1.3.4: 1460 - 1585 - Range (genre/language) and form of books traded

Little is known at the moment about the range and form of the books traded in this period. Data from shop books, store catalogues or stock lists which were sometimes maintained by the larger booksellers is seldom extant.

Moreover, not everything that was printed in the Netherlands was included in the stock range of the Dutch bookseller. Sometimes, printed works were also intended for the foreign market (such as Latin and French books) often via the large book fairs (such as Frankfurt). Sometimes, editions were almost wholly intended for export (for example Danish and Spanish books). A whole edition could also be produced for a single client (for example liturgical books ad usum Sarum - Salisbury). On the other hand , not everything that was sold by Dutch booksellers was printed in the Netherlands. There were the usual exchange imports of foreign titles as well as the printing of books contracted out abroad. Occasionally, complete printing houses were moved to England (London, 1545-1553) or to the German areas (especially Emden, 1554-1569); they retained, however, their major sales area in the Netherlands.

Little is known about the form of the traded book. According to the details which are known about some publishers-booksellers (Cornelis Claesz, Plantin), it may be assumed that book production generally ended with the gathering of the printed sheets. It is possible that books in sheets were stacked in 'layers' where the sheets were folded over once. Most copies would have been sold in sheets (in albis, en blanc). The book would have been taken in this form by the purchaser to a binder of his choice who could, incidentally, be the same person as the printer-bookseller. A small number of the books would have been bound immediately for sale in the printer-publisher's including, of course, some copies of successful, popular works. Bound books in stock in the shop would, however, often be second-hand books.

The inventory of the bookbinder and bookseller, Gelis van Bathman of Zwolle (circa 1567), shows that he had a number of bound, second-hand books (in folio) for sale, but predominantly unbound, new books. Almost two-thirds of the 123 books which he had in stock at that moment were religious works. As not all booksellers had an equally well-stocked range, and as there were also specialised booksellers, the details about a single bookseller cannot be extrapolated to make statements about booksellers in general.

author: A. den Hollander

Range (genre/language) and form of books traded