Johann Fust

Johann Fust

Johann Fust (c.1400 - October 30 1466), was an early German printer.

Family background

Fust belonged to a rich and respectable burgher family of Mainz, traceable back to 1423; members of the family held many civil and religious offices.

The name was always written Fust, but in 1506 Peter Schöffer, in dedicating the German translation of Livy to Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor, 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, in the course of which he seems to have been killed (suggested by a document dated May 8, 1463).


There is no evidence for the theory that Johann Fust was a goldsmith, but he appears to have been a money-lender or banker. On account of his connection with Johann Gutenberg, he has been called the inventor of printing, and the instructor as well as the partner of Gutenberg. Some see him as a patron and benefactor, who saw the value of Gutenberg's discovery and supplied him with means to carry it out, [CathEncy|url=|title=John Fust] whereas others portray him as a speculator who took advantage of Gutenberg's necessity and robbed him of the profits of his invention. Whatever the truth, the "Helmasperger" document of November 6, 1455, shows that Fust advanced money to Gutenberg (apparently 800 guilders in 1450, and another 800 in 1452) to carry on his work, and that Fust, in 1455, brought a suit against Gutenberg to recover the money he had lent, claiming 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, etc., 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 swore 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), who in about 1455 married Fust's only daughter Christina. 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. 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:
*Guillaume Durand, "Rationale divinorum officiorum" (1459), folio, 160 leaves
*the "Clementine Constitutions", with the gloss of Johannes Andreae (1460), 51 leaves
*"Biblia Sacra Latina" (1462), folio 2 vols., 242 and 239 leaves, 48 lines to a full page
*the "Sixth Book of Decretals", with Andreae's gloss, December 17 1465, folio 1211 leaves
*Cicero. "De officus", 88 leaves.


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 1, 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.

Nothing further is known, other than that on October 30, probably in 1471, an annual mass was instituted for him by Peter Schöffer, Conrad Henlif (or Henekes, or Henckis, (supposedly Schöffer's partner) who married Fust's widow about 1468) 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 Dominican Order at Mainz (Bockenheimer, "Gesch. der Stadt Mains", iv. 15).

According to some sources, the speed and precise duplication abilities of the press caused French officials to claim that Fust was a magician, leading some historians to connect Fust with the legendary character of Faust [cite book
last = Meggs
first = Philip B.
coauthors = Alston W. Purvis
title = Meggs' History of Graphic Design, Fourth Edition
publisher = John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
date = 2006
location = Hoboken, NJ
pages = 73
isbn = 0471699020
] . Friedrich Maximilian Klinger's Faust, a printer, may borrow more from Fust than other versions of the Faust legend [cite journal
last = Jensen
first = Eric
title = Liszt, Nerval, and "Faust"
journal = 19th-Century Music
volume = 6
issue = 2
pages = 153
publisher = University of California Press
date = Autumn, 1982
accessdate = 2008-07-18
] .


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  • Fust — Fust, Johann, Gutenbergs Geschäftsteilhaber, einer angesehenen Familie der Stadt Mainz angehörig, geboren wahrscheinlich in den letzten Jahren des 14. Jahrh., gest. 1466 (1467) in Paris, schloß 1450 mit Gutenberg einen Vertrag, nach dem er diesem …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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