Adam Petri was born ca. 1454 in Langendorf near Hammelburg. Like his uncle Johannes Petri, he moved to Basel where he resided from around 1480 and worked as a printer. In 1507 he received Basel citizenship rights. The following year he married Anna Selber, a member of a Basel burgher family. His firm began to grow in prominence after he took over the printshop of his uncle Johannes in 1509. Petri was one of the first printers in Basel who worked with illustrators. His books were illustrated by the likes of Urs Graf, Hans Holbein the Younger, and Conrad Schnitt among others. He also employed a number of prominent collaborators as writers, editors and proofreaders including Konrad Pellikan, the young Sebastian Münster, Beatus Rhenanus, Ulrich Hugwald and his relative Johannes Petreius.
Adam Petri chiefly printed devotional literature and works of practical theology. After 1517 his printshop was primarily occupied with the publication of texts of the Protestant Reformation. Of the more than 300 publications from the Offizin Adae Petri, there are more than 88 editions of Martin Luther. He also published works of other German reformers like Johannes Bugenhagen, Hartmuth by Cronberg, Philipp Melanchthon, Andreas Karlstadt and a few titles by the Swiss Reformers Huldrych Zwingli, Joachim Vadian and Johannes Oecolampadius.
His edition of Jan Hus, which appeared under the title Liber egregius de unitate ecclesiae, cuius autor periit in concilio Constantiensi in 1520, attracted a great deal of attention. Petri was also able to produce a reprint of Luther’s translation of the Bible with amazing speed. Only a quarter of a year after the edition of the “September Testament”, Petri's edition appeared in December of 1522 under the title Das new Testament yetzund recht grüntlich teutscht. Between 1523 and 1524 Petri printed Luther’s translation of the Old Testament under the title Der ursprunglichen Hebreischen warheit nach auffs trewlichst verdeutscht.
Adam Petri died on November 15, 1527. His widow Anna remarried the cartographer, cosmographer, and a Hebrew scholar Sebastian Münster in 1530. His son Heinrich Petri successfully continued the family’s printing house.
- Corsten, Severin, ed. Lexikon des gesamten Buchwesens. vol. 5. Stuttgart 1987, p. 612.
- Hieronymus, Frank. 1488 Petri – Schwabe 1988: Eine traditionsreiche Basler Offizin im Spiegel ihrer frühen Drucke. Basel: Schwabe, 1997.
- Pallmann, Heinrich. (1887), "Petri", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German) 25, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 520–522
- Reske, Christoph, and Josef Benzing. Die Buchdrucker des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts im deutschen Sprachgebiet: auf der Grundlage des gleichnamigen Werkes von Josef Benzing. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007, pp. 65–66.
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