1 Wittenberg: An Intellectual Center in the Sixteenth Century

Numerous scholars have shown how Wittenberg became one of the most important printing places in Germany beginning around 1520 (Reske et al. 2015; Pettegree 2016; Oehmig 2015; Rothe 2013). On the one hand, the University of Wittenberg, founded by Frederic III the Wise (1463–1525) in 1502, launched this development. On the other hand, the Lutheran Reformation, which started in 1517, caused an increasing demand for prints. The Reformation had a significant unintentional influence over the development of the town and the university, and the growth of the printing industry as well.

Prince Elector Frederic III, son of Ernest of Wettin (1441–1486), had established the new university—the Leucorea (Greek “white mountain” for Wittenberg)—because the existing Saxon academy at Leipzig had become part of the Albertine duchy when Saxony was divided into two territories in 1485. Frederic, heir of the Ernestine territory between 1486 and 1525, made Wittenberg the cultural and spiritual center of his electorate. He raised a splendid new castle, called famous artists and craftsmen to Wittenberg, systematically modernized the structure and infrastructure of the town, and built new colleges tailored to the needs of the new university. In 1504 a new town constitution—which had been worked out by scholars of the university and skilled craftsmen involved in the prince elector’s large building projects—was enacted by the town council and confirmed by the prince elector. This corpus of legislation regulated nearly every part of life, from measures and weights, rights to use land and meadows, and brewing beer to stockbreeding and inheritance law. It contained a series of regulations concerning the execution of construction work, like the duty to use tiles instead of straw for the roofs of the new dwellings and workshops. The Statuta had been an important instrument in modernizing the town in terms of both the living environment of its inhabitants and the urban society itself (Hennen 2015, 2017a, b, 2017d, 2020b, 2020d). Expecting an increase in population, it had been necessary to optimize hygiene. A new graveyard was opened outside the walls, and the use of the runnels in town was regulated.

Frederic and his court tarried in town every now and then during religious festivals. His celebrated collection of relics, which was shown regularly at the castle church until 1521, made Wittenberg a relevant place of pilgrimage.

The well-educated prince elector, who had traveled to the Netherlands, Italy, and the Holy Land, had a clear idea of a modern intellectual and spiritual center, and he had the right touch in bringing together capable people and creating an innovative climate. He managed to install a new elite. Experts from outside, many of them from Franconia, some from Italy—like the painter Jacopo de’ Barbari (1450–1516)—shaped the singular buildings that were erected by order of the prince elector and influenced the restructuring of the social life in town as well.

During the early years of the reign of Frederic III, the sculptor Claus Heffner (named at Wittenberg for the first time in 1491/1492, d. 1539), who became the first master builder appointed by the council (Ratsbaumeister); the painter, “designer,” and entrepreneur Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553); and a number of talented administrators settled in the town at the river Elbe. They worked closely together to model a kind of ideal city. The comparatively small size of the town, which around the year 1500 housed less than 2,000 inhabitants, may have been one reason for choosing Wittenberg for the project.Footnote 1 The locals did not resist the reshaping of their town. Many of them profited from the new achievements, though others lost their influence and social status.

Frederic’s propaganda rested upon a sophisticated concept of visual communication. It had been easy to make a great visual impact on the manageable framework of the city. Because of the small size and simple structure of the town, all transformations became immediately visible. The ground plan of the town, characterized by two long roads parallel to the river Elbe and a few crossroads, was regulated and harmonized. Several measures were taken to optimize hygienic conditions (Hennen 2015, 2020a). New roads were traced out, and the central marketplace was enlarged to become a stage for big events like tournaments, homages to the prince elector when he visited, pageants, or processions. The western side of the Schmergasse, a little road parallel to the eastern flank of the marketplace, was broken down. The last owner of a house to be razed received compensation in 1570 (Hennen 2015, 336–340). A new town hall was built by the town council. The appearance of the town was radically reshaped: the monumental and splendid castle in the west of the town prospect received an optical and semantic counterbalance with the large university colleges in the east (Fig. 1). Inhabitants who wanted to build new, possibly ambitious houses (in the town records they are termed stattliche Gebäude) enjoyed tax privileges. The prince elector evoked a climate of dynamic innovation in the town, and in all respects, Cranach, Heffner, and their colleagues granted a high aesthetic standard.

Fig. 1
figure 1

Cranach workshop, View of Wittenberg, woodcut, 1558. Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt, Lutherhaus Wittenberg

Within two generations the town had changed completely. The number of inhabitants increased from less than 2,000 in 1500 to 4,000 or more in 1550. Fifty percent of the inhabitants were students, many international, who stayed in town only for some months or a few years. Many of them lived in private houses inside and outside the walls, numerous at the colleges. Between 1500 and 1550 the number of houses inside the wall increased from about 390 to about 470 (Hennen 2011, 139, 2017b, 428). In 1644, 504 roofed parcels existed. For each house, an average of four or five residents can be assumed at a minimum, but many could accommodate more. From the 1530s, the development of single parcels was intensified, and side wings and adjoining buildings were erected to house students and employees. Extant examples of that building boom include the stately homes of Cranach himself, the so-called Cranachhöfe at the Wittenberg marketplace, and Samuel Selfisch’s (1529–1615) house nearby (Markt 3; see below). In a register compiled around 1638, many houses with one or more side wings and more than ten heated living rooms (Stube) are mentioned (RatsA Wittenberg, Urbarium 7; Hennen 2013a, 33–54). Most of them had presumably existed around 1550–1560. The most splendid buildings were erected at the marketplace and in the long main street between the castle and the Collegium Fridericianum.

