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You will find a large catalogue of excellent titles in French at Ebooks Libres et Gratuits , who have also kindly made their catalogue available to us. The 17th century saw a blossoming of various genres of Dutch literature, in the traditional chambers of rhetoric rederijkerskamers , in the municipal playhouses and theatres, in more or less formalized literary societies such as Nil Volentibus Arduum , founded in Amsterdam in , and in religious circles. In the visual arts there was an unprecedented explosion of talent, particularly in painting, drawing and printmaking, the most famous exponent of which was Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn — , who excelled in all three art forms.
Intellectual exchange was stimulated by a remarkable tolerance in Dutch society, partly the result of idealistic notions concerning freedom of thought and religion, partly the pragmatic outcome of so many people with diverse backgrounds having to live in close proximity of each other.
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Although Dutch 17th-century society shows signs of an early "pillarization" of the religious segments among the population, these groups were never cut off from each other. Even the Portuguese and German Jews enjoyed relatively large freedoms. Amsterdam had its Jewish quarter, but it was not a ghetto. Research was primarily conducted at the universities, but there were quite a few amateurs, collectors and private scholars, who were particularly active in the fields of history and the natural sciences.
All these factors — political, social, demographic, economic, religious, cultural and intellectual — equally provide the key to an understanding of the remarkable success the Dutch Republic had in the sphere of publishing, printing and bookselling. According to the Short-Title Catalogue, Netherlands STCN; the Dutch national bibliography , between and hundreds of printer-publishers were active, producing well over 67, titles.
But books were printed all over the Netherlands, in The Hague, the centre of national government, as well as in the provincial capitals such as Middelburg , Zwolle and Leeuwarden ; in industrial towns like Delft , Haarlem and Alkmaar and in sea ports such as Vlissingen Flushing , Rotterdam , Maassluis , Enkhuizen and Harlingen ; and of course in the university cities Leiden, Franeker , Groningen , Utrecht and Harderwijk. Even in some of the larger villages, like De Rijp in North Holland, a bookshop or printing establishment could be found, while hawkers and other itinerant salesmen and women roamed the countryside with a variety of cheap printed matter, pamphlets, almanacs, songbooks, prints and the like.
How then did printing and bookselling profit from these favourable circumstances? One of the most important social factors benefitting the Dutch book trade was the constant arrival of newcomers.
Many of them came to the country as religious exiles, others were lured by the promising economic prospects. In the decades around a veritable exodus of human capital occurred from the Southern Netherlands to the North as a result of the Spanish persecution of Protestants. Among them were numerous printers and booksellers, who brought with them professional skills and expertise in typefounding, printing and publishing as the Southern Netherlands had been an important region for book production.
One of the cities that received them with open arms was Leiden, home of the first university of the Dutch Republic. In they appointed Willem Sylvius ca. Sylvius, however, died within three years of his appointment, after which his son Carel briefly took over. He in turn was succeeded by the most famous printer of the era, Christopher Plantin ca. Later in the 17th century another substantial wave of refugees arrived, consisting of large numbers of Huguenots who had been expelled from France following the revocation by Louis XIV — of the Edict of Nantes in Among them were, again, many printers and booksellers, most of whom set up business in Amsterdam and The Hague.
Their publications, including innovative genres such as scholarly journals and newspapers , are mainly in French and written and edited by prominent Huguenot intellectuals. The federal and particularist political system of the Dutch Republic meant that the government was not able to exercise the same degree of control over the book trade as existed in centralized monarchies like France or England. Although the States General, and in its wake the provincial States, regularly issued decrees and proclamations against the publication of texts that were deemed seditious , blasphemous or otherwise harmful to the state and the public interest, such works could still appear without much difficulty.
Sometimes they sympathized with the contents of the work, as was the case with certain factional publications or the writings of political or religious exiles. Sometimes they were unwilling to act because they were all too aware of the economic benefits such publications brought. The Amsterdam publisher Willem Jansz Blaeu — [ ] , who is renowned for his production of a great variety of high quality publications — from books on navigation, maps and multi—volume atlases to classical editions and literary and scholarly works 11 —, was also active in the mass production of Catholic church books intended both for the use of Dutch Catholics and for export abroad.
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More often the authorities simply lacked the instruments to control this sort of activity. In the Dutch cities so many printers were at work, that it was virtually impossible to check if they complied with the rules and regulations. Moreover, it was easy to hide behind a facade of false imprints — the most famous one being "A Cologne , Chez Pierre Du Marteau" — and antedated years of publication, or to use worn-out type, making identification of the printer very difficult. Only in periods of acute political crisis, as occurred in the years —, and , were serious attempts made by the authorities to curb the printing press.
