1.3.7: 1460 - 1585 - Foreign trade

The era of the printed book began with a short period in which, within the Low Countries, in addition to Deventer, the district of Holland took a leading position with centres such as Delft, Gouda and to a lesser extent Haarlem. It is perhaps not coincidental that just these three cities transported great amounts of beer to the Southern Netherlands: export of books could, as far as transport was concerned, 'hitch a ride' to the South with this key industry. Antwerp certainly dominated after the year 1500: the towns in the Northern Netherlands could not compete with the ample availability of investment capital and the unequalled connections of Antwerp as a trading metropolis. Deventer, incidentally, which specialised in Latin works for scholars and students, had an important international export trade throughout this period. In the course of the sixteenth century, Amsterdam, a late-developer in the field of books, played an ever greater role. On the other hand, the thoroughly studied book trade in 's-Hertogenbosch mostly produced printed matter for a regional market. The contrast between Dutch and Latin ensured, of course, that there was a certain hierarchy in the book market: the action radius for works printed in Dutch is limited.

The activity of publisher-booksellers from the Netherlands outside the country can be observed in various ways. For the period up to 1500, the share of the Low Countries in the export of books to England and Scotland - countries which themselves had a very slow start in the printing of books - can be calculated on the basis of provenance details of copies in British libraries, although Louvain and Antwerp set the tone here, not the printing centres in the Northern Netherlands. Another indication of the book trade from the Northern Netherlands on the international market is the presence of trade members from there at the large annual fairs. The most important was the Frankfurt Book Fair. Already in 1496, did the publisher Hendrik Eckert van Homberch, from Delft, enter into a contract there for the printing of six hundred missals. Traders from the Northern Netherlands, from Amsterdam and Utrecht, were also present at the fair of 1557. From 1564, annual catalogues were printed of the books available at the Book Fair. Because of the system of exchanging book quotas among publishers, the purchases of book traders from the Northern Netherlands from foreign publishers can also be an indication. The ledgers of the Antwerp house of Plantin, which are extant from 1555 onwards, have been examined in this respect. They show that the trading contacts of Plantin with the Northern Netherlands were at a much lower level than those with the South and that they suffered greatly from the Revolt. Nevertheless, in 1583 Plantin opened a branch in Leiden.

author: K. Goudriaan

Foreign trade