2.3.6: 1585 - 1725 - Forms of trading / payment

In the trade among booksellers themselves, the usual method of payment was not in cash but the books themselves. In this barter trade or 'change', printed sheets of the same value were exchanged. This form was particularly common in the trade abroad. Within the Republic, payment on account was often chosen for transactions. Booksellers settled the accounts once a year. If the bartered goods turned out to be of equal value, no exchange of cash followed. If they were not equal, payment in books was the usual method. This form of trade and payment was used both by booksellers within a particular town and by booksellers from different towns. The result was that one's own publishing list was expanded into a larger and more varied stock list. Publisher's catalogues simplified this method of trading. Large booksellers had numerous editions of their own to exchange and therefore profited more from this system than the small booksellers who often had to pay in cash.

Commission trade occurred on a limited scale in the seventeenth century. Small booksellers in particular sent their editions to larger booksellers who then offered them for sale in their shops, returning the unsold ones. Topical printed matter was treated somewhat differently. Booksellers frequently and without any direct order sent pamphlets and newspapers to colleagues, for instance in 1650, when Wilhelm Breeckevelt of The Hague sent subversive pamphlets to booksellers in Amsterdam and Leiden. Joost Broersz and Jan van Hilten sent in the years 1639-1640 twelve copies each week of the Amsterdamsche Courant to Tjerck Claessen in Leeuwarden. Van Hilten himself determined the nature and the amount of these goods. Delivery on order for this type of printed matter took too much time and did not help rapid dissemination of news.

If barter was used as widely as described above, how was cash obtained? Firstly, through the sales in one's own shop and, from the 1660s, subscription publishing also seemed a way to obtain cash. Finally, book auctions provided a method for obtaining cash. These auctions had other functions as well: they offered booksellers the opportunity to meet one other and were a way to obtain items for one's own stock list and to clear titles which were difficult to sell. Among the public auctions were stock auctions where shop stocks were auctioned and publisher's lists auctions where one's own editions, remainders and copyright were auctioned. Stock auctions were initially visited by both private individuals and booksellers, but after 1640, they developed into occasions solely for those operating within the branch. Stricter regulations developed around the middle of the century whereby the conditions under which an auction could be held were tightened. In various cities, the auctioning of books from other cities was prohibited. The auction was of great importance in the seventeenth-century book trade, judging by newspaper advertisements, at the end of the century, thirty to fifty book auctions with printed catalogues were held annually in Holland.

author: J. Salman

Forms of trading / payment