Mainz, from the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493). JRL R1786.
Mainz is situated at the meeting point of the rivers Rhine and Main, and in the Middle Ages was among the wealthiest cities in the Rhine valley.
In a period when road networks were poor and in some areas non-existent, rivers provided safer and easier links between cities; the Rhine was a primary trade route through Europe.
Mainz became the seat of the archbishop, who played a key religious and political role in the region. A prosperous court grew up around the archbishopric, attracting merchants and craftsmen to the city.
The goldsmiths’ guild was of particular importance, with wealthy local cloth merchants their principal clients.
Johann Gutenberg was born in Mainz around 1399.
Little is known of Gutenberg’s father but he was a tradesman or merchant, possibly involved in the cloth trade, and his son grew up surrounded by both craft and commerce.
However, the potentially life-threatening political disputes at court drove the family away from the city.
After working in other local towns and cities, Johann Gutenberg returned to Mainz in 1448 to experiment with his new printing business, a venture that was to have such an impact on many aspects of life and thinking in our World.
Bremen: Ernsting, 1791 Engraved broadside. Graphic Arts Collection.
A panoramic view of the city of Bremen tops this journeyman’s certificate.
It is inscribed for twenty-five year old Johann Hingstmann (born 1773), who has completed his twelve year apprenticeship to reach the level of journeyman.
Hingstmann now has the right to charge a fee for his own work.
To reach the highest level of master craftsman, he will have to submit an example of his work to a particular guild for evaluation and hopefully, be admitted to the guild as a master.
The certificate is engraved by Daniel Albert (Albrecht) Ernsting (1749-1820), who was himself an apprentice to a Bremen printer. Ernsting then studied in Göttingen and Copenhagen before returning to Bremen and opening a shop.
His name is found engraved on portraits, business cards, playing cards, and of course certificates.
Cologne’s location on the River Rhine placed it at the intersection of the major east-west trade routes and this was the basis of its wealth and power.
Besides its economic and political significance, Cologne also became an outstanding centre of medieval pilgrimage when Cologne’s archbishop gave the relics of The Three Wise Men to the Cathedral in 1164.
In the Middle Ages it was the most densely populated and one of the most prosperous towns in the German-speaking region, with an established university and membership of the Hansa alliance (Hanseatic League) of trading cities.
This economic association of towns and cities stretched from the Baltic to the North Sea and dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe for centuries.
Trade fairs, which provided early printers with a market for their books, were an established feature of Cologne life.
In the early 1470s William Caxton, the English Printer, spent time in Cologne learning the art of printing.
He returned to Bruges in 1472 where he and Colard Mansion, a Flemish calligrapher, set up a press.
Eventually Caxton set up his press in London.
Caxton’s own translation of ‘The Recuyell of the Histories of Troye’ was the first book printed in the English language.
During the rut (also known as the rutting period males often rub their antlers or horns on trees or shrubs, fight with each other, wallow in mud or dust, self-anoint and herd in season females together.
Image Credit: Photograph by AP Photo/Markus Schreiber.