The university needed capable printers. After 1517 the works of Martin Luther (1483–1546) became bestsellers. Under the rule of the Catholic George, Duke of Saxony (1471–1539), Protestant literature was banned in Leipzig, whereas Wittenberg, only 70 km north, ascended as a center of printing. In 1518, Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560) joined the University of Wittenberg and became its most influential scholar propagating the classic languages, history, and the natural sciences. His activities further stimulated Wittenberg book production.

It is possible to reconstruct many details of life in the emerging town by analyzing the annual records of the town council, by interpreting contracts, and by studying town maps from 1623 (Fig. 2) and 1742 (Fig. 3), which are still preserved in the town archive. The records of the Common Chest, the treasure of the parish installed in 1526, offer more information of this kind. Besides the archive documents, archaeological findings like types and the surviving houses built by persons who were involved in the occurrences during the sixteenth century allow us to draw conclusions concerning aesthetic conceptions, technical processes, and social networks (Hennen 2014). Additional information and denominations used especially in contracts make it possible to differentiate between printers and booksellers respective to publishers and bookbinders. In particular, some of the booksellers invested money in printing projects and acted as publishers.

Fig. 2
figure 2

Andreas Goldmann, Map of Wittenberg, drawing, 1623. Städtische Sammlungen Wittenberg

Fig. 3
figure 3

Schmidt, Map of Wittenberg, drawing, 1742. Städtische Sammlungen Wittenberg

This minute study is based upon results from the research project Das ernestinische Wittenberg, which ran at the Leucorea foundation from 2009 to 2018. This project had the goal of determining the situation in Wittenberg around 1500 and the changes that ensued during the following five decades leading to the Schmalkaldic War (1547), either because of the Lutheran Reformation or by other reasons. The book industry had been only a secondary aspect of this research, which dealt with the whole town, including all its inhabitants and social groups. The project was oriented toward written and printed documents, as well as buildings and artifacts. A lot of data concerning the real estate of the citizens was collected and analyzed. On the basis of these data, it is possible to identify the exact places where printers, booksellers, publishers, and bookbinders lived and presumably worked in Wittenberg. The present text, which was inspired by Saskia Limbach (Chap. 5), focuses on the printers of Sacrobosco’s Sphaera. Revealing examples of vicinity (“neighborhood”) are quoted. Some surviving houses, which were used for living, working, and trading, are described more in detail.

2 Printers, Booksellers, and Bookbinders in Wittenberg: An Overview on Their Real Estate

By means of secondary sources, Christoph Reske and Josef Benzing have listed forty-one printers who worked in Wittenberg in the period from 1500 to 1600 (Reske and Benzing 2015, 1075–1103). Vicky Rothe identified ninety-five printers, twenty-three booksellers or publishers, and eighty-five bookbinders who were active in Wittenberg during the sixteenth century (Rothe 2013, 81). A few more key figures of the book industry have been identified in the meantime by incidental finds in archive documents. Some printers and bookbinders could be located in the suburbs (Lang 2015, 122).

According to the town council’s tax records, forty-one printers identified by Rothe and the author of this work, owned houses in town, as did thirty-nine bookbinders and sixteen publishers or booksellers. As owners of houses, the members of the book industry also had to pay an annual property tax (Schoß).

The tax records specify the names of the owners of houses respective to the parcels, and the individual amount anyone had to pay annually. In 1490, the annual amounts that had to be paid for each parcel were fixed. From that point on, building a new, larger house did not imply a new, higher tax. An obstacle to build was thereby removed. At the beginning of the sixteenth century, it was moreover decided that builders of new dwellings or/and workshops were relieved from paying the property tax for several years.

The exact positions of the houses—the addresses—are not mentioned in the tax lists. Designation systems consisting of the name of the road and a street number were established later at Wittenberg, but not until the nineteenth century. But the sequence of names and amounts in the lists mirrors the route the tax collectors took when moving from house to house, with the result that the sequences of names and/or amounts of successive years are similar. Separate tax books (Schoßbücher) were launched in 1556.

Not until 1644 were all the parcels numbered. These numbers are documented in a town map that had been drawn by Andreas Goldmann, a field surveyor from Torgau, twenty years before (in 1623) (Fig. 2). This map has survived in the town archive, as well as a second one from the year 1742 (Fig. 3), which contains a mark at the beginning and the end of the tour of the tax collectors (Fig. 4). Different colors mark the four quarters in which the town had been divided: the Coswiger Viertel in the west (Coswig is a small town situated 20 km west of Wittenberg), the central Marktviertel (market quarter), the Elsterviertel in the east (Elster, another small town, is located in the eastern direction), and the northern Jüdenviertel (Jewish quarter).Footnote 2 If a property was sold or the owner died, the name of the new owner was recorded next to the amount of tax due on the property (which remained the same). Considering these correlations and copying the lists from 1644 backward to 1490 offers the possibility of reconstructing the positions of single parcels in town, locating the names of the owners, and mapping the results of this work (Hennen 2011, 2014).Footnote 3 Besides, sale contracts often describe the estates, providing sufficient details to locate them in the context of the town.

