2.3.1: 1585 - 1725 - Introduction

Book distribution was able to develop rapidly in the seventeenth century. The range for the domestic market, which was also strongly internationally oriented, became larger and larger and more and more varied. Many professional books, maps and prints, reading matter and literature, utility goods such as bibles, schoolbooks, almanacs and calendars, but also paper and writing materials found their way to the customers via various distribution channels. The booksellers sold their own publications in their own shops. This stock was expanded with editions from others through barter and later also by commission selling so that a wide range was obtained, use was frequently made of (family) networks among the printers, booksellers and traders. In addition, auctions, especially in The Hague and in Leiden, ensured mass distribution primarily for the branch itself (by way of stock auctions and trade auctions), but also for private individuals (private libraries). Books were also brought to the attention of the public in other ways. Publisher's lists and stock lists were often included at the end of books. New editions were announced in advertisements in newspapers. Larger publishing houses also brought out separate stock catalogues and publisher's catalogues. Sale by subscription only appeared in the third quarter of the seventeenth century. A lively street trade existed as well; pedlars and hawkers sold cheap reprints, pamphlets, songs, almanacs, newspapers and comic booklets, often to the annoyance of the established traders.

For the foreign book trade, the branch was able to make use of the many networks for international trade and shipping. Distribution abroad took place via various channels: through general trading agents or specific book agents in various towns or directly via colleague booksellers. Some publishers had warehouses abroad for their books or even established branches abroad. The book fairs at Frankfurt and later in the seventeenth century also at Leipzig formed the major European distribution channels for the Dutch. Lyons and Paris also had such annual fairs. Besides personal business contact, the printed publishers' lists and stock catalogues offered the best insight into the supply of books. The book trade aimed at the foreign market was concentrated particularly in the west of the Republic.

author: Piet Visser