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THE PARADOX OF PROSPERITY: THE LEIDEN BOOKSELLERS' GUILD AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF BOOKS IN EARLY...

THE PARADOX OF PROSPERITY: THE LEIDEN BOOKSELLERS' GUILD AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF BOOKS IN EARLY MODERN EUROPE.

With a Foreword by Jan de Vries
New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press, 2009. 6 x 9 inches. hardcover, dust jacket. 256 pages. With a Foreword by Jan de Vries. First edition. In The Paradox of Prosperity, Laura Cruz explores the world of the book trades as it was constructed in Leiden in the decades after the Revolt against Spanish rule. She traces the migration of printers from the Southern Netherlands to Leiden and observes how they congregated within the city and..... READ MORE

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Introduction:
The Paradox of Prosperity

This book looks at the operations of power in the Dutch republic through the eyes one group, the booksellers of Leiden and through the study of one important practice, the book auction. The case of the development of book auctions highlights a central paradox in early modern economic development, i.e. the development of new market strategies in the context of the traditional organization of work. In Leiden, the booksellers’ guild negotiated a unique situation—this industrial town was the only place where booksellers successfully retained the right to auction books; a privilege that would have significant consequences for the expansion of book markets. Their efforts provide an interesting window into the machinations of power and the politics of consensus in Europe’s leading republic, a paradoxical statement itself.

The book is a project of early modern history that does not, at first glance, appear to be a work of cultural history. This may seem paradoxical because the hallmark of early modern historiography has been the cultivation of cultural history. Several of the greatest historians of the twentieth century - Natalie Davis and Robert Darnton, to name just two, were early modernists who pioneered new and exciting approaches by delving into archives as well as the toolkits of anthropologists, sociologists, and literary critics. This book, on the other hand, seems to be a work of economic history, which has traditionally been almost antithetical to cultural history.

In its most basic sense, cultural history is about the how people made meaning of their lives. For example, political culture is about how they understand and participate in the relationships of power and government. In the early modern period, cultural historians have been particularly concerned with resurrecting the history of those Natalie Davis called the ‘menu people’—ordinary folks leading ordinary lives. The problem with studying ordinary people in early modern times is that so little information exists about them. The source of much of the creativity in early modern cultural history has been the kind of imagination it takes to bridge the many gaps amongst the sources.

Many of the best examples of early modern cultural history are microhistories, which take one relatively well-documented example and either construct or deconstruct meaning from it. Carlo Ginzburg’s The Cheese and the Worms, for example, is a study of how a rather extraordinary peasant, Menochio, takes and creates meaning from the books that he reads and how he relates his ideas to the authorities. By both intent and design most microhistories try to tell us something about the culture at large by showing us what is deviant—in other words, microhistories delineate what lies at society’s margins, not its center.   Ginzberg’s Menochio was hardly a typical peasant—had he been, he certainly would not have appeared in court records—but he does demonstrate one of the many possible ways pre-modern people processed information.

Economic history has long been at the other extreme. The Annales School, taking form in the 1950’s,  set forth the belief that particular events and individual people are not be savored and celebrated, but rather regarded as irrelevant. History is all about large, long structures—the long duree—and people in history are reduced to numbers in demographic statistics. Economic historians, including both those who did and did not subscribe to the dictates of the Annales School, were the culprits behind the idea that the pre-modern economy should only be studied on the basis of what it could contribute to the study of the modern one.

There may be ways to resolve this impasse. Cultural history is, of course, not limited to microhistories. Part of the appeal of cultural history is its immense adaptability and willingness to borrow from other disciplines and sub-disciplines. One possible means of bridging the gaps in incomplete sources has been to appropriate the theoretical girders of others. It was only natural, for example, to look to anthropology for new insights. Anthropologists are primarily concerned with the reconstruction of whole cultures, and so Levi-Strauss and Clifford Geertz, among others, entered the historical world. Other historians looked to sociology (for an understanding of group behavior), or to literary studies (in the search for meaning in texts) or psychology (for the constitution of mentality). Essentially, cultural historians borrowed models from which they could try to predict or represent what their sources could not.

