Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo



Printer, b. at Schwanheim, Frankfort, Germany ; d. in Rome, 1477. Sweynheim and Arnold Pannartz of Prague, both of whom were ecclesiastics, were the first printers in Italy. At the invitation of Cardinal John Turrecremata they established a printing-press for books in 1464 at the Abbey of Subiaco ; in 1467 they removed their press to the Massimi Palace at Rome, and carried on the business jointly until 1472. The first books they printed were: "Donatus" (1464); Cicero's "De oratore" and the "Divinarum institutionum libri septem" of Lactantius (1465). During the years 1464-72 they issued over 12,000 copies of thirty-seven works, these works being chiefly the classics and the Fathers. This shows the remarkable skill of the two printers, who were entirely dependent on themselves. Being an engraver Sweynheim was probably the die-cutter, the type-founder, and the type-setter of the undertaking, while Pannartz had charge of the actual printing and of matters connected with it. The dies cut by Sweynheim deserve special attention as they embody the preliminary steps of the present type for Latin characters. Sweynheim's typographical capitals are the first to show the forms used in the Roman inscriptions on stone, while some of his small letters repeat the characters used in manuscripts of the ninth to tenth centuries. He also cast the first Greek type; it is to be found in his third book, that of Lactantius, and the type copies the forms of Greek characters found in manuscripts of the seventh to the eight centuries. Notwithstanding the greatest industry and technical skill the two printers had no pecuniary success. In 1472 their patron and fellow-worker as editor and proofreader, Bishop John Andreas Bussi of Aleria, secretary of the Vatican Library, asked Sixtus IV to aid them. The papal assistance was given in the form of an expectancy. Sweynheim received a canonry in the collegiate Church of St. Victor at Mainz to whose secular brotherhood the inventor Gutenberg also belonged. In 1472 Sweynheim and Pannartz dissolved partnership. Sweynheim worked until his death as engraver on the maps of the "Cosmography" of Ptolemy. He was the first to apply copper engraving to the production of maps; twenty-seven of the beautifully executed plates of the edition of the "Cosmography" of 1478 are his work. Especially characteristic of Sweynheim as a maker of matrices is the fact that the beautiful even writing of the names of places are stamped in the engraving plate by means of individual dies. It is certain that Sweynheim was in close connexion with Mainz until his death, although he did not return there to enjoy his benefice. There is no doubt that he learned the art of printing at Mainz.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:1-6
1 I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you therefore to lead a life worthy ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 [Psalm Of David] To Yahweh belong the earth and all it contains, the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 12:54-59
54 He said again to the crowds, 'When you see a cloud looming up in the ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 21st, 2016 Image

St. Hilarion
October 21: Abbot and disciple of St. Anthony the Great, ... Read More