- Die kaiserlichen Druckprivilegien im Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv Wien. Verzeichnis der Akten vom Anfang des 16. Jahrhunderts bis zum Ende des Deutschen Reichs (1806)
Cum privilegio Caesaris, Mit kayserlicher Freyheit nicht nachzudrucken — such phrases appearing on the title pages of books printed in the Holy Roman Empire were intended to protect them from unauthorized reprinting for a specific [End Page 219] term of years (usually three, five, or ten). From the mid-sixteenth century the granting of privileges was handled through the Reichshofrat in Vienna, but it fell to the Imperial Book Commission at Frankfurt to ensure compliance. Infringement of an imperial privilege would incur a fine, half of which would go to the imperial treasury and half to the injured party. Whereas relevant archive material at Frankfurt no longer survives, having been destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, at least some of the Vienna archives are still preserved under the heading Privilegia impressoria in the Haus -, Hof - und Staatsarchiv there. Largely it consists of applications by printers, publishers, authors, and others to the imperial authorities for the grant of privileges, sometimes with supporting documents (a letter of recommendation from a prince or church authorities, a title-page, even a complete copy of an almanac or calendar that may not have survived otherwise), drafts of the privileges themselves (the fair copies will, of course, have gone to the applicant), and other miscellaneous documentation. Much has been lost in the course of time, but what remains often enough tells interesting tales: thus the documents may shed light on arguments advanced in support of a particular case, give information about censorship, and indicate whether a privilege was granted or refused. We find privileges granted for works that in fact never appeared (e.g. box 26, item 45), quarrels about privileges (e.g. box 42, item 39; box 60, item 61), complaints about infringements of privileges (e.g. box 47, items 32–33), and extensive documentation concerning Zedler's famous Universallexicon (box 64, items 45 and following, fols 291–527) — in short, this material is a mine of information about the early modern book trade, censorship, and the prehistory of modern copyright protection.
Koppitz has been interested in this material for nearly thirty years and has published a number of articles on it, notably in the Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, 69 (1994), 187–207, but only since his retirement from the chair of bibliography at the University of Mainz has he been able to devote himself to it seriously. Anyone who has worked in the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv with its somewhat bizarre opening hours and the far from ideal state of some of the documents in its care will be full of admiration for the tenacity he has shown in indexing this important material. Many of the documents are undated or are dated imprecisely, so that Professor Koppitz and his colleague Dr Thomas Lick have had to invest a great deal of effort in trying to identify securely the books and persons referred to in them.
The book begins with a brief survey of the phenomenon of privileges (pp. viii–xvi), but for a fuller treatment one will still need to read such books as Ulrich Eisenhardt's Die kaiserliche Aufsicht über Buchdruck, Buchhandel und Presse im Heiligen Römischen Reich Deutscher Nation, 1496–1806 (Karlsruhe, 1970) and Ludwig Gieseke's Vom Privileg zum Urheberrecht (Göttingen, 1995), for Koppitz's work is essentially a reference book listing what documentation survives rather than a study and analysis of it. So he merely characterizes a privilege in a mere eight lines on page 15, whereas some readers would have found it instructive to have seen two or three typical examples reproduced in full. Primarily Koppitz's book tells us which printers and publishers applied for privileges in respect of particular works. While some of the...