Printing at the Frontier

A. Soetaert, ‘Printing at the frontier. The emergence of a transregional book production in the Ecclesiastical Province of Cambrai (ca. 1560-1659)’, in: De Gulden Passer: Journal for book history, 94 (2016), 137-163.

In 1559 most of the French-speaking provinces in the south of the Habsburg Low Countries were united in the new Ecclesiastical Province of Cambrai. Establishing enduring and prolific printing businesses in this region had proved an extremely difficult task ever since the start of the 16th century. Several booksellers were active in many towns of the Cambrai province, but a local book production did not come off the ground due to a combination of warfare and the dominance of major and nearby typographic centres (most notably Paris and Antwerp). Yet, from about 1590 new printers settled in the province, leading to a significant increase of the book production. This article argues that, besides the context of tense peace and the relative regression of the Antwerp and Paris production, also the emergence of a transregional book production in the region itself should be taken into account in explaining this golden age of printing in the early 17th century. It appears that in these years, the local book world could finally take advantage of the previously judged detrimental position in between Europe’s major typographic centres. Two case studies will explore how the location at several political, linguistic and cultural borders at once, contributed to the flourishing of the region’s book world. A first part of the article focusses on the strategy of massively and systematically reprinting books originally issued in France in this part of the Habsburg Low Countries. Subsequently, the hundreds of English editions that came off the province’s presses and that were intended for British Catholic communities still living in the British Isles are also considered a factor contributing to the golden age of printing in Cambrai.

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