Fig. 4
figure 4

Detail from the map from 1742 (Fig. 3) with the beginning and the end of the route of the tax collectors. Städtische Sammlungen Wittenberg

Fig. 5
figure 5

Types, found on the parcel Marktviertel 32, the former location of Georg Rhau’s house. Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt. Schrifttypen und Blindstücke aus Befund 1141 der Fundstelle 2, Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Franziskanerkloster; Foto: Daniel Berger. Landesamt für Denkmalpflege und Archäologie Sachsen-Anhalt, Daniel Berger

Fig. 6
figure 6

Vault in the house of Bartholomäus Vogel , Mittelstraße 5. Photo: I. C. Hennen

Fig. 7
figure 7

Vault with decorations and keystone in the house of Conrad Ruehel , Collegienstraße, 62a. Photo: I. C. Hennen

Fig. 8
figure 8

Ceiling construction in the side wing of Markt 3. Photo: I. C. Hennen

Fig. 9
figure 9

Inscriptions in the former studiolo of Samuel Selfisch . Photo: I. C. Hennen

Comparing the situation of 1520–1550 (Map 1) to that of 1550–1575 (Map 2), it is apparent that the different trades of the book industry could at first be found in all quarters aside from the area near the castle and the collegiate church. Since the fourteenth century, the capitulars had lived there, and since around 1490, prominent craftsmen who had been involved in the construction of the new castle had settled there too. After the Reformation, scholars of the university had the tendency to relocate to this area.Footnote 4

Around 1550–1575, most of the printers were sitting in the northern district, the Jüdenviertel, while most of the bookbinders were near the university in the Elsterviertel. This separation is even more obvious at the end of the sixteenth century (Map 3). It is also visible that the houses of the successful publishers and booksellers were situated near the marketplace and the parish church (Schramm, Cranach, Vogel, Selfisch) or near the university colleges (Goltz, Ruehel).

It seems that the various craftspeople, especially the printers and bookbinders, sought to live close together, to cluster with colleagues. Perhaps the printers cooperated now and then to execute larger orders. Unfortunately, no distinct proof for such a collaboration can be found in archival documents.

Presumably, the bookbinders primarily searched for customers in the academic setting: scholars and students of the university and the university itself. It should be noted, however, that most of the parcels in the two western quarters of the town were already occupied by around 1520, while in the Jüdenviertel and the Elsterviertel areas still were available for construction. The Neustraße, which connects the Mittelstraße and the Jüdenstraße, for example, was only partly defined in the 1520s; some parcels on its eastern side were empty until that time. Here the theologian and pastor Johannes Bugenhagen (1485–1558), the mathematician Erasmus Reinhold (1511–1553), and the printer Veit Kreuzer (d. 1578) took residence. Kreuzer held a second parcel in the Jüdenstraße (see below). The (later) wealthy publisher and bookseller Christoph Schramm the Elder (d. 1549) first owned a house between the church yard (Kirchhof) and the Collegienstraße (Marktviertel 78), and later we see that he paid taxes for a house situated on the eastern side of the marketplace (Marktviertel 70).Footnote 5 Only one year later, in 1537, he moved to one of the most representative parcels at the south side of the marketplace (see below), where he became a neighbor of Lucas Cranach (Marktviertel 2), Christian Beyer (1482–1535) (Marktviertel 1)—who was the chancellor of the prince elector—and other notables.

Parts of the area surrounding the convent of the Gray Friars were privatized following the liquidation of the convent after 1525. Here, in the northern part of the town, for example, Georg Rhau (1488–1548) settled in 1541 (Marktviertel 32), as did Johannes Krafft (d. 1578) in the mid-1550 s (Jüdenviertel 25).

2.1 Publishers, Printers, Booksellers, and Bookbinders

Contracts, which were executed on different occasions and which are preserved in the town archive, also allow us to deduce the professions of the signatories as well as professional and private relationships. Because of corresponding information in a contract concluded in 1533, we know that Christoph Schramm the Elder had been the seller of prints by Joseph Klug (ca. 1490–1552) (RatsA WB, 113 (Bc 101), fol. 133r–v).Footnote 6 But Schramm also acted as publisher when he was financing Klug’s projects. Klug and Schramm came to a compromise concerning outstanding debts and payments, which is documented as follows, “…to clear what he [Klug] sold, vouched for and what money he added….”Footnote 7 The contract was signed in the house of Conrad Rastger, in the presence of Klug’s and Schramm’s colleagues Moritz Goltz (ca. 1495–1548), Hans Lufft (1495–1584) , and Bartholomäus Vogel (1504–1569).Footnote 8

In 1538 and 1540, Joseph Klug and Moritz Goltz came to another mutual agreement; Klug there called himself Buchdrucker (printer), Goltz is called Buchhändler (bookseller) (RatsA WB, 113 (Bc 101), fol. 197r–198v).Footnote 9

