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The Book in the Renaissance

The Book in the Renaissance

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    The Book in the Renaissance
    Book Description:

    The dawn of print was a major turning point in the early modern world. It rescued ancient learning from obscurity, transformed knowledge of the natural and physical world, and brought the thrill of book ownership to the masses. But, as Andrew Pettegree reveals in this work of great historical merit, the story of the post-Gutenberg world was rather more complicated than we have often come to believe.

    The Book in the Renaissancereconstructs the first 150 years of the world of print, exploring the complex web of religious, economic, and cultural concerns surrounding the printed word. From its very beginnings, the printed book had to straddle financial and religious imperatives, as well as the very different requirements and constraints of the many countries who embraced it, and, as Pettegree argues, the process was far from a runaway success. More than ideas, the success or failure of books depended upon patrons and markets, precarious strategies and the thwarting of piracy, and the ebb and flow of popular demand. Owing to his state-of-the-art and highly detailed research, Pettegree crafts an authoritative, lucid, and truly pioneering work of cultural history about a major development in the evolution of European society.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16835-8
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-xi)
  4. Prelude
    (pp. xii-xvi)
  5. Part I Beginnings

    • CHAPTER 1 The Book Before Print
      (pp. 3-20)

      In 1458 a young Magyar nobleman named Matthias Corvinus became the unlikely new King of Hungary. Within two decades Corvinus had made Hungary the dominant power of central Europe. Now at the height of his powers, the king wished to mark his triumph by making his court, and his capital Budapest, the equal of Europe’s more established dynasties: so he resolved to build a library. Agents were dispatched to Florence, the centre of the European book trade, to commission the finest manuscripts. Italy’s most accomplished illuminators were retained to embellish the new texts. In just seven years the scribes of...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Invention of Printing
      (pp. 21-42)

      The invention of printing was not the work of scholars. Scholars in the fifteenth century had all the books they needed: their attention was directed to the borrowing, copying and bargaining necessary to obtain more texts. It required hard, practical men, often men of little education, to see the potential of a new method of copying that would bring many hundreds of texts simultaneously to the marketplace. It was also men of this stamp who perceived how the techniques of medieval craft society could be applied to achieve this.

      Experiments with new techniques of mechanical copying seem to have begun...

    • CHAPTER 3 Renaissance Encounters: The Crisis of Print
      (pp. 43-62)

      The first age of the printed book was undoubtedly a period of excitement and bold experimentation. But not everyone was convinced that the new invention represented a great leap forward for the book culture of the Renaissance. True, desired texts were now easier to obtain. But was such profusion necessarily to be welcomed? Was it possible that the flood of new writing had actually damaged the cause of pure letters? The case against books was made most eloquently by a dyspeptic Benedictine, Filippo de Strata, a member of the community of S. Cipriano in Murano. De Strata, like many early...

  6. Part II Consolidation

    • CHAPTER 4 The Creation of a European Book Market
      (pp. 65-90)

      The early years of the sixteenth century brought major changes in the European book world. The prolonged crisis that engulfed Venice, Europe’s principal emporium of print in the fifteenth century, helped bring about a significant shift in the centre of gravity of European book production. Italy, which had outstripped Germany as the leader in the new world of print, fell back. New centres in the north, at Paris, Lyon, Basel and Antwerp, emerged to fill the gap.

      These were also important years in the development of the book trade. Northern centres of typography may have seized the initiative, but they...

    • CHAPTER 5 Book Town Wittenberg
      (pp. 91-106)

      By the third decade of the sixteenth century the general contours of the European book trade were fixed. In the fifteenth century twelve towns had been responsible for two-thirds of the total output of printed books: four in Italy; six in Germany; and two in France, Lyon and Paris.¹ This hierarchy proved remarkably enduring. Nine of these twelve cities were still major centres of production through the sixteenth century. The three newcomers to the top tier were all in northern Europe: Antwerp, the rising trade metropolis of the Netherlands, London, by dint of its domination of English printing, and Wittenberg....

    • CHAPTER 6 Luther’s Legacy
      (pp. 107-129)

      Not everyone in sixteenth-century Europe fell under Luther’s spell. In France the most popular religious writer of the era was Pierre Doré, a Franciscan monk who utterly repudiated Luther’s attack on the established Church.¹ In England none of Luther’s admirers had the standing of Bishop John Fisher, whose elegant scholarly books in defence of the Catholic Church found a wide international audience.² In Italy the interest in Luther never matched the surge of pamphlets that had accompanied the preaching of Savonorola, another turbulent priest whose calls for repentance created good business for the booksellers. Perhaps Italy’s publishers had learned the...

    • CHAPTER 7 First with the News
      (pp. 130-150)

      Luther’s call for reform did not succeed everywhere in Europe. But the fury of publishing activity, for and against his teachings, had demonstrated the extent of popular appetite for the printed word. Reporting from Augsburg in 1520, the agent of Charles V was immediately struck by the close connection between the evident popular excitement and the outpouring of printed works. In the process of engaging a wider public with Luther’s movement, theFlugschriftenhad themselves become part of the phenomenon. No longer merely agents of information, they were now a newsworthy event in their own right.

      The Reformation brought about...

