Gutenberg, Fust, and Schoeffer

In the early 1450s, modest single-sheet indulgences, calendars, and educational booklets were being printed for the first time with moveable type in Mainz, and by late 1454, reports of a printed Latin Bible were spreading across Europe. Although nothing certain is known about the origins of this Bible, on 6 November 1455, a court notary in Mainz drew up what is known as the “Helmasperger Instrument,” an account of the legal dissolution of a partnership between Johnnes Gutenberg and Johann Fust that was concerned with the “work of the books.” With Peter Schoeffer serving as his witness, Fust sued Gutenberg for the return of the substantial funds he had supplied for work involving certain equipment and large quantities of paper, vellum, and ink. The outcome of the suit is not recorded; but while Gutenberg is believed to have continued further printing experiments until his death in 1468, Fust and Schoeffer established the first sustained printing enterprise in Europe, proudly adding their printer's mark to some of the most impressive editions ever printed.