In the contract concerning the sale of Christoph Schramm’s house to Samuel Selfisch from 1564, Schramm junior (d. 1579) as well as Selfisch are referred to as Buchführer (bookseller/publisher), Gabriel Schnellboltz (fl. 1562–1571) in another contract is named as printer and Illuminator (RatsA WB, 120 (Bc 109), fol. 141v (Schramm), fol. 142r (Selfisch), fol. 184v (Schnellboltz)).Footnote 10

3 Wittenberg Printers of the Sphaera and Their Real Estate

Josef Klug, who printed the first Wittenberg edition of the Sphaera in 1531, owned house number 162 in the Jüdenviertel from 1526 to 1552. It was situated at the southeastern corner of the church square (Kirchplatz, today Mittelstraße 1). The building was replaced in the 1920s. Where Klug lived and worked before, we do not know—maybe in one of the houses, Lucas Cranach possessed, presumably in Marktviertel 2 (Markt 5).Footnote 11 Around 1523, the painter and successful businessman owned several properties: Marktviertel 2 (Markt 5), Coswiger Viertel 1 (Schloßstraße 1), Jüdenviertel 146 (Neustraße 8), and the house at the southeastern corner of the Neustraße (Elsterviertel 12).Footnote 12 Cranach had a print shop with Christian Döring (ca. 1490–1533) ; evidence suggests that it was located at Markt 5 and that Klug followed Melchior Lotter the Younger (ca. 1490–1542) there as an employee of the two businessmen. We also know that Cranach and Döring later owned the house Jüdenviertel 161, built by Hans Schotte around 1532 and situated next to Joseph Klug’s print shop at the churchyard (Jüdenviertel 162). In 1535, Cranach and the widow of Döring sold it to Peter Schorer (RatsA WB, 147 (Bc 107), fol. 67r–v, Sontag nach Conversionis Pauli 1535). The contract indicates that Schotte had pledged the house to Cranach and Döring. In the tax lists, Cranach and Döring’s widow does not appear as owners of this parcel (Jüdenviertel 161), since Schotte paid the tax. Only the contract gives the information that Schotte had committed the house to them so that they could act as sellers. Peter Schorer paid 170 Gulden for the house with ground and appurtenances.Footnote 13

After Klug’s death, a person named Kilian Krumbfuß became the owner of the house Jüdenviertel 162 for a short time, then it was the property of the bookseller Johann Schröter. A hundred years later, in 1638, the estate was described as a large complex consisting of a main building and two side wings, offering ten rooms with stoves on three floors (RatsA WB Urbarium 7 (Bb 4)). The presses and types of his father were taken over by Thomas Klug (fl. 1551–1563) in 1553. He compensated his brothers and sisters (RatsA WB, 147 (Bc 107), fol. 236r–238r). The complete equipment, including presses (preßn), Greek and Latin types (buchstaben), and stencils (Matricen), had been evaluated by Hans Lufft, Veit Kreutz(ig)er, and Hans Krafft, and priced at 284 Gulden (RatsA WB, 147 (Bc 107), fol. 236r–v). Thomas Klug seems to have continued his father’s workshop but had not had the money to buy the house, too. Johann Schröter owned Marktviertel 83, a house nearby as well. Perhaps he first left the workshop to Thomas Klug, who died in 1563.Footnote 14

Between 1534 and at least 1541, Peter Seitz senior (fl. 1534–1548) can be located at Marktviertel 42 (today Juristenstraße 16a).Footnote 15 He acquired this property for 400 Gulden from Wolle Kersten .Footnote 16 Later his heirs possessed the parcel, and M. Simon Grünberger was the owner from 1576 until around 1600. Grünberger printed the Elementa doctrinae de circulis coelestibus, et primo motu here in 1587. Peter Seitz II (fl. 1557–1593) also owned Marktviertel 49 in the Scharrengasse nearby. Neither house is mentioned in the register from 1638, therefore it is unknown how many rooms with heating they contained.

Veit Kreutzer first owned the house Jüdenviertel 131 (Neustraße 13), and, from 1561, the house Jüdenviertel 151 (today Jüdenstraße 26) as well. In 1568, Kreutzer retired and sold his printing press. Up to his death in 1578 he lived at Jüdenviertel 151. The contract concerning the sale of his print shop is preserved and specifies types, two printing presses, and other materials (RatsA WB, 120 (Bc 109), fol. 393r–v). From this document, we know that the printers Clemen Schleich (fl. 1569–1588) and Anton Schöne (fl. 1569–1585) bought Kreuzer’s equipment—for which they paid 385 Gulden—in 1573, the year they launched Novae quaestiones sphaerae. Kreuzer received the final installment in 1575.Footnote 17 The building Jüdenviertel 131 is not mentioned explicitly in the contract. But Schleich is to be found next door in Jüdenviertel 133 from 1573 on, while Schöne appears as the owner of the house Jüdenviertel 131 in the period from 1577 to 1586. Meanwhile, the parcel with the workshop building (presumably situated on Jüdenviertel 131) was possessed by Jacob Lehman , Henricus and Merten Henrich , and Burchardt Winner .Footnote 18 The print shop may have been rented to the two printers first. The house Jüdenviertel 20 (Klosterstraße), which Schleich owned between 1560 and 1570, seems to have been sold in order to move nearer to his print shop.