In this sense, economic history is not much different. It borrows a well-developed set of theories and models from neo-classical economics and uses them for much the same purpose. At approximately the same time that cultural history was becoming so innovative, economists began to recognize that it might be advantageous for them to consider the historical dimensions of their own field. The study of material culture and the culture of the market are both results of these efforts at hybridization. Their approach is to use the tools of economic history to answer cultural questions.

The study of material culture uses overlooked or underutilized sources, such as probate inventories, because it traces commodities rather than the people, or rather it traces culture through commodities. Unlike most cultural history, historical studies of economic relationships focus on the culture of a people rather than a person because they must work through the analysis of often anonymous market relationships. The early modern period is particularly significant because in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries markets and market relations expand significantly to include new places, new people, and new things.

Thus, paradoxically, while this book is full of charts, graphs, and terms such as demand, market segmentation, microinvention, and rate of private return, it is ultimately about culture. The volume does not deal directly with the culture of the book or the history of the book and it is only tangentially concerned with issues such as literacy, reception theory, or genre. It does, however, address book culture by exploring such questions as: How and why did people buy and sell books? How did books fit into the rich and varied material culture of the Dutch Golden Age? How were books distributed in early modern Europe?

The study of Dutch history is replete with paradox, which begins with their birth in the late sixteenth century. Seventeenth century Europe is usually characterized as an era and a continent full of conflict, hardship, war, revolution, and oppression. In 1938, R.B. Merriman called it the century of ‘six contemporaneous revolutions”, referring to upheavals in England, France, Catalonia, the Netherlands, Naples and Portugal, to which can be added the Thirty Years War in Germany. In the 1960’s, Past and Present published a now classic series of articles debating whether or not it was appropriate to epitomize the entire century as a ‘crisis’, a label that, however appropriate, has stuck.   Economically, politically, socially, and culturally Europe was believed to be in the doldrums. That is everywhere, of course, except in Europe’s tiny northeast corner, the newly formed United Provinces of the Low Countries. The seventeenth century was the Dutch Golden Age and practically every trend attributed to the seventeenth century finds an exception in the experience of the Dutch.

Because of this, Dutch historians have to pay particular attention to the larger context of their work. There is a large burden involved in arguing that a situation is unique—one must first tick off all of the attributes that it does not have before you can really discuss those that it does. The primary task for the Dutch historian is explaining how or why the Dutch were able to avoid the pitfalls that befell her contemporaries. In fact, a majority of the historiography of the Netherlands can be classified under one of two headings, what did they do right (for the seventeenth century) and what did they do wrong (for the rest).

One major sign that they were doing something right was their immense wealth—here the term Golden Age can be applied almost literally. The stereotype of the rich, dull Dutch burgher arose from jealous Englishmen, but it does have its basis in reality. The most visible benefits of success were accruing to middle-class town-dwelling merchants, not to nobles, and success came from trade, not from the more traditional ownership of land or title.

The almost universally accepted component of what the Dutch did right is to apply a series of small, seemingly rather unspectacular, technological changes. The Dutch did not necessarily come up with these innovations themselves. In fact, most often they did not. Their genius came in their application-the Dutch used these innovations to gain a commercial advantage. One telling example is the fluitschip (whose hull resembles champagne flute, hence the name). At the end of the sixteenth century, the fluitschip was expressly adapted from a Bretton ship to be a low-cost cargo carrier (see Illustration 1). The finished model could carry more good per square ton than other ships and it could do it with a smaller crew. On the surface, this did not amount to much. Dutch merchants could only carry a little more a little faster. Nevertheless, these small changes were just enough to permit them to take goods from their Baltic trade, transport them to the Mediterranean and Iberia, and still return home in a single season, giving them a distinct advantage over their Hanseatic competitors. When famine struck the Mediterranean at the end of the sixteenth century, Dutch merchants were there to provide the region with good, but very expensive, Baltic grain. They invested their profits in colonial ventures, especially in Asia, and an empire was born.

