The potential of the printing press in spreading knowledge and propaganda was realised within a matter of decades. Its role in the Protestant Reformation and the dissemination of the newly-discovered works of classical literature are well-known.
It also had a major effect on the development of law. Copies of documents could be reproduced quickly and cheaply, and without the scribal inaccuracies which crept into legal manuscripts. Rulers and law-making bodies soon spotted the potential this offered for codifying and publicising legal texts.
The Inn holds a very fine collection of these early legal publications, a selection of which are on display in the Library. The exhibits are all books printed in what is now Germany. They include a number of legal and bibliographic firsts, including:
- the first book published by a woman (Anna Rütgerin’s Sachsenspiegel of 1484),
- the first criminal law code of the Holy Roman Empire,
- a magnificent title-page designed by Albrecht Dürer’s pupil Martin Caldenbach,
- a version of the first printer’s device.
In addition to their historical significance these are enlivened by superb woodcuts and are a visual treat. This is a great opportunity to view some little-known treasures of the Inn. The exhibition runs until 30 June.