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First Impressions

Fust & Schoeffer d.1467 and 1503

Peter Schoeffer was a principal worker in Johann Gutenberg's printing house in Mainz. As a young man he had been sent to Paris by Johann Fust to train as a calligrapher and engraver and later he married Fust's daughter, Christina. Schoeffer's close association with Fust has led to speculation that Gutenberg was the victim of a conspiracy to gain insider knowledge of the process and ultimately to take control of the printing presses. Whatever the true story, Fust and Schoeffer entered into partnership, capitalized on the new process and developed the art of type-founding and the process of printing in more than one colour. The first book published by the firm was a Psalter (a volume containing the Book of Psalms, used in church services), produced in two versions in 1457. The Mainz Psalter is the first printed book to bear a date. Only ten copies survive (and a host of fragments), all printed on vellum.

Fust died in 1467 and Schoeffer continued the business under his own name but in partnership with Fust's sons. In about 1469 he issued the earliest known bookseller's advertisement, which listed the printed books available from his printing house.

Schoeffer's business continuously expanded. While he continued to print books in Mainz, and to experiment with printing techniques, he also devoted considerable energy to extending his business throughout Europe. When he died in 1503 his son Johann took over the business.

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