A decade ago in the Times Literary Supplement, Roderick Conway Morris claimed that “almost everything that was going to happen in book publishing—from pocket books, instant books and pirated books, to the concept of author’s copyright, company mergers, and remainders—occurred during the early days of printing.” Ian Maclean’s colorful survey of the flourishing learned book trade of the late Renaissance brings this assertion to life.
The story he tells covers most of Europe, with Frankfurt and its Fair as the hub of intellectual exchanges among scholars and of commercial dealings among publishers. The three major religious confessions jostled for position there, and this rivalry affected nearly all aspects of learning. Few scholars were exempt from religious or financial pressures. Maclean’s chosen example is the literary agent and representative of international Calvinism, Melchior Goldast von Haiminsfeld, whose activities included opportunistic involvement in the political disputes of the day. Maclean surveys the predicament of underfunded authors, the activities of greedy publishing entrepreneurs, the fitful interventions of regimes of censorship and licensing, and the struggles faced by sellers and buyers to achieve their ends in an increasingly overheated market.
The story ends with an account of the dramatic decline of the scholarly book trade in the 1620s, and the connivance of humanist scholars in the values of the commercial world through which they aspired to international recognition. Their fate invites comparison with today’s writers of learned books, as they too come to terms with new technologies and changing academic environments.
Vividly written and masterfully researched, this book tells of the travails of scholarly publication even in its heyday in the late Renaissance. With clarity and nuance Maclean explains the economic and intellectual constraints on the production and trade in learned books in an age of religious conflict and the ingenious tricks devised to help books sell across long distances and spans of time. Maclean skillfully combines quantitative data with attention to specific examples—of hopeful authors, harried printers and shady middlemen.
In this lucid and fascinating book, Ian Maclean explores the commercial, religious and intellectual interests which sometimes converged and all too frequently collided in the vast transnational market for learned books in early modern Europe. Maclean provides a welcome antidote to the romanticized view of the Renaissance scholar-printer, providing an up-close and knowledgeable examination of the ways in which the hardscrabble practices of the book trade shaped the form and content of printed books. This is book history at its best, attentive to the swirling forces of intellectual fashion, religious division, censorship, piracy, and commerce that affected the writing, making, and reading of early modern books.
Maclean lays out an erudite, vivid, and irresistibly readable account of the world of publishing in the age of polymathy that lasted from the middle of the sixteenth to early in the seventeenth century. This is the best account we have of the ecology of European scholarly publishing in any period, and will be of fundamental importance both to the growing community of historians of the book and to all those interested in the intellectual history of early modern Europe.
Maclean's Scholarship, Commerce, Religion: The Learned Book in the Age of Confessions, 1560-1630 evokes a publishing world so different from the 21st century's that visiting it seems like a vacation from today's too-familiar circumstances...Drawing on publishers' catalogues, reports of the Frankfurt book fair (where the number of titles more than doubled between 1593 and 1613) and the records of titles found in scholars' libraries following their deaths, Maclean recreates something of the prevailing routines and difficulties of scholarly publishing in this era.
[This is] a broad account of the trade in scholarly books across Western Europe. Building on a lifetime's work on the intellectual history of the Renaissance and the transmission of knowledge (not least his case studies published in 2009 as Learning in the Market Place), Maclean is uniquely placed to conduct a survey both wide in its sweep and densely descriptive in its detail...In pursuing answers he pieces together a fascinating array of evidence from details of print runs and costings (always a puzzle) to the importance of 'Tauschhandel' (barter) in which massive stocks of warehoused books represented capital ('a sort of bank account or currency in the form of printed sheets'). He maps the complexity of jurisdictions affecting the control of international trade and recounts the often entertaining specifics of piracies, rivalries and routine double-dealing...Maclean offers some carefully judged comparisons with our own electronic age.
- 400 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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