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A History of Germany by Bayard Taylor

Other Changes under Maximilian


was poor, and therefore took a man named Fust, who had considerable means, as his partner. They completed the first printing-press in 1440, but several more years elapsed before the invention achieved any result. There was a quarrel between the two; Gutenberg withdrew, and Fust took his own assistant, Peter Schoeffer, as partner in the former's place. Schoeffer discovered the right combination of metal for the types, as well as an excellent ink. In 1457 appeared the first printed book, a Latin psalter; in 1461 the Latin Bible, and two years afterwards a German Bible. These Bibles are masterpieces of the printer's art: they were sold at from thirty to sixty gold florins a copy, which was just one-tenth the cost of a written Bible at that time. The art was at first kept a profound secret, and the people supposed that the books were produced by magic, as they were multiplied so rapidly and sold so cheaply; but when Mayence was taken by Adolf of Nassau, in 1462, during one of the civil wars, the invention became known to the world, and printing-presses were soon established in Holland, Italy and England.


The clergy, and especially the monks, would have suppressed the art, if they had been able. It took away from the latter the profitable business of copying manuscript works, and it placed within the reach of the people the knowledge, of which the former had preserved

the monopoly. By the simple invention of movable types, the darkness of centuries began to recede from the world: the life of the Middle Ages grew faint and feeble, and a mighty, irresistible change swept over the minds and habits of men. But the rulers of that day, great or little, were the last persons to suspect that any such change was at hand.




Maximilian I. as Man and Emperor. --The Diet of 1495, at Worms. --The Perpetual Peace declared. --The Imperial Court. --Marriage of Philip of Hapsburg to Joanna of Spain. --War with Switzerland. --March to Italy. --League against Venice. --The "Holy League" against France. --The Diet of 1512. --The Empire divided into Ten Districts. --Revolts of the Peasants. --The "Bond-Shoe" and "Poor Konrad." --Change in Military Service. --Character of Maximilian's Reign. --The Cities of Germany. --Their Wealth and Architecture. --The Order of the "Holy Vehm." --Other Changes under Maximilian. --Last Years of his Reign. --His Death.

[Sidenote: 1493.]

As Maximilian had been elected in 1486, he began to exercise the full Imperial power, without any further formalities, after his father's death. For the first time since the death of Henry VII. in 1313, the Germans had a popular Emperor. They were at last weary of the prevailing disorder and insecurity, and partly conscious that the power of the Empire had declined, while that of France, Spain, and even Poland, had greatly increased. Therefore they brought themselves to submit to the authority of an Emperor who was in every respect stronger than any of the Electors by whom he had been chosen.

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