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Writing About Reading: Part 1

David McKitterick. Nicolas Bell. Neil Harris.

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Library of the Written Word

Download all figures. Sign in. You could not be signed in. Sign In Forgot password? Don't have an account? Sign in via your Institution Sign in. Purchase Subscription prices and ordering Short-term Access To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above. This article is also available for rental through DeepDyve. Yet an absence of genuine piety should not be assumed. To fight over dogma was not simply unprofitable; in some circles it was viewed as unchristian as well. Whether they were God-fearing or not, these seemingly opportunistic publishers were among the first men of substance in many European towns to sponsor an irenic, tolerant, and ecumenical approach to Christian dogma.

It was under the aegis of his Basel publisher-employer that Sebastian Castellio's argument for religious toleration was articulated and publicized. Castellio was also protected from Calvin's effort at extradition by this same Basel printer.

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In some ways the position of such men was similar to that of secular rulers, such as Elizabeth I or Henri IV, who opposed religious fanaticism as a threat to domestic peace. One member of the Estienne printing dynasty has been described as a "politique avant la lettre," because his position so clearly resembled that of the supporters of Henri IV.

Their business flourished better in loosely federated realms than in strongly consolidated ones. Dynastic warfare, like religious warfare, proved disruptive to their trade, and their operations were crippled by too much bureaucratic interference. Much as was the case with later Enlightenment philosophes who sought favor at foreign courts, the.


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They kept family firms solvent and presses in operation by alliances with Spaniards and Dutchmen and all shades of Frenchmen alike. Acting as independent agents, they supplied organs of publicity and covert support to groups representing a so-called third force — one that was unaffiliated with any single established church or powerful state. As independent agents they also contributed to the emergence of a new lay international intellectual class. New careers in printing shops were opened to sixteenth-century students and clerks who had previously found patronage primarily in the Church.

Obscure young monks such as Erasmus and Rabelais could rise in the world without staying in clerical orders. As a friendless young canon from Rotterdam, Erasmus avoided having to defer to clerical superiors by taking full advantage of the new forms of patronage extended after print. Hundreds of complimentary copies given him by his printers were used by the clever author to fool hundreds of patrons into thinking of themselves as dedicatees and thus providing hundreds of pensions and favors in return.

By garnering favors and pensions from many different lords and ladies, he freed himself from being dependent on any single one and could use his considerable powers of persuasion to win support for causes that he himself held dear. Similar strategies were adopted by the philosophes.

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When their work came off the presses, Voltaire and Rousseau often made a point of having dozens of copies specially printed on fine "papier de Hollande" and sent to powerful personages who would in turn assure them of their support and protection. To be sure, Erasmus, unlike the philosophes, looked to popes as well as princes for support. He died within the Catholic Church, deploring the outbreak of religious warfare and Protestant zeal. Yet even Erasmus became subversive in the view of the Counter-Reformation Church.

His books were printed in Protestant realms and smuggled into Catholic ones; and this was the fate of almost every bestselling author from the sixteenth century on. Hugh Trevor-Roper has said the age of Erasmus was a golden age for literati "because it lay between the invention of printing and of its.

Learning and the Market Place (Library of the Written Word Volume 9 the Handpress World Volume 6)

Once Protestant-Catholic divisions were fixed, the Index produced an important asymmetric effect in the pattern of the European printed book trade. Placing a title on the Index which heightened risks and lowered profits for Catholic printers had just the reverse effect upon Protestant ones. Index copies were used by enterprising Dutch printers as guides to their publication programs and by English librarians as guides to their purchases. In eighteenth-century Vienna, a catalogue of forbidden books was itself catalogued as forbidden, because it publicized censored titles.

But such jokes were almost always at the expense of Catholic printers, who watched helplessly as the profits from bestsellers flowed into Protestant hands. When Erasmus's complete works were finally published at the end of the seventeenth century, they were published in Amsterdam by a Huguenot editor we have already mentioned, Jean LeClerc. LeClerc's Amsterdam office served as clearinghouse for the Commonwealth of Learning. There he received letters from scattered readers such as Berkeley, Leibniz, and Vico. His grandfather, Nicholas, had been a close friend and legatee of the scholar-printer Henri II Estienne.

But LeClerc also taught himself English in , made contact with the Royal Society, and brought up his son in accordance with the precepts of John Locke. He thus bridged the worlds of the Latin- writing Christian humanist and the Francophone enlightened philosophe. In addition to publishing the collected works of Erasmus, he devoted a large part of his journal, as we have already noted, to promoting the work of Newton and Locke.