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Milestone study of Book Culture Now Published

Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen, The Bookshop of the World. Making and Trading Books in the Dutch Golden Age is published by Yale University Press on 26 February 2019.

The Bookshop of the World is now published. This ground-breaking new study is the result of work in over thirty libraries and archives, in ten different countries. It is the first book to attempt a holistic survey of the book world in the century when the Dutch first emerged on the world stage as a force to be reckoned with. This was the age of Rembrandt and Vermeer, and Dutch art has always held centre stage; but the Dutch published 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 in Europe publishers faced bankruptcy: the Dutch made money from books, and created a population uniquely well-informed and politically engaged. This pious, prosperous, quarrelsome and generous people were to a large extent shaped by their books. The story of how this book world came to be is the unacknowledged marvel of the Dutch Golden Age.

Speaking about the book, Andrew Pettegree stressed the importance of blending traditional scholarship with new approaches. “This is a book that could only be written in the digital age. We travelled all over Europe to chase down these books, but we also applied wholly new techniques devised here in St Andrews to reconstruct the many thousands of books which cannot be found in any library today. These lost books, everyday texts never intended to grace the shelves of a library, were what really kept Dutch print shops in work: they provide a totally new perspective on the place of reading in the everyday lives of seventeenth-century men and women.” Arthur der Weduwen emphasised the diversity of the production of the Dutch print shops. “A Golden Age deserves magnificent books. These the Dutch certainly produced, in the form of massive atlases, exquisite folios and handsome editions of the classics. But one of the joys of writing this book was our encounter with every form of print that came out of the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, including much-thumbed mathematical primers, psalm books carried in the load of East-Indiamen, posters advertising municipal markets, and student disputations defended at university. Throughout this investigation it became clear that the books which made money, and those which made reputations, were rarely the same. In the Dutch Golden Age, few things were what they seemed.”

Authors in reading room
The authors in the Scaliger room, Leiden University.

To undertake this work, the authors were awarded short-term fellowships from four institutions, The Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel, the Free University in Amsterdam, Leiden University and Trinity College Dublin.

The book will be launched as a special event in St Andrews on 1 March 2019, in association with Topping and Co Booksellers. The authors will promote the Dutch edition of the book (published by Atlas Contact) in a tour of the Netherlands, 17-28 March.

Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen, The Bookshop of the World. Making and Trading Books in the Dutch Golden Age (Yale University Press), pp. 485 with 70 full colour illustrations.