Albrecht Pfister and the Earliest Printed Books in German from Bamberg

To the online lecture

Library director Prof. Dr. Bettina Wagner and Alyssa Steiner M.St from the Otto-Friedrich-University of Bamberg jointly delve into the life and person of the Bamberg printer Albrecht Pfister in a lecture held in English.

Fragment from: Johannes von Tepl: Der Ackermann aus Böhmen. Bamberg, Albrecht Pfister, around 1463 | SBB, Inc.typ.H.IV.32, fol. 15r

Pfister was a pioneer: he was the first to use woodcuts to illustrate German-language books, which he produced on a printing press using movable metal type. Pfister thus combined the printing technique invented by Johannes Gutenberg with the older practice of producing prints from wood blocks. He obtained the necessary printing types from Gutenberg's workshop. These types were already being used in Bamberg in the late 1450s for a new edition of the Latin Bible (the second after Gutenberg's own edition).

Unlike Gutenberg, Pfister dated and signed his works. On the 14th of February 1461, his edition of the "Edelstein", a collection of fables by Ulrich Boner, was published in Bamberg. Biblical stories and the "Ackermann von Böhmen", a dispute with death, followed a little later. Only nine incunabula have survived from Pfister's print shop, several of which are known only in a single copy. The Bamberg State Library has only a few individual leaves individual leaves.

Pfister's surviving works are presented over the course of the online lecture. Copies from libraries in Germany, Great Britain and the USA are shown, including leaves from the Bamberg copy of the "Ackermann", which are kept in Oxford, Manchester and Princeton.

Ulrich Boner: Der Edelstein. Bamberg: [Albrecht Pfister], 14.02.1461 (GW 4839; ISTC ib00974500)
Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, 16.1 Eth 2° (1)

Ulrich Boner: Der Edelstein. Bamberg: Albrecht Pfister, about 1462 (GW 4840; ISTC ib00974550)
Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, 8° Inc. 332

Biblia pauperum, deutsch. Bamberg: Albrecht Pfister, about 1462 (GW 4325; ISTC ib00652700)
Manchester, John Rylands Library, 9402

Historie von Joseph, Daniel, Judith und Esther. Bamberg: Albrecht Pfister, after 1462.05.01 (GW 12591; ISTC ih00286500)
Manchester, John Rylands Library, 9375

Johannes von Tepl: Ackermann von Böhmen. Bamberg: Albrecht Pfister, about 1463 (GW 194; ISTC ia00039000)
Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, 16.1 Eth.2° (2) and fragments from Oxford, Manchester, Princeton and Bamberg

In addition, the Zweidler-Plan is shown (the oldest surviving city plan of Bamberg).

Prof. Dr. Bettina Wagner has been director of the Bamberg State Library since 2016 and is particularly committed to educating the wider public about the library’s historical book holdings. She has many years of experience in university teaching and in training for librarians. She presents the diverse collections of the State Library in regular exhibitions and special tours. By doing this, she hopes to convey some fascinating insights into the spiritual world and culture of the past that medieval manuscripts, printed books of the early modern period and historical graphics provide.

After studying English and German in Basel, Manchester and Oxford, Alyssa Steiner has been a research associate with the SNF project "Sebastian Brant at the intersection of early modern text cultures" at the University of Bamberg since 2019. In her doctoral project she deals with gendered concepts of folly in German, Latin and French ships of fools.