Empires are usually the result of state-building enterprises, promoted by rulers seeking glory, riches, and power. The Dutch government provided some protection to its empire, but the operations were largely in the hands of private individuals. Some scholars argue that this was necessary, because the Dutch state lacked the ability and the will to pursue large scale projects. After some experimentation with imported kings, the newly independent Dutch republic found itself without a ruler or a constitution, so they based their relationship on the Union of Utrecht, which more closely resembled a truce among allies than a constitution. It gave the new state a loosely republican structure. The descendants of William of Orange, leader of the Dutch

independence movement, received the title of Stadhouders, formally bestowed on the king’s lieutenants. Titles should not be confused with power; initially, the stadhouder’s main function was to serve as focal points for a population accustomed to kingship, and “to ride around on horse and wave at crowds.”

The Dutch state was even considered a paradox by its contemporaries. How could such a weak, ineffective central government rule over such a powerful and prosperous country? Republican government was certainly an anomaly in seventeenth century Europe. Only the Swiss and a few microscopic German territories had vaguely Republican forms of government at the beginning of the seventeenth century. Even the venerable republic of Venice had deteriorated into oligarchy by this time. The Dutch States General seemed especially weak. All votes had to be anonymous and many representatives could not vote without the full authorization of their home constituencies. Voting on some issues took months, sometimes years. Finances were handled largely by provincial estates and the vast majority of issues were resolved at the municipal level. The States had little authority to legislate laws, much less enforce them.

Despite of all of these limitations, the ‘politics of particularlism’ seemed to be surprisingly effective at all levels---local, provincial, and national. Defenders of a strong Dutch state emphasize the results, not the processes. This is perhaps because no one really knows how the politics of particularlism worked in practice. In Shaping History, Wayne Te Brake described political decision making in the early modern Netherlands as the result of hundreds or thousands of smaller, face-to-face negotiations. To really understand the Dutch polity, he suggested, one has to begin at the grass roots level. Similarly, Philip Gorsky deemed seventeenth century Dutch politics a “revolution from below”.

This book looks at this revolution by examining negotiations over economic regulation. Over the course of the seventeenth century, the Leiden booksellers entered into informal and formal negotiations with the town magistrates, the University regents, and on several occasions, the Estates of Holland. The agreement reached was unique—Leiden was the only place where booksellers successfully retained the right to auction books. The booksellers rarely got exactly the results they wanted, but in the end mutually acceptable agreements were hammered out and put into practice.

The Dutch could not have accomplished any of this without a solid infrastructure to support and maintain their prosperity. In their recent book, The First Modern Economy, Jan de Vries and Ad van der Woude suggest that the early modern Netherlands possessed the kind of infrastructure (the basic structures that make economies work), normally associated with more modern economies. Infrastructure may not be as exciting or as picturesque as colonial empires, but it may have been even more important. Infrastructure begins with agriculture. Sandy wet soil is not great for growing food. The Dutch figured out early on that they should give up trying to grow much grain and instead they imported it from Eastern Europe. This permitted an unheard of degree of agricultural specialization, and it meant that only a small percentage of the labor force was concerned with agriculture (approximately 30 percent), permitting a very ‘modern’ distribution of labor. Because fewer people worked on farms, more of them lived in cities and had to rely on commodity markets for their basic and not-so-basic needs. This market system was not only pervasive, but relatively unfettered by government or other trade restrictions. It was through this system that a larger and larger variety of goods was introduced and came to form the basis for a complex material life.  The market system also included advanced markets for the factors of production---capital and labor. The capital side is better known, especially since the British copied many of the Dutch financial tools, including a Central Bank.

Less well known is the story of their labor markets. Until about the last quarter of the seventeenth century, labor markets in the Netherlands were remarkable as well. With few restrictions on personal mobility, there arose a large pool of seasonal or temporary labor; people who readily moved to where their labor would best be rewarded. This provided the Dutch economy with a generous amount of flexibility. Because it was both a cause and consequence of increased productivity, the Dutch enjoyed the highest wage levels in Europe without having to suffer high unemployment at the same time.

