3.2.1: 1725 - 1830 - Introduction

Certainly until the last quarter of the eighteenth century, printing production was still large, although a decreasing proportion was intended for the export market so that the dominant position of the Republic as a producer of books was gradually lost. In a technical sense, no essential changes with respect to composition and printing took place. The innovations developed around 1800 abroad only penetrated gradually into the Netherlands. Although, at the end of the century, we see some revival of national élan, a favourable climate for a degree of industrialisation of the craft of book production was missing. Complaints were made from within the craft itself about the deterioration of typographical quality: technical manuals for composition and printing were almost unknown and fear of competition meant that where previously admiration for the quality of the art of printing had existed, a veil of secrecy now surrounded it. All this may be the result of the conservative organisation of publishers, booksellers and printers in guilds: each town organised closed book trade associations which, in fact, were intended to establish a monopoly and were consequently broken up during the French period (from 1815 onwards they were replaced by the Vereeniging ter Bevordering van de Belangen des Boekhandels (Association for the Promotion of the Interests of the Book Trade) which is still in existence).

The separation of the trades of publisher and printer also took place in this period: publishers, for example Luchtmans, frequently no longer had their own printing house. In many cases there was co-operation among various publishers in so-called companies, on the one hand to spread large capital investment and, on the other hand, to limit the risk of piracy. Certainly at the end of this period, the author became a more prominent participant in the production process.

author: F.A. Janssen