After Schleich’s death, Jüdenviertel 133 became the property of Georg Müller (fl. 1590–1624) and Lorenz Säuberlich (fl. 1597–1613), who later moved to Elsterviertel 4. Müller and Säuberlich were also printers.

Johann Krafft the Elder and his heirs could be found at Jüdenviertel 25 (Bürgermeisterstraße 5) between 1554 and 1582. This parcel had originally been part of the ground belonging to the Franciscan Convent that was locked between 1525 and 1537. Krafft bought it for 360 Gulden from Severin Weiß, who had become pastor of Dobin, a village near Wittenberg, sometime before (RatsA WB, 147 (Bc 107), fol. 234r–235r). In 1638, the house and a single adjoining building possessed six heated rooms (RatsA WB, Urbarium 7 (Bb 4)).

Clemen Schleich, as has been said, owned Jüdenviertel 20—a small house with two heated rooms—until 1570, while Hans Lufft was already residing nearby at Jüdenviertel 15 (Bürgermeisterstraße) from 1528 to 1582.Footnote 19 Later this estate was owned by the publisher Wolff Stauffenbuel (1580–1619) . In 1556, Lufft also owned a house in Marstallgasse (Coswiger Viertel 64).

Matthäus Welack (d. 1593), who printed five editions of the Sphaera between 1576 and 1591 (Blebel 1576, 1576–1577, 1588; Dietrich 1583, 1591), had been—in exactly this period—the owner of Elsterviertel 109 (today Collegienstraße 36), a parcel close to the university and the houses of Conrad Ruehel (1528–ca. 1579). Welack’s house in 1638 is described as a big timber frame building with nine heated rooms on two floors.

Other printers who are of interest in our research can be located too. Georg Rhau can first be placed in Coswiger Viertel 61 (today Marstallgasse, 1528–1541), then on Marktviertel 32 (1541–1548), a parcel at the end of Juristenstraße that had belonged to the convent of the Gray friars as well. Rhau built a new house there and profited from tax exemption for the first time in 1541 (RatsA WB, Kämmereirechnung 1541, fol. 16v (20 gr Sommerschoß)). After Rhau’s death, his wife possessed the parcel and the house until 1571.

Without a doubt, Rhau used the new building for his print shop. In 2011, during a large archaeological excavation, a high number of types were found in this area, which was later unambiguously identified as his workshop (Meller 2014, 5–27) (Fig. 5).

Similar findings were made at the parcel where Johann Krafft and his heirs’ workshop had been situated (Jüdenviertel 25/Bürgermeisterstraße 5), as well as from the site of the workshop of Peter Seitz (and heirs), and later that of Simon Grünberger (Marktviertel 42, Juristenstraße 16a) (Meller 2014). These findings prove that Rhau, Seitz I, and Krafft used their houses as both working and living spaces. Neither Peter Seitz I nor Johann Krafft held other houses. Rhau sold his first house in the Coswiger Viertel when he got the opportunity to build the new one on the land of the former convent.

Johann Rhau-Grunenberg (d. 1529) possessed Elsterviertel 134 (1520/21) and Elsterviertel EV 96 (1520–1529), two houses situated in the Collegienstraße, each with only three rooms with stoves (Schirmer 2015, 170).Footnote 20

Melchior Lotter the Younger, after his separation from Cranach and before he returned to Leipzig, could be found at the northern corner of the Pfaffengasse and the Marstallgasse at Marktviertel 27 for a short period.Footnote 21

4 Examples of Vicinities: Hints to Social and Professional Networks

The zone at the beginning of the Mittelstraße and the southern part of the church square was one of the hubs of printing and the book trade that evolved in the town in the sixteenth century. Joseph Klug’s house, Jüdenviertel 162, which had been his estate between 1526 and 1552, has already been mentioned, as well as the fact that Cranach and the widow of Christian Döring had granted credit to Hans Schotte, the neighbor of Klug and builder of a new house in Jüdenviertel 161, in the 1530s.Footnote 22 From 1532 to 1550, the printer Hans Weiß possessed Jüdenviertel 168 (RatA WB, 147 (Bc 107), fol. 384r), currently Mittelstraße 60. Hans (Johann) Schröter later owned Jüdenviertel 162 and Marktviertel 83 nearby.

In 1541, the bookseller and publisher Bartholomäus Vogel bought Elsterviertel 1. The family owned it up to 1589. Later, Christoph Cranach (d. 1596) became the owner of this estate before he sold it to his colleague, the bookseller and publisher Zacharias Schürer (fl. 1607–1624). While Schürer was active, Lorenz Säuberlich printed next door (Elsterviertel 4).

Christoph Schramm senior owned Marktviertel 78 (today Collegienstraße 5/Kirchplatz 16) in 1528–1529. Between 1530 and 1534 he is not listed as a taxpayer in the records of the town council.Footnote 23 In 1535–1536 he paid for Marktviertel 70, and from 1537 for Marktviertel 4 (see Appendix).