De Vries and Van der Woude establish that the Dutch possessed a complex, responsive economic system that, at its heart, possessed all or most of the attributes of a modern economic system. But, herein lies another paradox: in the largely urban Dutch economy, industry and trade were dominated by guilds. Guilds—those quaint medieval organizations, whose sole positive function are often thought to be large feasts or, more charitably, charity work. Guilds—the scourge of Adam Smith, who dismissed such institutions as the “enemies of natural liberty”, and whose undesirability is axiomatic to most contemporary economists. Guilds—whose very existence is considered to be a threat to all of those elements just discussed as being part of a modern economy: technological innovation, the growth of markets, and the mobility of labor.

Until recently, historians of the medieval period have paid relatively little attention to guilds in the northern provinces. In the Middle Ages, the northern provinces of the Netherlands had been a relatively backwards area, populated by fisherfolk and cattle ranchers. Feudalism had had only a tenuous effect on the population, who had a history of self-reliance, especially when struggling against the eternal threat of floods and other watery perils. Such studies as there are focus primarily on the legal ramifications of guilds (such as the development of a corporate legal personality); the romantic or folkloric study of artisan groups, or simply the publication of archival sources. Not surprisingly, medievalists have focused much more attention on the guilds in the southern provinces of Flanders and Brabant, where guilds, especially in the textile industries, were active and influential.

Studies that examine specific guilds in the north have concentrated on those areas or towns, such as Utrecht, Dordrecht, and Groningen, where guilds were able to wield, however briefly, some form of political power. The oldest guild charter in northern Netherlands dates from around 1200. After 1200, craft guild organizations first spread into the port cities (Dordrecht, Amsterdam and Rotterdam), then to larger inland cities (Delft, Haarlem, The Hague, Alkmaar) and finally, around 1600, to most towns with a population over one thousand.   By 1670 there was one guild for approximately every 1,000 inhabitants, and every Dutch town with a population over five hundred had at least one guild. Guild membership was not as universal as it was in several other parts of Europe, but throughout most of the seventeenth century, seventy to eighty percent of the adult male work force in Amsterdam had to abide by guild rules.

These guilds were not anachronistic holdovers. The increasing division of labor that characterized the seventeenth century led to a large wave of guild formation and new guilds continued to be founded until well into the eighteenth century. The magistrates of Leiden, for example, granted ten new guild charters between 1604 and 1650.   How could such a modern economy be dominated by such un-modern institutions? In other words, how can this paradox be resolved?

A case study of one such guild might be illuminating. Printing and bookselling were significant industries that developed relatively late in the northern Netherlands. Here, in the heart of the first modern economy, is a good candidate for the first modern industry. Rudolph Hirsch described it thusly: “printing was from the beginning a capitalist undertaking which involved ..the investment of considerable sums for equipment and material…it grew up outside the guild system and was therefore free from restrictions and void of protection.”  After achieving their independence, the Dutch quickly built up a large international industry designed to serve the starved markets of those countries which, unlike themselves, were burdened by censorship. In sum, printing was a modern industry in a modern economy.

