4.3.4: 1830 - 1910 - Range (genre/language) and form of books traded

In the second half of the nineteenth century, simultaneously with an increase in the production of titles, more diversification and specialisation of genres could be observed. The annually published lists of new publications are illustrative in this respect: if the titles offered in the Naamlijst by Saakes of around 1830 could still be placed in eight categories, by the middle of the century the Brinkman needed more than 25 categories to include the annual production. This development led to the advent of specialist bookshops in language, genre or philosophy of life. Thus J.T. Doorman of Amsterdam sold 'militaria', De Erven Keizer of Amsterdam had specialised in Catholic devotion books and F.W. van Breest Smallenburg of Sneek did not sell 'foreign books but only French and Dutch and a few Greek and Latin books'. In the years 1847-1849, bookshop Tjeenk Willink sold more than one thousand books per year, of which more than one half consisted of recent editions. These sales also show a wide variety of genres and one third of the goods sold consisted of magazines, own editions and literary series. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the production of magazines, but also of daily newspapers, would rise enormously and the literary series would become extremely popular with print runs of 2000 and even up to 10,000 copies.

The share of non-Dutch reading material was large in the nineteenth century: over 30% of the sales in the Zwolle book stores of Tjeenk Willink and Waanders were foreign titles. Half these foreign works were French titles (mainly novels), followed by German titles (mainly textbooks, historical and literary works). Theological texts were still occasionally published in Latin, and Greek was still used in textbooks and school editions of the classics.

The form in which the titles were offered for sale in the bookshop also changed in the course of the nineteenth century. Many, especially more expensive, books were initially published in separate instalments. This allowed the publisher to determine the number of copies he had to have printed for the next instalment and gave him an opportunity to finance the next instalment with the revenues from the previous one. He could also decide, when the first instalments sold poorly, to discontinue the production of the book. The sale in separate instalments also enabled people with less spending power to collect an expensive book over time. When the selling price of books began to drop, publishing in separate instalments was discontinued; by 1895 only some schoolbooks and almanacs were still published in separate instalments. The paper jacket with which the separate sheets of printed matter were protected until the customer had them bound in a binding of his choice, was replaced by a linen publisher's binding stamped with the name of the publisher. From about 1840 onwards, books were offered for sale ready-made; for books published in instalments the publisher's binding was supplied, if desired, together with the final instalment.

At the same time the phenomenon arose of marketing a book in several forms: the 'popular edition' on cheap paper, with little white space and in small octavo format for the less well-to-do public, the more expensive variant on better paper and with more white space in post format (also called large octavo format) and finally the de luxe edition in super royal format.

The third impression of the Max Havelaar (by Multatuli, the pseudonym of Eduard Douwes Dekker 1820-1887) of 1871 is an example of this: the ordinary edition cost 2.40 guilders (about € 1.10) when stitched, or 2.90 guilders (about € 1.30) when bound, and the edition in super royal format cost 7.50 guilders (about € 3.40). Five thousand copies of the ordinary edition were printed, but only one hundred copies of the luxury edition.

author: Chantal Keijsper

Range (genre/language) and form of books traded