In 1533 Schramm I, Vogel, and Goltz collectively purchased technical equipment, books, and Döring’s privilege to print and sell the Luther Bible shortly before Döring’s death (RatsA WB, 147 (Bc 107), fol. 63r–64r; Schirmer 2015). His widow received 800 Gulden from the sale. Acquiring the privilege may have been the ultimate goal of this business. The heirs of the goldsmith and publisher owned a house in Schloßstraße (Coswiger Viertel 4) near the marketplace at this time. The bookshop of Cranach and Döring was probably situated in Marktviertel 2 (Markt 5) until 1527–1528.Footnote 24

Vogel had possessed Marktviertel 82 (Collegienstraße 9/Kirchplatz 12 a) before he bought the splendid estate in the Mittelstraße (Elsterviertel 1) in 1541. From the beginning, he and Christoph Schramm the Elder had lived (and worked?) as next-door neighbors at a short distance to Klug. Even later, the distance between their houses had not increased to a noteworthy extent. It had always been possible to communicate immediately. The small size of the town encouraged a quick exchange of ideas and goods.

Schramm the Elder died in 1549. He had started to rebuild the house Markt 3 (Marktviertel 4). His son and successor, Christoph Schramm junior, enlarged it further and furnished it with wall paintings and other rich decorations, perhaps with the help of his neighbor, Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515–1586). In Vogel’s house, vaults from the beginning of the sixteenth century still exist (Fig. 6).

In the second half of the sixteenth century, the bookbinders Paul Droscher (Elsterviertel 2) and Heinrich Blume (Jüdenviertel JV 165) settled in the area near Vogel’s house, as did the booksellers Andres Hofmann (Jüdenviertel 167) and Wenzel Lob (fl. 1592–1600) (Jüdenviertel 170) (Map 2). Until 1576, Hans Schröter had his bookshop at Jüdenviertel 162. Later, the furrier Philipp Olschläger owned this parcel. He probably provided the leather for the bindings.

A similar cluster could be recognized near the university and the houses of Martin Luther—the former convent of the Augustinian hermits at the eastern end of the Collegienstraße (today Collegienstraße 54)—and Philipp Melanchthon (Elsterviertel 92/Collegienstraße 60). Here Moritz Goltz on Elsterviertel 102 kept his bookshop from 1528 to 1550. The printer Nickel Schirlentz possessed Elsterviertel 104 from 1535 to at least 1541.Footnote 25 When Goltz settled on Elsterviertel 102 in 1528, Johann Rhau-Grunenberg was still living and presumably working nearby on Elsterviertel 96 (1520–1529).

Three decades later, in 1553, Conrad Ruehel, son-in-law of Moritz Goltz, was the owner of the bookshop (Elsterviertel 102) as well as of the house Elsterviertel 101, which he modernized and may have rebuilt completely, in order to relocate the bookshop. The vault in Elsterviertel 101 is decorated with elaborated paintings (Fig. 7 top). The keystone shows the initials of Ruehel and the date 1556 (Fig. 7 bottom). Between 1561 and 1582, the printer Johann Schwertel owned the house Elsterviertel 105, while Ruehel’s direct neighbor, the smith (Kleinschmied) Merten Metko, added his new building (Elsterviertel 103) in 1569 at the western gable of Elsterviertel 101 (RatsA WB, Schoßbuch 1566–1570, fol. 74r, Merten Metka 1569 and 1570 (frey)). Builders of new houses were tax exempt for a couple of years.

It is possible that Ruehel and Metko, and maybe Schwertel too, worked together, and that Ruehel was interested enough in strengthening their cooperation that he agreed to allow Metko to use his wall; Metko did not build a second gable wall for his house but fitted it to Ruehel’s wall. Metko may have provided types or casting molds to produce them, or he may have fabricated fittings for covers in return. Unfortunately, no contract or other document can be found that allows us to draw conclusions concerning the precise relationship between Ruehel, the bookbinders in his neighborhood, and the smith Metko. At any rate, it is certain that Metko needed Ruehel’s permission to use the gable of the house where the bookshop was located. Even if the bookseller Ruehel and his neighbors did not work together at all, their clients would have profited from the wide variety of goods produced by the book industry in that small area.

In the period from 1563 to 1576 the bookbinder Georg Bernutz settled on Elsterviertel 95. Hans Reinisch followed Bernutz around 1580. Thomas Krüger, bookbinder owned Elsterviertel 96 from 1566 to 1600. Before him, his colleague Thomas Saup had held that house while Hans Dietz, also a bookbinder, owned Elsterviertel 108, later Elsterviertel 90. Around 1569, Hans Dietz moved to Marktviertel 75 (see Appendix).

Conrad Ruehel had been the instructor of Samuel Selfisch (Schirmer 2015). He, the son of a bookseller at Erfurt, came to Wittenberg in 1545. First, the young man was educated by Bartholomäus Vogel, then he became an apprentice to Ruehel (Rüger 1978, 8). So, from the very beginning, he was in close contact with the heart of the Wittenberg book trading network, the so-called Bible consortium. In 1557, Selfisch married Maria Ruehel (d. 1580), the sister of the bookseller. At this time, around 1556/1557, Conrad Ruehel owned Elsterviertel 101 and 102 on the opposite side of the road; in 1571, he also owned Elsterviertel 100. Presumably in one of these houses, in Elsterviertel 101 or 102, Selfisch and his wife settled before they moved to the marketplace scarcely ten years later.