Where better to look at this modern industry but in a modern city? Leiden, located on one of the major waterways that crisscrossed the province of Holland, was an industrial town, dominated by the production of woolen textiles destined primarily for export markets. The textile industry was organized into neringen, roughly translatable as ‘industries’, which expressly bypassed guilds. The elite of Leiden were either wealthy textile merchants, cosmopolitans who stayed in touch with all of the latest developments in Europe and the world, or professors at the prestigious Leiden University. It makes sense, then, that in 1600 Leiden was the only Dutch town of much consequence to not have a printer/booksellers’ guild. What does not make sense is that the booksellers petitioned for, and received, permission to form a guild in 1652.
In the seventeenth century, Leiden was one of the most economically advanced of all of the towns in Holland, the most prosperous province of the Republic. During the Middle Ages, Leiden had been a thriving center for woolen textile production, one of the few industrial products that were exported from the northern provinces before the end of the sixteenth century. For most of the town’s existence, as much as half of the entire population of Leiden labored as semiskilled or unskilled workers. They lived a life precariously balanced between sufficiency and scarcity and could therefore be a very volatile lot. The workers of Leiden had a history of stirring up trouble as agitators in the Hoek and Cabeljauw uprising of 1350, as supporters of guilds in 1393, as defenders of northern independence in the 1570’s, and as Counter-Remonstrants in 1617. Many of the later Flemish immigrants to Leiden were no strangers to rebellion, either. Unrest was always a possibility, and the primary concern of the town magistrates, especially in times of economic downturn, was to maintain order among their rank and file.  Work and workers in Leiden were more strictly regulated than in the other towns in Holland and Zeeland.

The hostility of Leiden town magistrates to guild formation began early and continued for centuries. In 1313 the local government ruled against the formation of guilds of any sort. The public decree, issued under the name of William, Count of Holland, Zeeland, and Friesland, stipulated the following:

We understand that people inside our town of Leiden have guilds and drink, which detracts from the honor, profit and power of our town and has occupied and hindered us, so that we now request that every man be forbidden to do so, on penalty of his life and his goods. No one can have a guild or guild property, especially not publicly, and if anyone does have a guild and that can be proven by numerous witnesses and evidence, then we will make them pay for it without mercy, in the manner suggested above, so that no one will suffer any more.

Fig. 1.1: Charter Dates: Guilds in Leiden


1459

Plate Makers*

1466

Barbers

1485

Millers*

1508/1552

Dry Shearers

1512

Bakers*

1516

Thatchers

1517/1568

Shippers

1525

Cleaners

1532

Peddlers

1539

Shoemakers

1546

Smiths

1549

Cooopers

1551

Beer porters

1553

Coffin Makers

1553

Surgeons

1560

Grain Merchants

1561

Tailors

1563

Linen weavers

1568

Rope Cleaners

1568

Broom Makers

1569

Weavers

1569

Rigging Cutters

1569

Cloth Merchants

1582

Grain Porters and Measurers

1583

Carpenters

1591

Brick layers

1593/5

Stocking knitters

1604

Ribbon makers

1615

Basketmakers

1618

Pharmacists

1621

Ship Carpenters

1632

Teamsters

1646

innkeepers

1646

Turners

1652

Booksellers

1659

Daubers

1660

Glassmakers

1661

Fatty Goods Sellers

1663

Hosiers

1663

Flax Sellers

1667

Carders

1670

Coat Makers

1675

Peat Porters*

1743

Tobacco Sellers

1752

Wig Makers

1811

Crane workers*

*Evidence of possible earlier privileges (See Overvoorde,  Archieven, passim)
This list is not exhaustive and many guilds functioned without charters.

Despite the ban, craftsmen continued to meet together and perform common religious duties. In 1393, the authorities acknowledged the ineffectiveness of the first decree and enacted a second that was stricter and more specifically leveled against craft guilds. The privilege stipulated that all citizens had to right to pursue their trade with complete freedom and were not required to pay anyone for the right to do so.   Popular sentiment was in favor of the guilds, however, and a riot broke out a few months after the law took effect. Bending under the force of such popular pressure, the magistrates recanted the prohibition. Shortly thereafter, Duke Albrecht of Bavaria rode into town, quashed the rebellion, reiterated the ban on guild formation, and punished the ringleaders to exile and confiscation of all goods.

The power of the duke(s) could only temporarily halt the expansion of guilds. Giving in to what appeared to be the inevitable, the magistrates grudgingly approved a handful of guild charters in a piecemeal fashion, although they succeeded in keeping guilds out of the textile industries. The first officially (known) approved guild charter was issued in 1459, for the plate makers. By 1600, there were at least twenty-four guilds in Leiden (see Figure 1.1).

