2.3.5: 1585 - 1725 - Methods of distribution / advertising

During this period, printed matter was generally distributed in two ways: through the established bookseller and through the itinerant booksellers. The established bookseller had a wide range in his shop and generally focused on the sophisticated and well-to-do customers (see paragraph 2.3.2 for the bookshop). He also sold second-hand books through restricted auctions: the public sale of private libraries for which printed catalogues were distributed to inform the public. The earliest known catalogue dates from 1599 for an auction of part of the library of Philips Marnix of Sint Aldegonde, which was held in Leiden by Lodewijk (I) Elzevier. At the end of the seventeenth century, the restricted auction was the most common way to sell second-hand books. Sellers of old books have been active since that time. They were members of the guild for half price and were only allowed to trade used (bound) books.

Subscription publishing was a distribution method that gave the bookseller some certainty about sales figures. Buyers indicated their interest in the planned edition on subscription lists. In return, they were promised a discount on the sales price. Payment was on delivery, but a part was also regularly paid in advance. The first publisher to try this method was the Amsterdam bookseller, Johannes Janssonius van Waesberge, in 1678. Twelve subscription editions are known for the period up to 1700. This form of distribution was only put to more general use in the eighteenth century.

How did booksellers make their goods known to the public and to their bookseller colleagues? Advertisements in newspapers fulfilled an increasingly important role in the seventeenth century in addition to existing methods such as the title page and the prospectus. The oldest one known dates from 1624 in a newspaper by Broer Jansz.. The Oprechte Haerlemsche Courant, in particular, grew, from 1656 onwards into a popular advertising medium. Book trade catalogues were also an important link in the seventeenth century between booksellers and professional and private buyers. In the period 1640-1652, the Amsterdam bookseller Broer Jansz, issued, firstly half-yearly and later yearly, the Catalogue Universalis with a list of new books from the Republic. Individual booksellers published stock lists and publisher's catalogues, sometimes with printed prices. The stock catalogue contained in fact the shop stock. The oldest known is that of the Amsterdam bookseller, Cornelis Claesz, of 1604. The publisher's catalogue was a list of one's own editions. The printed catalogues for stock auctions and publishers' list auctions were of a similar nature. From the last quarter of the seventeenth century we know of printed lists of publisher's list items or works which were available from a bookseller included on blank pages at the end of books or distributed separately.

Itinerant hawkers and singers and town pedlars served a wider social and geographically scattered public than their established colleagues. They specialised particularly in cheap, ephemeral printed matter. At the end of the sixteenth century, the itinerant trade could cover a very wide area from a single distribution centre. In this manner, reached the almanacs and prognostications of the Deventer bookseller Simon (I) Steenberch (also called Van Steenbergen) of 1596 nearly every district of the Republic.

Hawkers and singers covered both towns and villages, visited annual fairs and went from house to house. Pedlars restricted themselves to the streets and squares of the town. Both groups attracted buyers by singing songs (their own), making music (with the violin or the hurdy-gurdy), calling out their wares and declaiming short poems. Established bookseller saw this free trade as unfair competition and insisted that town authorities restrained it.

author: J. Salman

Methods of distribution / advertising