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Johannes Oporinus (original German name: Johannes Herbster or Herbst) (25 January 1507 – 6 July 1568) was a humanist printer in Basel.

Johannes Oporinus
Bildnis des Johannes Oporinus.jpg
Portrait of Johannes Oporinus
Born25 January 1507
Died6 July 1568(1568-07-06) (aged 61)
Known forPublication of Vesalius;
first printed Koran
amanuensis of Paracelsus
Scientific career
Fieldsprinting, medicine,
classical philology
InstitutionsUniversity of Basel


Johannes Oporinus, the son of the painter Hans Herbst, was born in Basel. He completed his academic training in Strasbourg and Basel. After working as a teacher in the Cistercian convent of St. Urban, he returned to Basel, where he worked as a proofer in the shop of Johann Froben, the most important Basel printer of the early 16th Century. In addition, he taught at the Basel Latin school from 1526. After 1537 Oporinus taught Greek at the University of Basel. In 1542 he resigned his academic post to devote himself full-time to his printing workshop. In addition, he completed a medical studies and was temporarily famulus to the iconoclastic physician Paracelsus.

He is said to have married the widow of the publisher Johan Hervagius the younger (died 1564).[1]

He died deeply in debt. His manuscript collection and his extensive correspondence are preserved in the Basel University Library.


After a Latin version of Gesta Danorum in 1534, entitled Saxonis grammatici Danorum historiae libri XVI, in 1542/43 he made the first edition of the Latin Koran edited by Theodor Bibliander (the first printed Koran worldwide) from a translation made by Robert of Ketton in Spain between 1142 and 1143 by command of Peter the Venerable, which caused Oporinus serious difficulties. The Basel city council wanted to prevent the publication but yielded due to the intervention of Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon.

The most important publication of his workshop was the anatomical atlas De humani corporis fabrica by the humanist physician Andreas Vesalius, in 1543.[2] In October 1546 a book on the assassination of the Spanish Protestant Juan Díaz, entitled Historia vera de morti sancti viri Ioannis Diazii Hispanics [...] by Claudium Senarclaeum, was published by his workshop, which is attributed to Francisco de Enzinas.

In addition, his press published numerous polemical theological works, classics, and historiographical works. His fine knowledge of ancient languages served the quality of consistently correct textual editions. Oporinus later printed a work on church history by Matthias Flacius Illyricus: Catalogus testium veritatis (1556) and the first eleven (1559–1567) of Wigand's thirteen Magdeburg Centuries. In 1559 he published the complete editio princeps of Diodorus Siculus' Bibliotheca historica.

Oporinus' markEdit

Looking at title page or at colophon of an Oporinus edition, the printer's device is striking. It shows the mythological lyre player Arion of Lesbos, which is supported by a Dolphin on the sea. There are more variant forms of it.


  1. ^ H. Klemm, Beschreibender Catalog des Bibliographischen Museums (H. Klemm's Verlag, Dresden 1884), pp. 232-33.
  2. ^ Kusukawa, Sachiko. "De humani corporis fabrica. Epitome". Cambridge Digital Library. Retrieved 1 August 2016.

Further readingEdit

  • Harry Clark (1984), The Publication of the Koran in Latin: A Reformation Dilemma. The Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol.15, No.1, (Spring 1984), pp. 3–12. Available via JSTOR
  • Carlos Gilly (2001), Die Manuskripte in der Bibliothek des Johannes Oporinus: Verzeichnis der Manuskripte und Druckvorlagen aus dem Nachlass Oporins anhand des von Theodor Zwinger und Basilius Amerbach erstellten Inventariums. (Schriften der Universitätsbibliothek Basel 3). Schwabe, Basel, ISBN 3-7965-1088-4
  • Martina Hartmann (2001), Humanismus und Kirchenkritik. Matthias Flacius Illyricus als Erforscher des Mittelalters. (Beiträge zur Geschichte und Quellenkunde des Mittelalters 19) Thorbecke, Stuttgart, ISBN 3-7995-5719-9
  • Martina Hartmann, Arno Mentzel-Reuters (2005), Die Magdeburger Centurien und die Anfänge der quellenbezogenen Geschichtsforschung. Ausstellung. Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH), Munich.
  • Andreas Jociscus (1569) Oratio De Ortv, Vita, Et Obitv Ioannis Oporini Basiliensis, Typographicoru[m] Germaniæ Principis. Rihelius, Strasbourg (digitized, also contains the Catalogvs Librorvm Per Ioannem Oporinium excusorum)
  • Oliver K. Olson (2002) Matthias Flacius and the survival of Luther’s Reform. (Wolfenbütteler Abhandlungen zur Renaissanceforschung 20). Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, ISBN 3-447-04404-7
  • Karl Steiff (1887), "Oporinus, Johannes", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German), 24, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 381–387
  • Martin Steinmann (1967) Johannes Oporinus. Ein Basler Buchdrucker um die Mitte des 16. Jahrhunderts. (Basler Beiträge zur Geschichtswissenschaft 105). Helbing & Lichtenhahn, Basel.
  • Martin Steinmann (1969), Aus dem Briefwechsel des Basler Druckers Johannes Oporinus. Basler Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Altertumskunde 69 (1969): 104–203

External linksEdit