Peter Schoeffer: Printer of Mainz
A Quincentenary Exhibition at Bridwell Library
8 September - 8 December 2003
PETER SCHOEFFER, younger colleague of Johannes Gutenberg in Mainz, was Europe’s first broadly successful printer of books. Bridwell Library’s Fall 2003 exhibition marked the 500th anniversary of his death and celebrated the ground-breaking books he printed at Mainz between 1457 and 1503. This eventful period was distinguished by many innovations for which Schoeffer must be given full or partial credit, including the first printed book that states its date of publication, the first book printed in multiple colors throughout, the first book printed with decorative initials, the first book printed with a publisher’s device, and the first edition of any Classical text, including the first Greek type.
The exhibition, which opened on International Literacy Day, 8 September 2003, included the extremely rare fragment of Schoeffer’s masterpiece of early color printing, the Latin Psalter of 1457; both volumes of Bridwell’s beautiful Latin Bible of 1462, the first to bear a printed date; the first printed Classical text, Cicero’s De Officiis (1465), which also features the earliest use of Greek type; first editions of important books of canon law; and several examples of Schoeffer's editions beautifully illuminated and artfully bound for important owners. Schoeffer’s essential role in the development of printing
was contextualized further by the inclusion of the library’s incomplete Gutenberg Bible, on which he worked, and several early documentary texts concerned with the invention and spread of printing in Europe.
Printed with unsurpassed mastery, hand-illuminated with gold and bright colors, and sometimes still preserved in their original decorated leather bindings, the books of Peter Schoeffer at Bridwell Library are monuments to the inventive genius of the first European printers and the profound cultural changes they provoked five centuries ago. An illustrated catalog accompanied
the exhibition, which was open to the public, free of charge.