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Anthony Koberger

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German printer, publisher, and bookseller, b. about 1445; d. at Nuremberg, 3 October, 1513. He was descended from an old family of skilful artisans who had belonged to the town council as early as 1350, and was a goldsmith before he became a printer. After the completion of the first dated volume (Alcinous, 24 Nov., 1472), Koberger's printing-house quickly developed an activity reaching out in all dlrections, and about 200 works appeared before the year 1500, mostly in folio form and some in bindings. In 1480 it had already outstripped Schöffer of Mainz, and, until practically the end of the fifteenth century, was the most important printing-house in the world. From a chance statement we learn that Koberger used twenty-four presses a day for his printing and employed over a hundred workmen. His publications demonstrate the generous plan on which his work was done. The paper will still outlast centuries. The type is almost entirely cut in Gothic form, is strong and carefully designed, and, in spite of its narrowness, gives a good, readable round script, which was later very widely used. An Antiqua type, resembling the Venetian, first appeared in 1492. The graceful Bible type of 1483, which is a facsimile of the writing used in fifteenth-century documents, deserves special mentions. The beauty of the letterpress is greatly enhanced by tasteful arrangement of the sentences, often a difficult matter (for example in "Canon Law", 1489-83; "Boethius", 1486). Koberger took no less pains to have his print clear and black, using a newly-cast fount, as well as to have the books lucidly subdivided and decorated by the rubricator and illuminator. The employment of woodcuts in the Bible of 1483, which was embellished with 109 vignettes, marks a new epoch in the history of printing, and opened the way for such works as Schedel's "Weltchronik" (1493), a book which, with its 2000 woodcuts from the drawings of the artists Wolgemut and Pleldenwurf, was almost too profusely decorated. This latter, the greatest illustrated work of the century, greatly influenced the development of the woodcut, and especially the work of Dürer, who was drawn towards Koberger, not only as the godfather of the latter, but also by bonds of personal friendship. Towards the end of the century, the business of the printing-house greatly diminished, the last proof appearing in 1504. Publication by contract occupied a prominent place in Koberger's enterprises; this, together with the war, pestilence, and other disturbances, was doubtlessly the chief cause of the dissolution of the printing-house. For some years previously he had had printing done for him at Basle and Strasburg, and from 1510 to 1525 the presses of Nuremberg, Hagenau, Strasburg, Basle, Paris and Lyons were busily engaged with his work.

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After Anthony Koberger's death (1513), his cousin Hans Koberger, some ten years his junior took charge of the business as trustee for Anthony's children. He, too, was a business man of great ability and under Anthony's supervision had from the year 1480 displayed great business activity, especially in foreign countries. He took charge of the business trader the most difficult of partnership relations until the children were of age. The eldest son Anthony, a way-ward youth, died in 1532; the second, Hans the younger, was actively engaged in the business of the house until his death in 1552. The publishing-house and the retail book trade were gradually given up before 1532, but the hereditary occupation of goldsmith and jeweller, which Anthony had never abandoned still for a long period engaged the attentions of the family. Thus, when the family became extinct in 1629, it still possessed extensive landed property. As a printer, Koberger had built up a wholesale trade such as was seldom commanded before the discovery of the steam press. Yet he is more renowned as the founder of a wholesale publishing-house, handling all the scientific literature of his time, and dominating the book trade of the world. On the same large scale this "king of booksellers" had developed into a valuable asset of his house an honourable hawking trade. The scholarly Latin literature of the Middle Ages of all tendencies formed the main basis of his world-wide commerce. Of great merit are his special editions of the classical literature of the Fathers of the Church. His editions of the Bible are also very important; before the year 1500 fifteen different editions appeared, while the whole output of the house exceeded thirty folio editions, including some in binding. The Kobergers participated for a short time the sale of the Reformation literature, and had some dealings with Luther in 1525. But further than this they took no part in the popular agitation. They remained true to the old principles of their world-renowned house, and devoted themselves to the sale of scientific works.

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