Chapter 10: Johann Haselberg's "Berckrecht"

Johann Haselberg: Der Vrsprung gemeynner Berckrecht, wie die lange Zeit von den alten erhalten worde[n], darauß die Künigklichen vn[d] Fürstlichen bergks ordnungen vber alle Bergrecht geflossen [...]. (Strassburg 1535).

published February 2017

The favorite book of Franziska Neumann

Franziska Neumann was our scholar-in-residence in June 2016. She had the opportunity to engage in intensive research in the Iron Library's excellent collection of early modern books on mining. As her favorite book she chose an edition of legal texts on mining that the early modern jack-of-all-trades Johann Haselberg compiled in the 1530s and which was sold in large numbers.

The reader

The book

Johann Haselberg: Der Vrsprung gemeynner Berckrecht, wie die lange Zeit von den alten erhalten worde[n], darauß die Künigklichen vn[d] Fürstlichen bergks ordnungen vber alle Bergrecht geflossen. [...]. (Strassburg 1535).

In the end the decision is clearly for a book that is little known but none the less interesting: "Der Ursprung gemeynner Berckrecht" by Johann Haselberg, which in all likelihood was printed between 1535 and 1538. The book is a compilation of mining texts from the 13th to the 16th centuries, which includes among other works Ulrich Rülein von der Calw's Bergbüchlein and the Freiberger Bergrecht B, a glossary of mining terms, as well as the famous Annaberger Bergordnung (mining law regulations) of 1509 with its additions up to 1536.

Unlike authors such as Ulrich Rülein von der Calw or Georg Agricola, Haselberg was interested in mining not so much from his own experience as for economic reasons. Small books such as Der Ursprung gemeynner Berckrecht, which comprised 44 leaves, were inexpensive and available in the handy quarto format. Unfortunately, we know very little about the number of copies printed or the book's price. David Conolly, who probably knows more about the book than anyone else, starts from the assumption that "best sellers" in the 16th century had a print run of between 1000 and 1500 copies and reckons that the print run for Haselberg's book was probably in the upper range. Conolly counted 16 copies of the book that have survived, though he overlooked the copy in the Iron Library. That's one of the reasons for declaring this volume as a "favorite book".

The owner of the Iron Library's copy made extensive use of the book, covering almost every page with hand-written references, notes and remarks. The small volume in the Iron Library thus reflects a phenomenon that is not always apparent – how were such books used at the time? The Ursprung gemeynner Berckrecht is a compilation of texts from different periods and was not meant to be read from cover to cover. The reader would have used it as a reference work for study. And that's exactly what the unknown owner of our volume did in the 16th century: He cross-referenced various legal provisions in the mining codes, added some of his own entries to the index of mining terms and noted additional legal statutes for various areas of the mining industry.

Whereas the magnificent and correspondingly expensive folio editions of De Re Metallica with their beautiful illustrations were intended for an exclusive audience that was not necessarily involved in mining and were collected for their intrinsic value, popular publications such as Der Ursprung gemeynner Berckrecht were aimed at a broader audience probably active in the mining industry and were of a more practical nature, though their use and in particular their audience remain unknown as a rule. Thanks to the copy preserved in the Iron Library we can at least gain an impression, as hazy as it may be, of how such books were received and used by their contemporary readership. There could be no better reason for choosing a favorite book!

The book in IRONCAT

Haselberg's book in the catalog of the Iron Library