned men and
principal printers of Germany, Holland, Italy, and France, and whose
inquisitive mind led him to obtain information on every possible
topic; who had beside him for many years in the capacity of Secretary,
the same Quirinus Talesius from whom Junius obtained the confirmation
of the story of Nicholas Galius; who greatly eulogised the productions
of the Fleming, Jodocus Badius, a printer in France, and moreover
wrote the epitaph over his friend Theodore Martens, the first printer
in Belgium, and who was as jealous of the honor of his fatherland as
any Hollander could be; nevertheless repeatedly declared Faust to be
the earliest printer, and Mentz the city where printing was first
practised. This he did in 1518, in his dedicatory Epistle to an edition
of Livy, published by John Schœffer, and again in his own edition of
the Epistles of St. Hieronymous, published at Leyden in 1530.

Arnold de Bergel, in his _Encomion Chalcographiæ_, previously referred
to, describes the first printing of books by John Gutenberg at Mentz
in the year 1450. The idea originated, he says, by Gutenberg observing
while at Strasburg the impression made by his signet ring in soft
wax.[98]

Sebastian Munster, in his _Universal Cosmography_, printed in 1571,
states that in the years 1440 to 1450 the art of printing was invented
and first practised in Mentz by John Gutenberg, afterwards assisted by
John Faust and John Medinbach.

Peter Van Opmer,[99] a fellow-countryman and contemporary of Junius,
and a writer of repute, says with reference to the sudden outburst
of learning at the commencement of the fifteenth century: - “This was
effected by the assistance of that art, which from metal characters
of letters ingeniously cast, disposed in the order in which we write,
spread over with a convenient quantity of ink, and put under the press,
has ushered into the world books in all languages, and multiplied
their copies like a numerous offspring, and has obtained the name
of TYPOGRAPHY. This Art of Printing was most certainly invented and
brought to light by John Faust in the year 1440. It is amazing that
the author of so important a discovery, and so generous a promoter of
divine and human learning, should be unworthily forgotten, or only
casually remembered as a mere artist. Surely such a person deserves a
place amongst the greatest benefactors of mankind.”[100]

A goodly number of similar testimonies might easily be collected, in
not one of which is any reference made to either Coster or Haarlem. Not
a single Dutch or Flemish annalist or chronicler or historian, previous
to 1560, ever makes the slightest allusion to the man or the place in
connection with the art of printing. Even Jan Gerbrant, Prior of the
Carmelite Order at Haarlem, who died there in 1504, knew nothing of
the matter. Yet he is the compiler of the Chronicle of the Counts of
Holland and Bishops of Utrecht; and if printing had been the invention
of his contemporary Coster, and practised in the city of Haarlem, he
could not have been ignorant of the facts, nor would he have failed to
record them in his Chronicle.

Meerman and his followers vainly try to evade the force of this fatal
silence; all their learning and ingenuity are brought to bear, but
without effect; for if, as they maintain, the historians of that time
considered the attempts made at Haarlem so crude and imperfect, as
not to be worthy their notice, what is to be made of the statement of
Junius, that the invention attracted notice; that the works printed
were publicly sold, and the business increased so much, that numerous
workmen and assistants had to be engaged? The number of works said
by Koning and others to have issued from the Coster press, indicates
anything but a crude and imperfect state of the art; and if those works
had been printed by the sacristan of the great Church of Haarlem, the
Prior of the Carmelites, living in the city at the same time, must have
known of their existence. How then is his silence to be accounted for?

The only rational conclusion to which one can arrive, is, that the
tradition, which, after the growth of a hundred years was moulded into
historic narrative by Junius, had neither existence nor foundation in
the days of Prior Gerbrant. As an aid to history, in the elucidation
of facts otherwise obscure, tradition is a valuable auxiliary; but as
opposed to history and well known facts, there is no more unreliable
source of information. Every one is aware how witnesses of the same
occurrence will differ in their statements of the particulars of what
they saw; and all who have taken the pains to unravel old traditions
well know how wholly unlike their origin they ultimately and all
but invariably prove to be. There is no reason for supposing that
the traditional account of the origin of printing in Haarlem is an
exception to the rule. The age was one prone to the invention of
legends; and in the early days of printing in that city, and after
Ulric Zell had published his account at Cologne, and attributed to
Gutenberg the taking of the idea from the _Donatuses_ first printed
_in Holland_, it is by no means unlikely that an old printer, or an
old book-binder, in Haarlem, who had when a boy seen a specimen of a
_Biblia Pauperum_ or a _Donatus_, in the hands of the Sacristan of the
Church, would say, first, that he had seen the proof that printing
originated in Holland, there, in that city; then, stretching a point,
that printing originated there; others, repeating this, would assert
that the proof that such was the fact existed; that it had been seen
in the hands of the Coster; that the Coster printed it; that there was
the house he lived in; that it was a shame the Germans, who stole the
idea of the separable types from the Dutch, should get all the credit;
that they had robbed Coster of his fame; nay robbed him of his types;
that it must have been one of the Johns of Mentz who was the thief; and
so on, varying and amplifying the tale, until the time of Junius, who
finding the poem of Arnold de Bergel imparting a fresh halo of glory
to Mentz and her three first printers, adopted and embellished the
tradition, and borrowing certain ideas from Virgil as well as from
Bergel, gave in his _Batavia_ an account of the first conception and
ultimate realization of the idea, which should stand as a rival to the
account given in the _Encomion Chalcographiæ_.

The documents upon which the Haarlemese mainly rely, prove of
themselves that the tradition grew within the space of a few years
almost as rapidly as the pillar-like flower-stalk of the gigantic
American aloe, and effloresced as abundantly in the narrative of
Junius - the prolific progenitor of a host of subsequent writers: - for
first, (in say 1555,) the art only “became the companion of a certain
stranger;”[101] - then (1561) it “was carried to Mentz by an unfaithful
servant;”[102] - next, (1567) “the author of the invention _happening
to die before the art was brought to perfection_ and had acquired
repute, his servant they say went to reside at Mentz:”[103] - finally,
(1568) the foresworn workman, the thief John, _while his master was
still alive_ ... seizes the collection of types, and all the implements
his master had got together ... marches off to Amsterdam, thence to
Cologne, and at last settled at Mentz; - and Coster, lamenting his
losses, tells his woes to the little boy Cornelis, who used to help the
book-binder; and Cornelis is so powerfully affected by the tale, that
seventy-two years after, whenever he was asked to repeat it, he would
fall into passionate weepings, and curse and execrate the miscreant
John, and vow nothing would please him more, were he but alive, than
with his own hands to hang him outright.[104] These are the bases
upon which are built “the accumulated and still accumulating evidence
in favour of Coster,” - the “vast mass of unanswerable evidence in his
favour,” - in presence of which “the advocates of Gutenberg’s claim to
priority are slow to give way;” and for which slowness they are accused
of “closing both eyes and ears to testimony of every kind, refusing
to acknowledge that there is the slightest ground for the claims of
_Holland_ as against the, asserted, overwhelming evidence in favour of
Germany.”[105] With such writers, the array of facts on the Gutenberg
side of the question goes for naught. Pinning their faith to Junius they

... “with power (their power was great)
Hovering upon the waters what they met
Solid or slimy, as in raging sea
Toss’d up and down, together crowded drove
From each side shoaling.”

Labouring thus, they from Meerman to Van Meurs[106]

... “following his track
Paved after him a broad and beaten way
Over the dark abyss, whose boiling gulf
Tamely endured a bridge of wondrous length.”

And patriotic Dutchmen in the nineteenth century, with a full reliance


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