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The Bookshop of the World: Making and Trading Books in the Dutch Golden Age

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The untold story of how the Dutch conquered the European book market and became the world's greatest bibliophiles The Dutch Golden Age has long been seen as the age of Rembrandt and Vermeer, whose paintings captured the public imagination and came to represent the marvel that was the Dutch Republic. Yet there is another, largely overlooked marvel in the Dutch world of the The untold story of how the Dutch conquered the European book market and became the world's greatest bibliophiles The Dutch Golden Age has long been seen as the age of Rembrandt and Vermeer, whose paintings captured the public imagination and came to represent the marvel that was the Dutch Republic. Yet there is another, largely overlooked marvel in the Dutch world of the seventeenth century: books. In this fascinating account, Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen show how the Dutch produced many more books than pictures and bought and owned more books per capita than any other part of Europe. Key innovations in marketing, book auctions, and newspaper advertising brought stability to a market where elsewhere publishers faced bankruptcy, and created a population uniquely well-informed and politically engaged. This book tells for the first time the remarkable story of the Dutch conquest of the European book world and shows the true extent to which these pious, prosperous, quarrelsome, and generous people were shaped by what they read.


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The untold story of how the Dutch conquered the European book market and became the world's greatest bibliophiles The Dutch Golden Age has long been seen as the age of Rembrandt and Vermeer, whose paintings captured the public imagination and came to represent the marvel that was the Dutch Republic. Yet there is another, largely overlooked marvel in the Dutch world of the The untold story of how the Dutch conquered the European book market and became the world's greatest bibliophiles The Dutch Golden Age has long been seen as the age of Rembrandt and Vermeer, whose paintings captured the public imagination and came to represent the marvel that was the Dutch Republic. Yet there is another, largely overlooked marvel in the Dutch world of the seventeenth century: books. In this fascinating account, Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen show how the Dutch produced many more books than pictures and bought and owned more books per capita than any other part of Europe. Key innovations in marketing, book auctions, and newspaper advertising brought stability to a market where elsewhere publishers faced bankruptcy, and created a population uniquely well-informed and politically engaged. This book tells for the first time the remarkable story of the Dutch conquest of the European book world and shows the true extent to which these pious, prosperous, quarrelsome, and generous people were shaped by what they read.

39 review for The Bookshop of the World: Making and Trading Books in the Dutch Golden Age

  1. 5 out of 5

    Marks54

    Economic/business history is a somewhat strange area to poke around in sometimes. Some accounts are good stories, akin to historical fiction with a bit more documentary basis. Others are closer to economics studies that happen to deal with historical actors (the work of the “cliometricians” like Fogel, Engerman, or North come to mind). This can be really fine work, although readers should dust off their reviews of regression analysis and economic models. In between or historical analyses that ma Economic/business history is a somewhat strange area to poke around in sometimes. Some accounts are good stories, akin to historical fiction with a bit more documentary basis. Others are closer to economics studies that happen to deal with historical actors (the work of the “cliometricians” like Fogel, Engerman, or North come to mind). This can be really fine work, although readers should dust off their reviews of regression analysis and economic models. In between or historical analyses that make great use of exotic data sources and draw insights out of the data without becoming so abstract that the work in inaccessible. Chandler is a standard here, but there is lots of good work. Andrew Pettegree is a British historian who wrote an outstanding 2010 book - The Book in the Renaissance. He studied how the “business model” for book publishing developed after the invention of the movable type printing press. He starts with the production constraints on the printing of major volumes (uncertain demand, costly to keep capacity inactive while waiting to print more; uncertainty of customer behavior since many of one’s potential customers for large volumes already have lots of books, etc.) and then developed his analysis from there. It is an insightful book and a brilliant study. The current volume looks at the Dutch bookselling industry about a hundred years later, from the late sixteenth century through the seventeenth century (the Dutch “Golden Age”) and beyond. He makes the case that the bookselling industry was hugely important to the Dutch and that it was the leader across Europe leading the industry to evolve in ways that fundamentally shaped its development into the modern era. How can he do this? He identified where the printing presses were and he tracked how booksellers listed their inventories for sale in the new institution of newspapers (one needs a printing press for them too). There are similar technology constraints on printing different sorts of jobs as there were for Gutenberg. Pettegree goes well beyond this by identifying the different customers and institutions that commissioned books and other printing jobs, including universities, churches, private schools, municipalities and other government institutions, and rich private clients. He also did a good job at locating the publishing industry in the political and cultural context of the seventeenth century - to show the topics that people wanted to read and write about. The third aspect of the study is the distinction Pettigree makes between international and domestic sub-markets for books. Some books were sold to foreign markets. Others were purchased internationally for domestic consumption, still others were purchased internationally and resold to other countries. Finally, there was the purely domestic market, which he argues was most important for the long term success of the industry. The unfolding of this analysis provides a flood of insights that I could not begin to address adequately in a short review. Around most points are a variety of “nooks and crannies” that make a reader stop and think. For example, part of the growth of publishers came from links to universities, who made candidates for credentials purchase nontrivial production runs of their theses at their own expense as a condition of graduating. ...and you think being a grad student is hard today! What the reader gets here is nothing short of a detailed analysis of a major industry with plenty of historical context over the course of a 150 years. Ok, so the text is a bit of a slog at times, but who cares? This is a history of the first Information Age when the key technology was the printing press. The comparisons with today are striking and he can do this because he has a well defined market setting, fairly detailed records of what books were published and sold, and a set of production and governance constraints that are understandable and reasonably bounded. These conditions are very hard to get in a well done industry study today. To take the story back to the 1600s is amazing. It is a long book but well worth the effort.

