Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Peter Schöffer

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Publisher and printer, b. at Gernsheim on the Rine about 1425; d. at Mainz in 1503. As a cleric in minor orders he was in Paris in 1451 working as a manuscript copyist. In 1455 he appeared as a witness at Mainz for Johannes Fust against Gutenberg. Later he married Fust's daughter, Christine, and he was a partner of Fust in the publishing business until 1456, from that date up to 1503 printing independently. Schöffer may have become an experienced printer as an assistant of Fust and perhaps of Gutenberg, but he had no share whatever either in the invention or in the improvement of typography, as has been claimed for him and his descendants; this is certain, notwithstanding the splendid impressions of the Psalters bearing his name and published in 1457 and 1459, the technical preparation of which has been ascribed to Gutenberg. The evident deterioration of books issued at the end of the century proves that Schöffer made no technical improvement in the art of printing. The work of Schöffer's press shows all the technical excellence of his predecessors, but no advance. He did much for the development of the art of printing by establishing commercial relations beyond the borders of Germany. But the management of his press was always conservative, and he published almost exclusively works on civil law, canon law, and theology. He neither made improvements nor did he adopt the improvements of his contemporaries, such as reducing the size of his books, issuing popular books, etc. At the time of Schöffer's death many printers of Germany and Italy had long surpassed both his publications and his press. Schöffer's son John carried on the business, 1503-31. The son was a capable printer and exerted himself to improve the work produced by his press, but was unable to place himself in the front rank of printers of the time. A second son of Schöffer's, Peter the younger, was a capable die-cutter and printer, and engaged in his trade at Mainz, 1509-23; at Worms, 1512-29; at Strasburg, 1530-39; at Venice, 1541-42. His son Ivo took up his quarters at Mainz, 1531-55, and there carried on the printing business of his grandfather.

Van der Linde, Gesch. der Erfind. der Buchdruckkunst (Berlin, 1886); Hartwig, Festschrift zum 500 jahr. Geburstage von J. Gutenberg (Mainz, 1900).

Heinrich Wilhelm Wallau.