4.2.1: 1830 - 1910 - Introduction

New techniques completely changed the face of printing shops during the nineteenth century. A new technical regime - an ensemble of machines and working methods - had become established by 1900 which would only be replaced in the 1960s with the arrival of photosetting and the computer.

Hand-operated iron presses and lithography had already appeared in the Netherlands by 1830. After 1830 came the cylinder press, stereotypy, the rotary press and type-setting machines, especially the Linotype and the Monotype. Mechanisation and increase in scale were the key factors here, although it was typical of the printing business that a large number of small firms continued to survive in the face of mutual, often fierce, competition. An enormous range of illustrative techniques was introduced in letterpress and intaglio printing as well as in planography. After 1850, photographic reproduction techniques became, more and more often, part of these techniques. Besides mechanisation, chemical processes primarily edged out the work of the artist and the craftsman. Partly due to these techniques, illustrated periodicals, still an expensive rarity up to 1830, appeared, especially after 1850, on the market in a wide variety. The same applied to books and magazines for children in which pictures had always had an important place.

The new production methods allowed for a phenomenal growth in the production of printed matter as well as a much lower price for books and newspapers so that, around 1900 and for the first time in history, these were no longer exclusively luxury products.

Since the Copyright Act of 1817 (which was extended in 1882) the position of the author was gradually improved in relation to that of the publisher and it became common practice to put his name on the title page. There was more specialisation in the book trade especially, again, after 1850: more and more publishers no longer printed and sold their own books. Instead, they became the link between authors, printers and booksellers.

Compositors, printers and other personnel in the mechanised printing houses suffered from the miseries of industrialisation. In 1866 they set up the first trade union in the Netherlands, which succesfully fought for higher wages and better working conditions.

author: D. van Lente