It is telling, however, that it was precisely in these periods that the production of pamphlets, which gave a voice to public opinion, exploded. In economic terms the book trade profited greatly from the flourishing industrial and mercantile climate. A good infrastructure of roads and waterways, which included newly-dug canals between the major cities, made transport quick, safe and reliable, while the Rhine and Meuse rivers and the North Sea gave easy access to other European markets, particularly in France, the British Isles, the German states, Scandinavia and the Baltic region.
Thanks to low interest rates on average around 5 percent and a well-developed financial market, capital was cheaply available, an important asset for an industry in which money was often locked up in stocks of books. Nor was there a shortage of skilled labour in the various branches of book making, some of which developed into separate enterprises.
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Independent type foundries could be found in Leiden and Amsterdam, 14 while jobbing printers, who did not publish books themselves anymore but only worked to order, were well established in most cities by the middle of the century. The absence of strict external by the government and internal by the industry economic regulation prevented market protection and excessive monopolies in the most lucrative publications. The national and provincial authorities did issue privileges, but their only function was the temporary on average fifteen years protection of the copyright of publishers and — sometimes — authors.
Supported by their municipal governments, they violated the privilege by openly pirating the official edition first published in , thus providing ample proof that the power of the States General was limited. Later it was decided that no publisher would be able to obtain a privilege on commercially lucrative parts of bibles, schoolbooks and editions of the classics.
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In spite of the economic weight of the book trade, separate trade guilds of printers and booksellers were a relatively late phenomenon in the Dutch Republic. Printers, bookbinders and booksellers originally were incorporated in the guilds of St.
The Dutch Republic, Centre of the European Book Trade in the 17th Century
Luke, which represented first and foremost the interests of painters, sculptors and other artisans. The first book trade guild was established in Middelburg in , but in important cities like Amsterdam, Leiden, Rotterdam and The Hague, such organisations did not come into existence until the second half of the 17th century or even later.
Moreover, their powers were limited to the training of apprentices, the supervision of copyright privileges and the regulation of public book sales. In Amsterdam, Catholics and Jews were allowed to become members, while women could succeed to the businesses of their deceased husbands or fathers. Not a few of them turned out to be excellent book trade entrepreneurs. The workings of the Dutch staple market, importing raw materials and exporting finished products, can be observed in the book trade as well.
Two essential raw materials for book production, type metal a mixture of lead, tin and antimony and paper made from rags , had to be obtained from other countries.
Base metal came from mining areas in Germany and Britain. Paper was produced in the Low Countries, but the great majority was bought in vast quantities from the Basel -Mulhouse region and the South-West of France , where Dutch merchants had invested heavily in paper mills.
Only by the end of the century, when paper imports from France came to a standstill following the persecution of the Huguenots and the protectionist policies of the French government, a serious threat of paper shortages loomed. Newly established and technologically advanced paper mills in the Zaan, Veluwe and Achterhoek districts were soon able, however, to satisfy national demand and even produce for export.
Another, less tangible raw material for book production was news and information. Because of the extensive Dutch foreign trade network , news from all over the globe travelled easily to the Dutch Republic, where it was converted into print.
News from Italy, Germany etc. By the second half of the century, several cities would have their own newspapers, and sometimes more than one, not only in Dutch, but also in French and other languages, which were sent to subscribers both at home and abroad. One of the most famous was the Opregte Haerlemsche Courant , the first issue of which came out in Haarlem in and was considered the best newspaper of its time. In the s the first scholarly journals began to appear, most of them written in French and edited by Huguenot journalists and scholars. Containing reviews and scholarly news these journals provided an essential service to readers all over Europe who needed expert guidance in finding their way in the fast growing number of learned books produced by the European printing presses.
He is depicted in his bookshop, holding in his hands a newssheet with the text "Altijt wat nieus" Always something new. That the Dutch book industry was internationally oriented can also be seen in other sectors of publishing, particularly in the mass production of those books for which an almost insatiable demand existed.
The most-read book in Europe was of course the Bible, but in many countries Bibles were difficult to obtain because of their high price resulting from trade monopolies and problems of production and distribution. Well aware of the gaps in the market, Dutch printers produced editions of Bibles in almost every European language, not only, or necessarily, out of a religious commitment to spreading the word of God, but to make money.
A Spanish folio Bible was printed in Amsterdam as early as , while editions of the much praised Italian translation of the Psalms and New Testament by the Swiss-born Protestant theologian Giovanni Diodati — appeared in Haarlem in — French Bibles, New Testaments and Psalm books came out from s onwards in numerous editions, intended partly for use in the many Walloon churches in the country, partly for export. In the s the Leiden printer Jacob Marcus ca.