Anton Koberger

Portrait: Anton Koberger
Anton Koberger, portrait as a copperplate engraving, 1745
Deutsches Buch- und Schriftmuseum der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek Leipzig
circa 1440-1513

Anton Koberger

Printer, book trader, large-scale entrepreneur

This Koberger worked with 24 presses daily and employed a hundred or even more craftsmen, some of whom were compositors, correctors, printers, (...) and book-binders. (...) He had a huge and widespread business trading books and a special printworks in France where he had a great many larger and more beautiful works printed.

Johann Neudörfer, Des Johann Neudörfer, Schreib- und Rechenmeister zu Nürnberg, Nachrichten von Künstlern und Werkleuten daselbst aus dem Jahre 1547, 1875

Anton Koberger opened a print workshop in Nuremberg in 1472. It was already organised like a factory and soon had at least 15 printing presses and was efficient enough to manage printing Schedel’s Weltchronik (Wolrd Chronicle), a huge work with around 1,800 woodcut illustrations printed in Latin and German. A total of almost 250 works printed by Koberger are known, which were also delivered with book decoration or bound upon request. The printworks had altogether 30 type alphabets at its disposal.

Koberger closed the printworks in 1504, as it had become unprofitable after the emergence of numerous works producing reprints meant too much competition. He then turned completely towards his publishing house and the book trade. His great achievement was to disseminate books on an economical basis by creating a Europewide book culture that made clever use of the limited transport and communication channels. He made good business after 1512 publishing popular small-format copies of the Book of Hours, illustrated by the students of Albrecht Dürer. He died a rich and respected businessman and patrician in his home town.