    • CHAPTER 8 Polite Recreations
      (pp. 151-176)

      Martin crusius was a shining example of what could be achieved in the new Protestant intellectual elite of sixteenth-century Europe. The son of an evangelical minister, Crusius studied in Ulm and Strasbourg before in 1559 he was appointed Professor of Greek and Latin Literature at the University of Tübingen. In 1564 he took additional responsibility for the teaching of rhetoric, but it was as a scholar of Greek that he earned the greatest renown. Reputedly his lectures were so well attended that it was necessary to build a new lecture theatre to accommodate them. Crusius published a number of literary...

    • CHAPTER 9 At School
      (pp. 177-200)

      Like many of the sixteenth century’s greatest authors Desiderius Erasmus was both prolific and versatile. He was a brilliant linguist, and a textual scholar of acknowledged genius. Even those who disapproved of his New Testament acknowledged the scholarly virtuosity of his edition of Jerome. His engagement with issues of contemporary politics revealed both a subtle intelligence and a fierce polemical skill. A peerless stylist, Erasmus mixed wit and wisdom to devastating effect.

      So when Erasmus turned his attention to the debate on education his views could be sure of a hearing. His treatiseDe ratione studii(On the Method of...

  7. Part III Conflict

    • CHAPTER 10 The Literature of Conflict
      (pp. 203-225)

      Few events in the sixteenth century would have the symbolic resonance of a small ceremony performed outside Wittenberg on 10 December 1520. Four months previously the Pope had condemned Luther and ordered him to recant. The Papal Bull of excommunication,Exsurge Domine,was spread around Germany by the Pope’s agents. Luther was given sixty days to respond. Instead he led a small band of followers to a spot in the town ditch where he burned the Bull, along with a copy of Canon Law and some pamphlets of his principal opponents, Emser and Eck.¹ With this Luther passed a personal...

    • CHAPTER 11 The Search for Order
      (pp. 226-248)

      In January 1576, and for three years thereafter, King Henry III of France would retire to his study twice weekly after lunch to hear specially arranged lectures. Those who spoke, and others present, included the leading poets, writers and philosophers then attending the French court.¹ Some of the king’s advisers questioned whether at a time of national crisis the monarch should devote such time to philosophical debate. But the much-travelled monarch was determined to complete his political education with lectures on ambition, honour and anger. This, admittedly, was a quality not in short supply four years after the massacre of...

    • CHAPTER 12 Market Forces
      (pp. 249-270)

      There was every reason why publishers should enthusiastically support the elusive search for political stability in the second half of the sixteenth century. Governments were the sources of privileges, patronage and power. The political turmoil of this era was extremely traumatic for publishers, not least because it threatened what had been one of the fundamental cornerstones of the trade: the smooth functioning of the international market. There were years when Plantin could not move new stock to the Frankfurt Fair. Paris printers were sometimes totally absent.

      Economic activity was also extremely vulnerable to intermittent, purely local events. The savage plague...

  8. Part IV New Worlds

    • CHAPTER 13 Science and Exploration
      (pp. 273-296)

      In 1539 a young mathematician, Georg Joachim Rheticus, embarked on a journey of momentous consequence for the history of science. Rheticus is not a name well known even to scholars. At this point in his life he had little to distinguish him from other graduates of Wittenberg University apart from a family scandal: his father, a medical doctor, had been convicted of embezzlement and beheaded. In 1538 Rheticus left Wittenberg and settled in Nuremberg. Here he fell in with Johann Schoener, the city’s most distinguished astronomer; the following year he set off alone for Frauenberg, a small cathedral city on...

    • CHAPTER 14 Healing
      (pp. 297-318)

      In 1508 Johann Amerbach faced a decision that would be the nightmare of any parent. By this point Amerbach was one of Germany’s most successful printer-publishers. He was deeply engaged in the patristic editions that would make his reputation; his place in the industry, and among the business elite of Basel, was secure. But few would have envied him when his much-loved second son, Basilius, contracted kidney stones. The stone was a common affliction in sixteenth-century Europe, particularly among the well-to-do. It was a condition of prosperity, stimulated by an unbalanced diet with too much meat or fish. It was...

    • CHAPTER 15 Building a Library
      (pp. 319-332)

      In 1598 the distinguished diplomat and scholar Sir Thomas Bodley wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford offering to provide funds to re-establish a university library. It might seem strange that at this late date a university of Oxford’s antiquity should lack a library, and this was not the first attempt to create a university collection. Fitful attempts to found a library in the fourteenth century had foundered as a result of the university’s strongly collegiate structure, and it required a massive donation of over 280 volumes from Duke Humphrey of Gloucester in the 1430s and 1440s to...

    • CHAPTER 16 Word and the Street
      (pp. 333-352)

      In 1989 workmen renovating a house in Delft made a most extraordinary discovery. Squirrelled away under the floorboards was a cache of old books. On further examination they turned out to be over four hundred years old. This was an old house, and the books had clearly been concealed, and then forgotten, at some point during the Dutch Revolt. All of them were forbidden Protestant works, and discovery could have landed their original owners in serious trouble. Their survival, undisturbed, through all the house’s subsequent history is astonishing. But equally striking is the fact that, of the six books discovered,...

  9. A Note on Sources: Mapping the Geography of Print
    (pp. 353-356)
  10. Appendix: A Summary of Printed Outputs throughout Europe, 1450–1600
    (pp. 357-357)
  11. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 358-359)
    Andrew Pettegree
  12. Abbreviations
    (pp. 360-361)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 362-390)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 391-407)
  15. Index
    (pp. 408-422)