1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fust, Johann

FUST, JOHANN (?–1466), early German printer, belonged to a rich and respectable burgher family of Mainz, which is known to have flourished from 1423, and to have held many civil and religious offices. The name was always written Fust, but in 1506 Johann Schöffer, in dedicating the German translation of Livy to the emperor Maximilian, called his grandfather Faust, and thenceforward the family assumed this name, and the Fausts of Aschaffenburg, an old and quite distinct family, placed Johann Fust in their pedigree. Johann’s brother Jacob, a goldsmith, was one of the burgomasters in 1462, when Mainz was stormed and sacked by the troops of Count Adolf of Nassau, on which occasion he seems to have perished (see a document, dated May 8, 1463, published by Wyss in Quartalbl. des hist. Vereins für Hessen, 1879, p. 24). There is no evidence that, as is commonly asserted, Johann Fust was a goldsmith, but he appears to have been a money-lender or banker. On account of his connexion with Gutenberg (q.v.), he has been represented by some as the inventor of printing, and the instructor as well as the partner of Gutenberg, by others as his patron and benefactor, who saw the value of his discovery and supplied him with means to carry it out, whereas others paint him as a greedy and crafty speculator, who took advantage of Gutenberg’s necessity and robbed him of the fruits of his invention. However this may be, the Helmasperger document of November 6, 1455, shows that Fust advanced money to Gutenberg (apparently 800 guilders in 1450, and another 800 in 1452) for carrying on his work, and that Fust, in 1455, brought a suit against Gutenberg to recover the money he had lent, claiming 2020 (more correctly 2026) guilders for principal and interest. It appears that he had not paid in the 300 guilders a year which he had undertaken to furnish for expenses, wages, &c., and, according to Gutenberg, had said that he had no intention of claiming interest. The suit was apparently decided in Fust’s favour, November 6, 1455, in the refectory of the Barefooted Friars of Mainz, when Fust made oath that he himself had borrowed 1550 guilders and given them to Gutenberg. There is no evidence that Fust, as is usually supposed, removed the portion of the printing materials covered by his mortgage to his own house, and carried on printing there with the aid of Peter Schöffer, of Gernsheim (who is known to have been a scriptor at Paris in 1449), to whom, probably about 1455,[1] he gave his only daughter Dyna or Christina in marriage. Their first publication was the Psalter, August 14, 1457, a folio of 350 pages, the first printed book with a complete date, and remarkable for the beauty of the large initials printed each in two colours, red and blue, from types made in two pieces.[2] The Psalter was reprinted with the same types, 1459 (August 29), 1490, 1502 (Schöffer’s last publication) and 1516. Fust and Schöffer’s other works are given below.[3] In 1464 Adolf of Nassau appointed for the parish of St Quintin three Baumeisters (master-builders) who were to choose twelve chief parishioners as assistants for life. One of the first of these “Vervaren,” who were named on May-day 1464, was Johannes Fust, and in 1467 Adam von Hochheim was chosen instead of “the late” (selig) Johannes Fust. Fust is said to have gone to Paris in 1466 and to have died of the plague, which raged there in August and September. He certainly was in Paris on the 4th of July, when he gave Louis de Lavernade of the province of Forez, then chancellor of the duke of Bourbon and first president of the parliament of Toulouse, a copy of his second edition of Cicero, as appears from a note in Lavernade’s own hand at the end of the book, which is now in the library of Geneva. But nothing further is known than that on the 30th of October, probably in 1471, an annual mass was instituted for him by Peter Schöffer, Conrad Henlif (for Henekes, or Henckis, Schöffer’s partner? who married Fust’s widow about 1468[4]) and Johann Fust (the son), in the abbey-church of St Victor of Paris, where he was buried; and that Peter Schöffer founded a similar memorial service for Fust in 1473 in the church of the Dominicans at Mainz (Bockenheimer, Gesch. der Stadt Mainz, iv. 15).

Fust was formerly often confused with the famous magician Dr Johann Faust, who, though an historical figure, had nothing to do with him (see Faust).

See further the articles Gutenberg and Typography.  (J. H. H.) 

  1. This date is uncertain; some place the marriage in 1453 or soon after, others about 1464. It is probable that Fust alluded to this relationship when he spoke of Schöffer as pueri mei in the colophons of Cicero’s De officiis of 1465 and 1466.
  2. This method was patented in England by Solomon Henry in 1780, and by Sir William Congreve in 1819.
  3. (3) Durandus, Rationale divinorum officiorum (1459), folio, 160 leaves; (4) the Clementine Constitutions, with the gloss of Johannes Andreae (1460), 51 leaves; (5) Biblia Sacra Latina (1462), folio, 2 vols., 242 and 239 leaves, 48 lines to a full page; (6) the Sixth Book of Decretals, with Andreae’s gloss, 17th December 1465, folio, 141 leaves; (7) Cicero, De officiis (1465), 4to, 88 leaves, the first edition of a Latin classic and the first book containing Greek characters, while in the colophon Fust for the first time calls Schöffer “puerum suum”; (8) the same, 4th February 1466; (9) Grammatica rhytmica (1466), folio, 11 leaves. They also printed in 1461–1462 several papal bulls, proclamations of Adolf of Nassau, &c. Nothing is known to have appeared for three years after the storming and capture of Mainz in 1462.
  4. Some confusion in the history of the Fust family has arisen since the publication of Bernard’s Orig. de l’imprimerie (1853). On p. 262, vol. i. he gave an extract from the correspondence between Oberlin and Bodmann (now preserved in the Paris Nat. Library), from which it would appear that Peter Schöffer was the son-in-law, not of Johann Fust, but of a brother of his, Conrad Fust. Of the latter, however, no other trace has been found, and he is no doubt a fiction of F. J. Bodmann, who, partly basing himself on the “Conrad” (Henlif, or Henckis) mentioned above, added the rest to gratify Oberlin (see Wyss in Quartalblätter des hist. Vereins für Hessen, 1879, p. 17).