5 Samuel Selfisch

Samuel Selfisch was the most influential Wittenberg bookseller and publisher of the last four decades of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century (Leonhard 1902; Schirmer 2015, 181–189). In 1564 he took over the estate Markt 3/Marktviertel 4 from the heirs of Christoph Schramm the Elder.Footnote 26 In the contract, it is noted that a number of books from the property of Schramm (senior?), which “were stored in barrels,” were sold to Selfisch.Footnote 27 Selfisch paid for the house and the books 4,050 Gulden. Shortly thereafter he added a side wing 20 meters in length with a large vaulted cellar and three floors onto the western side of the parcel. The beams of the ceilings in this narrow building (the distance between the eastern and the western external wall is less than five meters) are very strong and placed close to each other (Fig. 8). The building was obviously constructed to store heavy loads like stacks of imprints. This detail gives a strong architectural indication that this was a warehouse; archival material offers further evidence that Josef Klug used his house near the parish church as a print shop, as do the archeological findings from the grounds where Rhau, Seitz, and Krafft had settled and worked.

Selfisch enhanced the main building by adding a separate staircase, similar to the stair towers that are characteristic of the courtly architecture of the time, and a belvedere. These parts of his estate were visible from outside the town wall, from the ships operating on the river Elbe and the trading route coming from Leipzig. The courtyard south of the house at the marketplace became a splendid room itself: the facades of the buildings were richly fashioned. Inside the house, a room on the second floor was decorated with an extended cycle of inscriptions, a combination of antique texts with passages from the Apocrypha and the Old and New Testaments (Jäger 2011); most of this is preserved (Fig. 9).

In 1902, Hans Leonhard provided a detailed description of Selfisch’s personal life and his trading connections (Leonhard 1902, 18). Several showrooms are named as parts of the estate at the Wittenberg marketplace. Selfisch sold books at Wittenberg, did business at the fairs of Leipzig and Frankfurt (Chap. 6), invested in editions, traded with paper, and granted credit to colleagues and other professionals. Even a catalog of the works he published has survived, as well as some fair catalogs—and we do not know about all of his projects and products.

It is certain that Selfisch was connected to some of the printers of the Sphaera. He worked together with Hans Lufft, Johann Krafft, Georg Rhau, and Lorentz Säuberlich (Leonhard 1902, 18). Leonhard presumes that Säuberlich worked for Selfisch and did not possess a print shop of his own. Säuberlich however had been first the owner of Jüdenviertel 133, then of Elsterviertel 4, as mentioned above (Leonhard 1902, 18). The latter is described in 1638 as a large complex with two side wings.

In 1596 Selfisch bought the print shop of Matthes Welack (Leonhard 1902, 17). The widow sold the four presses, the types, the matrices, and lots of other implements for the remarkable price of 1,500 Gulden. Some of the materials had originally stemmed from the printing shop of Johann Schwertel. Welack had spent 500 Gulden for two presses and twenty-one center types when he bought them from the heirs of Johann Schwertel in 1578.

6 Printers, Bookbinders, and Booksellers as Members of the Town Council

Two of the pioneers of the book industry in Wittenberg, Lucas Cranach the Elder and the goldsmith Christian Döring, entered the town council in 1519.Footnote 28 Döring, who died in 1533, officiated until 1531, Cranach until 1544 or 1547.Footnote 29

In 1541, Georg Rhau became a member of the town council. One year later, so did Hans Lufft; in 1543 so did Moritz Goltz; as did Christoph Schramm the Elder in 1545. Lufft officiated until 1582, the others only for a few years.Footnote 30 There is some evidence that Rhau, Goltz, and Lufft—together with the other members of the town council—commissioned the new altar screen for the town church in 1547, the famous Reformationsaltar finished by Cranach the Elder (?), Cranach the Younger, and their workshop in 1548 (Hennen 2015, 351–361).Footnote 31 Conrad Ruehel , member of the council from 1553 to 1575, Barthel Vogel (1554–1569), the bookbinder Hans Cantzler (1564–1579) , and Hans Krafft (1567–1576) became successors of Rhau, Goltz, and Schramm the Elder . Christoph Schramm junior officiated from 1561 to 1579, Samuel Selfisch in 1569 for the first time, and in 1613 for the last (RatsA WB, Kämmereirechnung 1613, fol. 1r).

Later also, the booksellers and publishers Wolf Stauffenbuel and M. Johann Ruehel (1585–1591) were members of the town council (Kettner 1734, 120–121).

