4.0: 1830 - 1910 - Introduction

Various important developments and changes occurred during this period compared to the previous one, caused because the Netherlands, partly as a result of the French period (1795-1813), had lost its international position as a book-trading nation and was now primarily dependent on the domestic market. The changes may be categorised in terms of industrialisation, rationalisation, commercialisation and literacy.

With respect to industrialisation the first change to be mentioned has to be the installation of the cylinder press at the Enschedé firm (1829) which marked the beginning of the gradual departure from manual production methods for books and periodicals. Whereas the introduction of the iron hand press (1819) had pushed the wooden hand press further and further into the background, especially after 1850, innovations and applications quickly followed one another in the field of new printing techniques and illustrative techniques. The invention of lithography and steel engraving gradually displaced etching and copper engraving and, in addition, the introduction of the cylinder press, the high-speed press and the rotary press increased printing capacity from 150 to 200 sheets per hour (one-sided print) to 12,000 per hour (both sides printed).

The use of the new printing and illustration techniques brought about considerable changes to the appearance of books, but the introduction of the industrial publisher's binding and the transition from paper made from rags to acid paper made from wood-pulp also gave books and periodicals a new look. At the end of the century the 'Nieuwe Kunst' (Dutch Art Nouveau) movement would rebel against this industrially produced printed matter. The installation of Monotype type setting machines and Linotype type setting machines ensured that the manual production of newspapers and other periodical publications decreased more and more.

The new methods of producing books and periodicals brought about growth in the range of titles from about seven hundred titles in 1830 to three thousand per year by 1900. An increase in the range on offer was created not only by the rise of popular periodicals for all kinds of specific target groups (among others women, children, hobbyists), but also by the expansion in the area of teaching aids after the introduction of new subjects at primary schools (1857) and the establishment of new types of schools such as the HBS (Secondary Modern School) (1863). At the same time, the growth in the population from 2.1 million around the year 1800 to 5.2 million by the year 1900 and the increasing number of retailers from 700 to 1,750 enforced rationalisation in, among others, the distribution of books and periodicals. The opening up of the 'the empty countryside' by way of infrastructural measures, such as railways, canals and roads, made the distribution of printed material much easier and quicker. Although up until the 1830s this still took place through contacts between publisher-booksellers via commission selling, correspondents in Amsterdam gradually took over the distribution of books. During the 1860s, this system, under the influence of the Vereeniging ter Bevordering van de Belangen des Boekhandels (Association for the Promotion of the Interests of the Book Trade = VBBB), was rationalised further in the form of a Bestelhuis (distribution office) for the book trade.

Rationalisation within the professional body also took place. Although from 1815, the VBBB had united all publisher-booksellers under its wing, conflicting interests gradually brought about the creation of separate organisations for publishers, the NUB (Dutch Publishers Association) in 1880 and for retailers NDB (Dutch Retailers Association) in 1907. Partly under the influence of increasing competition, printers and illustrators also began to organise themselves. A certain degree of professionalisation in the book trade was visible in that professional training was introduced for the various trade groups. The author also emerged as a serious party towards the end of this period through the Vereniging van Letterkundigen (Association of Writers) which was established in 1905. This ensured that the Copyright Act of 1881, which at last had determined that a work was the intellectual property of the author or his assignees, in practice also led to further improvements in the position of the author. The traditional bookseller-publisher, with his fixed clientele, was faced with increasing competition due to the increase in the number of retailers and the growth in supply. This led, on the one hand, to increasing differentiation between publishers and retailers and, on the other hand, to the commercialisation of the way in which remainders from publisher's lists were traded. Whereas these were originally auctioned to colleagues only in the event of closing down, bankruptcy or death, in the year 1857 A.C. Kruseman first held an 'interim' stock auction open to outsiders as well. Continuing commercialisation could be seen in the way in which publishers and retailers sold their books. Colleagues and the public were encouraged to buy through lotteries, premiums, discounts, gifts, etcetera. Offering books on approval, by subscription and in instalments were other methods to convince hesitant buyers. Diversification in the editions formed, on the one hand, a way to sell old titles again in a cheaper form and, on the other hand, brought the same title to different groups of buyers. The hawker and/or agent was used as a way to find buyers in the countryside, especially for expensive de luxe editions which appeared in instalments.

An ever-increasing proportion of the population was being given the opportunity to obtain knowledge through growing literary socialisation via reading circles, libraries for the common man, reading libraries and shop libraries. The time spent on reading increased in absolute terms due to inventions such as gas lighting and the electric light bulb, but also increased in relative terms because the average age of people rose from 35 in 1830 to 60 in 1910. The reduction in the working week from about 80 to 60 hours or even less also offered, as did increased wages, more time and opportunity to spend time with books and periodicals. Newspapers, in particular, were more widely distributed following the abolition of the newspaper tax (1869) and were used more and more as an advertising medium. A more aggressive market approach was clearly reflected in the nature of book advertisements.

Only in 1900, with the Primary Education Act that introduced compulsory schooling for children from 6-12, was literacy in principle guaranteed for all. New buyers were found not only because the books could be produced more cheaply, but through distribution channels such as the first Dutch secular book club, the Wereldbibliotheek: the Society for Good and Cheap Literature, which was established in 1905.

The exact interaction between the various developments is difficult to establish, but it is clear that the combination of different factors led to increasing democratisation in reading. It must, however, be remembered that, in spite of general literacy by the year 1910, the degree of actual participation in the reading culture was still greatly dependent on factors such as education, religion, gender, income and place of residence. Large sections of the population did not participate at all, or only to a small extent, for whatever reason in the reading culture in the year 1910.

author: B.P.M. Dongelmans