2.2.3: 1585 - 1725 - Relationship between publisher and author

Something is known of the relationship between publisher and author in individual cases, but it is not clear who usually determined the typographical design (what type of paper, which format, what type, how many illustrations). The question of whether publishers influenced the author's copy with respect to form or content will remain largely unanswered even though it is known that in a few cases a publisher consistently changed an author's spelling. The question of how copy was produced is also a question which, because of the small amount of copy that has survived, cannot be answered conclusively: did the author in his manuscript already account for the typographical design or was an apograph, which had to serve as copy, produced from the autograph?

Although the large number of reprints indicates otherwise, seventeenth-century publishers could not complain about lack of copy. By that time, the Republic had no fewer than five universities (Leiden, Franeker, Harderwijk, Groningen and Utrecht) which served as a source for potential authors, while a large number of foreign refugees wanted to see their texts, forbidden elsewhere, in print there.

There were therefore many different suppliers of a multitude of texts. Authors were usually not or very poorly paid, either because they spoiled the market with a large number of complimentary author's copies or because they received payment from another source (authorities, patron) or because in this period they considered it to be beneath their station to accept money for the fruit of their pens. There were also the better-paid translators, illustrators (often well-known artists such as Romeyn de Hooghe and Jan Luyken) and correctors, and - with the rise in the second half of the seventeenth century of the newspaper and journal (Spectators and scholarly journals) as a new medium - the editors and journalists who had to ensure that new editions were filled and appeared on time.

The relationship between publishers and authors was a different one from that of publisher and translator. The latter was more often commissioned by a publisher; the author usually sought a publisher himself or, if necessary, had the printing done at his own expense (in that case 'for the author' appeared on the title page), although they would often be supported, especially in case of occasional poetry, by a customer (an official body or private patron). Some authors had a regular publisher or, to put it differently, some publishers had gathered together a circle of authors and their businesses acted as a cultural meeting place where various people met. Examples of this are, among others, the artists' and printers' workshop of the Van de Venne brothers in Middelburg and the bookshop of Jacob Lescailje in Amsterdam where authors of plays, poets, translators and actors met one another.

During this period, as far as literary texts are concerned, a development from collective to individual production took place. Anonymous texts from chambers of rhetoric made way to publications with the name of the author on the title page. It also looks as though, from the second half of the seventeenth century onwards, the manufacture of literature was becoming more and more accepted as a way of making a living (possibly by way of patronage): a larger category of so-called hacks came into being. As more publishers arrived, a certain amount of specialisation took place. In addition to publishers of literature, there were those who focused on genres such as almanacs, atlases, travelogues and religious literature.

Information is available on the relationship between the major Renaissance authors and their publishers. Huygens and Vondel took more of an interest in the end result than Hooft; Bredero found a dedicated editor in his publisher, C.L. van der Plasse. Changes to the text were often made right up to the last stages of production. As no form of copyright yet existed, we find, in addition to clearly authorised texts, many unauthorised publications sometimes scraped together by publishers from whatever available source. Early seventeenth-century songbooks were often compiled from apographs obtained by a publisher. Publishers did not shrink from obtaining roles written for actors for an illegal edition either.

author: P.J. Verkruijsse

Relationship between publisher and author