In the scope of this paper, it is impossible to show all the more or less far-reaching decisions the councilors made during their terms. I describe elsewhere what was undertaken in order to modernize the town in the first half of the sixteenth century when Cranach the Elder deeply participated in building the new town hall, enlarging the marketplace, tracing out the Scharrengasse, and developing the ground of the former convent of the Grey Friars to an attractive housing and commercial area—where Georg Rhau and Johann Krafft the Elder among others settled and practiced their business (Hennen 2020a). Obviously, the successful representatives of the book and media industry were constantly involved in the local affairs and administration of the parish as well. Georg Rhau and Hans Cantzler administrated the Common Chest, the treasure of the church, as well as Hans Schröter, Hans Krafft, and the bookbinder Paul Thilo. In 1565, Conrad Ruehel was also a member of this body. In 1568 and 1570 the book trader (bibliopola) Heinrich Hesse, the printer Hans Krafft, and the bookbinders Hans Cantzler and Frobenius Hempel together managed the Common Chest, along with only two other persons from other professions, Hans Mengewein and Christoph Grumme. What they worked on we do not know.

During these years a large and politically relevant building project of prince Elector August (1526–1586, r. 1553–1586) was realized: the so-called Ordinandenstube. This unique room was erected by raising a second story above the sacristy on the north side of the town church. It was used as the location of the final exam that young Lutheran priests had to pass before they were ordained in the parish church and afterward sent to their first rectorate.

Prince Elector August appointed Conrad Ruehel and Samuel Selfisch as his attorneys. Together they provided 1,000 Gulden for this building measure (PfarrA WB, A I, 674 Kirchenbaw). Five years earlier, in 1564, the prince elector had renewed the book trading privilege of Selfisch, Ruehel, and Vogel. This fact seems to be the background of that generous engagement.

The result of this effort had been an unrivaled room concept without any precedent. The Ordinandenstube and most parts of its interior still exist. It was furnished with benches, an oval table, and armoires that contained all the relevant confessional documents. Most of these books had been printed at Wittenberg, where Selfisch and Ruehel held the privilege to print and sell the Lutheran Bible and the texts authored by the Reformer.Footnote 32 Besides these documents, the annual records of the parish were stored there, in order to show the practical side of the thorough and godly administration of the Reformed parish. One wall of this room was decorated with a large inscription, quoting verses from the book Jesus Sirach. The inscription had been recovered during the last refurbishment between 2014 and 2016. The Ordinandenstube was designed as a room of the word of God and the writings of his community, which should be regarded as sound documents proving the godliness of the responsible persons.

Building the Ordinandenstube consecrated the church where Martin Luther had preached as a central place of Lutheranism, a confession based on the word. Outside, on the southern facade of the church, this function was expressed by additional inscriptions (Hennen 2020c). To the room above the sacristy, whence the young Lutheran priests were sent out into “the world” for more than four centuries, was attached the same significance as the so-called Lutherstube at the former dwelling of the Reformer, and his tomb in the castle church.

In his own house, Samuel Selfisch had used sophisticated inscriptions to convey his personal beliefs; in the case of the Ordinandenstube he and his colleague and brother-in-law Conrad Ruehel—who acted to express the confession and the image of the Prince Elector—indeed functioned as a mouthpiece of August.Footnote 33 In the second half of the sixteenth century, inscriptions written on facades or walls of rooms became a common vehicle of religious messages. It was a popular form of expression and a common decorative element in the cityscape as well as in private dwellings (Hennen 2013b).

7 Conclusion

The leaders of the book industry that emerged in Wittenberg in the first half of the sixteenth century rapidly became part of the new social and commercial elite in town. They profited from the university, founded in 1502—where some of them matriculated—and particularly from the Lutheran Reformation. The basis of the extraordinary period of prosperity Wittenberg underwent during the sixteenth century was the innovative and communicative climate Prince Elector Frederic the Wise had created during his reign. He transformed an average town into an intellectual and cultural center. Together with artists, like Lucas Cranach the Elder and Claus Heffner, and with scholars from the university, he developed a sophisticated concept of visual and written communication, which his successors, especially Prince Elector John Frederic (1503–1553, r. 1532–1547) and Prince Elector August enhanced. The specialty goods of the Wittenberg print industry fitted this concept perfectly and allowed the town’s publishers to enjoy a large output and high profits. Successful businessmen like Cranach, Schramm, Goltz, Ruehel, Vogel, and Selfisch (but also printers like Klug, Rhau, Lufft, Krafft, and Seitz senior and junior) invested much of their earnings in real estate properties. The sequences of properties’ ownership and the contracts concerning those sales and credits are testaments to the dense network of book industry professionals in Wittenberg.

Map 1
figure 10

Houses of printers, publishers, bookbinders and booksellers, 1520–1550. Red: publishers/booksellers; blue: printers; yellow: bookbinders, green: providers (for example smiths); black: scholars. Author’s marks. Map: Städtische Sammlungen Wittenberg

Map 2
figure 11

Houses of printers, publishers, bookbinders and booksellers 1550–1575. Red: publishers/booksellers; blue: printers; yellow: bookbinders, green: providers (for example smiths); black: scholars. Author’s marks. Map: Städtische Sammlungen Wittenberg

Map 3
figure 12

Houses of printers, publishers, bookbinders and booksellers 1575–1600. Red: publishers/booksellers; blue: printers; yellow: bookbinders, green: providers (for example smiths); black: scholars. Author’s marks. Map: Städtische Sammlungen Wittenberg