3.2.5: 1725 - 1830 - Co-operation

The eighteenth-century book trade involved many different forms of co-operation in which family relations often played a major role, although their importance decreased as the century progressed. This applied, for example, to the Amsterdam company for church books. Bringing together the necessary capital, spreading the risk and creating the best possible distribution facilities formed the basis for the companies which were involved in long-term, capital-intensive publications such as encyclopaedias. Usually, booksellers from a number of towns were involved, sometimes even from abroad. In the course of the eighteenth century, however, more and more smaller publications were published by associations, sometimes on an ad hoc basis, sometimes as a more or less long-term co-operation for specific types of publications. Co-operation between publishers also often covered the distribution of one another's publications.

Fighting piracy was another reason for co-operation. A company was formed in Amsterdam in 1710 for the purpose of reprinting the books of those involved in piracy. This company, however, quickly put reprints of French publications on the market mostly intended for foreign markets. A group of booksellers from Amsterdam and The Hague in varying combinations regularly worked together as a company to publish French-language works, especially novels, first editions as well as reprints.

The co-operative associations which, from the late 1730s, bought up stock list titles (including the copyright on them), mainly at trade sales, were of a completely different nature. These titles were sometimes expensive, unfinished series which the company then completed or major works of which the company brought out a new edition. More often it was a case of no longer up to date works which the company attempted to sell at reduced prices. The most important of these was the Company of Eight of Amsterdam which, from 1750 to 1770, was active in both remaindering and in continuing publications they had taken over. Speculation and attempts to avert impending bankruptcy were the basic reasons for the many trade sales in the 1740s by the Company of Five of The Hague where many imported books were sold, especially new French-language works.

Joint ventures were formed at the local level for joint publications and for the distribution of novelties. In a number of towns, booksellers' councils were established for the regulation of daily operations in their town and , among other things, for agreeing prices.

In the international book trade, a number of booksellers entered into close co-operation with colleagues and intermediaries abroad or had branches in major cities such as Leipzig, Berlin, Geneva, Paris and London. The best-known bookseller with important foreign connections was Marc-Michel Rey, active in Amsterdam from 1744 to 1780.

From 1725 onwards, (the end date is not known), a company based in The Hague and London was active in the import and export of foreign books on a large scale. For the antiquarian book trade in the years 1711-1748, a number of booksellers from The Hague worked together with several Dutch booksellers in London who bought books there to be sold at public auctions in The Hague.

The large-scale co-operation with foreign booksellers gradually declined in the second half of the eighteenth century and disappeared almost completely on the outbreak of war with England in 1780.

author: H. van Goinga