Living and printing in the Southern Netherlands from the origins to 1520


Living and printing in the Southern Netherlands from the origins to 1520
Tome 1 & 2
Novembre 2018
95 €
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Renaud Adam, a researcher in modern history at the Transitions Research Unit (Faculty of Philosophy and Letters), publishes - with BREPOLS Editions - two volumes devoted to his thesis subject, a historical and socio-economic study of the typographic art of the Southern Netherlands from 1473 to 1520.


n his latest book, Renaud Adam - researcher in modern history at the Transitions Research Unit - looks back at a pivotal period in our past, the one in which printing was born. The study of the opening of the first printing workshops in our regions is an opportunity for him to analyse the upheavals caused by this change in the media. It should not be forgotten that printing must be considered one of the most important technological innovations in history, since it had a major impact on European civilisation and gave rise to the first major "media revolution".

The central theme of this book - a kind of breadcrumb trail linking each of the parties - could be summed up in a question, simple in appearance, but so complex: how did the first printers integrate into the socio-economic fabric of the southern Netherlands at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries? To answer this question, it was necessary to look at the printing profession with questions centred around the legal status and organization of this profession as well as the internal functioning of a pharmacy, the marketing of books and the profile of the clientele. The examination of the composition of the community of first printers and an attempt to shell the reticular frames tied with the other actors of urban society were a logical follow-up to this approach. These two major surveys are at the heart of the first volume. The obsolescence of the syntheses on the history of the early printing industry in the Southern Netherlands and the constant evolution of research quickly convinced the author of the need to rewrite a detailed city-to-city history of the introduction of printing in these regions and its evolution until 1520. This is precisely the subject of the second volume, supplemented by a dictionary of printers who had worked before 1520.

In less than fifty years, these new entrepreneurs have found their place in the socio-economic fabric of the cities where they have established themselves and have profoundly modified the entire book industry. These pioneers not only laid the foundations for a community whose structures would be maintained throughout the Ancien Régime, but also prepared the conditions necessary for the emergence of the Golden Age of Antwerp's printing house, personified by Christophe Plantin.

The questions at the centre of this book have a particular resonance in the debates around the digital revolution we are currently experiencing. Indeed, yesterday's printing plants are today's startups and Antwerp was at the heart of Silicon Valley at the time.

Bibliographical reference

Renaud Adam, Living and Printing in the Southern Netherlands (from the Origins to the Reformation), t. 1: Men, Workshops and Cities, t. 2: Historiographical Review and Pro-Sopographical Dictionary, Turnhout, Brepols, 2018.

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