Johann Heynlin

Johann Heynlin, variously spelled Heynlein, Henelyn, Henlin, Hélin, Hemlin, Hegelin, Steinlin; and translated as Jean à Lapide, Jean La Pierre (Lapierre, de la Pierre), Johannes Lapideus, Johannes Lapidanus, Johannes de Lapide (c. 1425 – 12 March 1496) was a German-born scholar, humanist and theologian, who introduced the first printing press in France (Paris) in 1470.

The first book printed in France: Epistolae ("Letters"), by Gasparinus de Bergamo (Gasparino Barzizza). It was printed in 1470 by the press established in Paris by Johann Heynlin.

Born in Stein, near Pforzheim, in Baden-Württemberg, Heynlin may have been of Swabian origin. (From Stein, meaning "stone" in German, are derived his translated Latinized surnames Lapideus or a Lapideand Gallicized surname La Pierre.) On the completion of his academic studies in Germany, presumably at Leipzig and Freiburg, he proceeded to Paris to pursue the study of philosophy and theology. In Paris, he came in contact with the foremost representatives of Realism, who, recognizing Heynlin's abilities and probable future influence, exerted their powers to the utmost to mould his mind after their own and thus make him like themselves a bitter opponent of Nominalism. Their efforts were successful.

In 1464, Heynlin went to the University of Basel and applied for admission to the professorial faculty of arts. The old controversy regarding the nature of Universals had not yet subsided, and in the university of Basel Nominalism held sway. Hence in view of this and the maintenance of peace within the institution, the admission of Heynlin to the faculty was not accomplished without a most vigorous opposition.

Once a member of the faculty, he hoped to rid it of all Nominalistic tendencies, nor was he disappointed in his expectation. In 1465, he became dean of the faculty of arts and in this capacity he revised the university statutes and thus brought about a firmly established curriculum of studies. In 1466, he returned to Paris, obtained the doctorate in theology, was in 1469 elected rector of the university and became professor of theology at the Sorbonne.

Heynlin's printing pressEdit

Heynlin's most noteworthy achievement was the establishment of the first printing-press in Paris. Heynlin worked closely with Guillaume Fichet (1433-ca. 1480), another professor at the Sorbonne, who had also come from abroad: from Le Petit-Bornand-les-Glières, in Savoy.

Heynlin brought Swiss workmen to install this press in the buildings of the Sorbonne at the end of 1469 or the beginning of 1470: Ulrich Gering (or Guerinch or Guernich) (1445-1510), Michael Friburger and Martin Crantz (or Krantz). Ulrich Gering may have come from Münster in the canton of Aargau, Friburger from Colmar and Crantz may have also come from Münster or Strasbourg. Heynlin gave valuable pecuniary aid to their undertakings, especially for the printing of the works of the Church Fathers. King Louis XI granted letters of naturalization to all three workmen in 1475.

Their first publication with this press, and the first book printed in France, was a collection of letters by the fifteenth century grammarian Gasparinus de Bergamo (Gasparino Barzizza). The Epistolae Gasparini Pergamensis (1470) were intended to provide an exemplar for students for the writing of artful and elegant Latin. Their second work was a translation of Sallust (1470-1471), the third the Orationes of Bessarion (1471), and the fourth was Fichet's own Rhetorica in 1471. The number of the works which they published from 1470 to 1472 amounts to some thirty works.

At the end of 1472 or at the beginning of 1473, Heynlin and Fichet left the Sorbonne to settle on Rue Saint-Jacques. Two of their apprentices, Pierre de Kaysere (Petrus Caesaris) and Jean Stoll, established around the same time and on the same street their own competing printing press, with the emblem of the Soufflet-Vert.

Other activitiesEdit

The German humanist Johann Reuchlin attached himself to Heynlin, whom he followed to the young University of Basel in 1474.

In 1478, he was called to teach theology in the newly founded University of Tübingen, where his learning, eloquence and reputation secured for him the same year the rectorship. The opposition, however, he met from the Nominalists Gabriel Biel, Paul Scriptoris, and others, rendered his service here of short duration. He severed his connexion with the university, proceeded to Baden-Baden and thence to Berne, where he engaged in preaching. Dissatisfied with Berne, he returned to Basel, and tired of wandering, he entered in 1487 the Carthusian monastery of St. Margarethenthal to spend his declining years in prayer and literary work.


  • Epistolarum liber Gasparini Pergamensis, 1470.
  • Premonitio circa sermones de conceptione gloriose virginis Marie, found in Meffret, Sermones de tempore et de sanctis, 1488.
  • Resolutorium dubiorum circa celebrationem missarum occurentium, 1492.
  • Libri artis logicae Porphyrii et Aristotelis c. commento J. (Kommentare zu Werken des Aristoteles, Gilbert de la Porrée, Porphyrios), 1495.


  • Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Johann Heynlin of Stein" . Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  • Creating French Culture
  • (in French) Imago Mundi: La diffusion de l'imprimerie en France
  • Hans-Josef Olszewsky (1992). "Johannes de Lapide". In Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm (ed.). Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 3. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 452–457. ISBN 3-88309-035-2.
  • (in German) Information und Kommunikation in Geschichte und Gegenwart

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further readingEdit

  • A. Claudin, The first Paris press; an account of the books printed for G. Fichet and J. Heynlin in the Sorbonne, 1470-1472 (London: Printed for the Bibliographical Society at the Chiswick Press, 1898).