2.2.1: 1585 - 1725 - Introduction

The production of printed matter did not undergo any essential changes in the period 1585-1725. Faster and cheaper production methods were, however, sought. The technical improvements to the press such as the 'Blaeu-hose' can be attributed to this as can experiments with standing formes and stereotype and the contracting out of work to printers in the outer districts which apparently were much cheaper. Engravings and etchings increasingly replaced woodcuts as a means of illustrating a book. The population explosion in the North after the fall of Antwerp in 1585 and a new wave of refugees after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 created a rapidly growing market for both the consumer and the producer, hardly impeded by censorship. Among those producers were well-known printer-publisher families who had sometimes been working for generations and where wives had often carried on the business. Printer-publishers from abroad were working here as well: Southern Netherlanders, Spanish-Portuguese Jews, Germans, Frenchmen and Englishmen.

The number of print shops, established in more than ninety different towns and villages but particularly concentrated in the large towns of Holland and in the regional centres such as Utrecht and Groningen, amounted to hundreds. The number of titles - of which a sizeable percentage produced anonymously or with a fictitious imprint - ran into the tens of thousands. This enormous production in every language (for export) and in every genre, including new categories such as newspapers and journals, ensured that slowly but surely a clear distinction developed between printers, publishers and booksellers. Publishers did not always have their own press, on the other hand, not all printers published.

During this period, printers and publishers organised themselves in separate guilds which split off from the guild of St. Luke. The organisation of work differed from printer to printer in that, in small printing offices, fewer people were involved in the production process than in the larger, well equipped ones. The co-operation between the various people and institutions involved in the production of printed matter became more complex. During this period we see an increasing specialisation among publishers who focused on particular genres (almanacs, atlases, bibles, newspapers, etc.); some even made a living of reprinting what others - both at home and abroad - had put on the market. Publishers' co-operatives became more fashionable, the so-called companies, and the phenomenon of subscription publishing should also be seen as an attempt to limit financial risks.

author: P.J. Verkruijsse


university printers

Definition: a printer appointed by a university to publish scholarly texts produced in that university

letterpress printers

Definition: printer specialising in the printing of books.


Definition: 1. person who practises the craft of printing. 2. person or organisation responsible - usually to the publisher - for the printing of a publication.

printers' manuals

Definition: practical book of instruction on the technical side of printing, in which aspects of composing and printing are discussed.

printers' devices

Definition: symbol or figure (emblem, monogram) sometimes with an emblematic representation and/or accompanied by a maxim, used by printers in their publications to identify their company.

map printers

Definition: printer, specialised in the printing of geographical and topographical maps.

art printers

Definition: printer specialised in the printing of plates and prints.

state printers

Definition: printer who is appointed by the government to print the publications of central government.

government printers

Definition: printer employed by a governmental institution taking care of the publication of the official documents that are produced by this institution.

copperplate printers

Definition: printers who, with the help of a copperplate press, make prints of engraved metal plates; for the reproduction of prints and maps.

provincial printers

Definition: printer appointed by a provincial government to publish publications of the provincial government.

town printers

Definition: printer appointed by a town council to print the publications of the local government.

printers to the Provincial States

Definition: printer appointed by the States of a Province in the Republic of the Seven United Provinces to print the publications of the provincial government.