  2. 5 out of 5

    John

    A few weeks ago I walked into my favourite Toronto bookstore, Ben McNally Books (Bay Street just south of City Hall) and found this book staring at me from the first stack. I had to have it, given my own Dutch heritage and my guess that this book would have something to say about Dutch literacy--literacy in the historical past (or lack of it) being an academic interest of mine. The book did not disappoint--for the most part. It opened a window on Dutch life during the Netherlands' Golden Era tha A few weeks ago I walked into my favourite Toronto bookstore, Ben McNally Books (Bay Street just south of City Hall) and found this book staring at me from the first stack. I had to have it, given my own Dutch heritage and my guess that this book would have something to say about Dutch literacy--literacy in the historical past (or lack of it) being an academic interest of mine. The book did not disappoint--for the most part. It opened a window on Dutch life during the Netherlands' Golden Era that I was utterly unfamiliar with. Perspective by incongruity, you could say (along with Kenneth Burke). Following the many different ways in which the printing press and book trade brought wealth, controversy, and learning to the Netherlands was utterly fascinating. And there was interesting reading about the impact of high literacy in the Netherlands, too. Why not five stars? Well, I'm a generalist, I guess, and this book was so chock full of fascinating vignettes and long explanations of minor points that it was just too much sometimes. But mostly, at least, too much of a good thing. I highly recommend this to those interested in Dutch history, especially if you'd like a sideways look at it.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Dara J.

  4. 4 out of 5

    'Aussie Rick'

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gijs Limonard

  6. 5 out of 5

    Trude

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sybe

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sam Seitz

  9. 5 out of 5

    Eric

  10. 5 out of 5

    Thefirebottle

  11. 5 out of 5

    E

  12. 4 out of 5

    Julia

  13. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dean

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jason

  16. 5 out of 5

    Laura Whichello

  17. 4 out of 5

    Vera Boender

  18. 4 out of 5

    Diana

  19. 4 out of 5

    Betsy

  20. 4 out of 5

    David Dunlap

  21. 4 out of 5

    Ana

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth Forsberg

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brian

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cryptoshrimp

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Fidis

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  27. 4 out of 5

    Anne

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Goeselt

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bruno

  31. 5 out of 5

    Gregorius

  32. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

  33. 4 out of 5

    Michael Halcon

  34. 5 out of 5

    Anne

  35. 5 out of 5

    Tim A.

  36. 5 out of 5

    Simon Huijink

  37. 5 out of 5

    Miss M

  38. 5 out of 5

    Leah Markum

  39. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Noe

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