Even after reluctantly granting these charters, the officials continued to turn down petitions to form guilds thereafter. For example, unlike almost all other major towns in Holland, they had no artists’ guilds until well into the seventeenth century. These guilds were usually named after the patron saint St. Luke (Sint Lucas or Lukas in Dutch) and included painters, sculptors, potters, printers, and related crafts.   A 1610 petition to found one was denied, as was another petition in 1642, the latter accompanied by a popular printed speech made by Philips Angel entitled Lof der Schilder-Konst (Praise of Painting). Angel’s exhortation to protect the artists, whom he saw as the keepers of the town’s identity, fell on deaf ears. The magistrates of Leiden held the guilds firmly under their thumb.

For the latter part of the Middle Ages, Leiden had been the largest town in the province of Holland on the strength of her woolen textile industry. By the early sixteenth century, though, Leiden was not faring as well. Competition from the English, who had the advantage of lower-cost raw materials, brought the luxury textile industry into disarray. As much as forty percent of Leiden’s population slipped into poverty, and many began to move away. Her fortunes were not helped by the lengthy Spanish siege of the city in 1574, which brought the suspension of cloth production and starvation for many. By the end of the siege, there were fewer inhabitants in Leiden than there had been in 1514.
After the dramatic events that succeeded in lifting the siege, the magistrates began to look for ways to restore the town’s fortunes. As the story goes, William of Orange offered the town a choice of rewards for withstanding the siege—perpetual freedom from taxation or a university. Interestingly, they chose the university and the Academy at Leiden, the first university in the northern provinces, was established in 1575. The new government of the Republic strongly supported the university and intended it to play an integral role in the religious and intellectual life of the nascent state. The young academy struggled at first to get students, but the influx of refugees from the south included several noted scholars and gradually the institution developed an international reputation as well as a sizable body of students.

The revival of the textile industry required a different strategy. Anxious to repopulate the town (and boost their tax base) after the siege, the magistrates instituted liberal citizenship policies to entice new residents. Refugees from the textile areas of Flanders and Brabant brought with them many of the best-practice techniques in the industry, including the making of new draperies—lighter and cheaper cloths that were destined for mass markets. Leiden, a town traditionally devoted to textiles, was a natural magnet for textile workers, who flocked there in growing numbers. Leiden’s population grew from 12,000 in 1581 to 45,000 in 1622. In addition to the heavy, luxurious wool lakens for which the town was renowned, cloth producers also began to manufacture the new draperies and to experiment with other new types of cloth. In 1584, total output stood at 26,620 pieces, but by 1619 output had soared to over 100,000 pieces. Leiden had become one of the largest centers of textile production in all of Europe.

After the initial influx of immigrant capital, labor, and drive, the economy of Leiden continued to grow, albeit unevenly. Its dependence on export markets made it vulnerable to the vicissitudes of international politics. The early stages of the Eighty Years’ War provided a form of infant industry protectionism for the rebellious northern provinces. Because it was forbidden to trade with the enemy, Dutch producers did not have to compete with the long-established cloth producers in Flanders and Brabant. The Twelve Years Truce (1609-1621), however, relaxed the trade prohibitions, and Flemish cloth began to flood the northern provinces. In order to meet the new competition, Dutch producers had to reduce costs, which led to a squeeze on wages. These were grim times for most of Leiden’s textile workers.

Despite some advances in other industries, the magistrates of Leiden resisted any attempts on the part of textile workers to form guilds. Instead, the industry was organized into neringen. As a form of trade organization, the magistrates developed the neringen specifically to oversee important export industries. These were usually larger than guilds, because they included workers involved in all stages of the trade (production and distribution), and from different municipalities. Each nering had its own managers and administrators, usually experts in the trade such as large merchants, who worked in a distinctive building, or hall, located near the center of town.  These organizations had no medieval traditions of independent action and closely allied themselves with regional and central government.

Although subject to chronic volatility, the economy of Leiden flourished throughout most of the seventeenth century. Population growth, vigorous for several decades after the lifting of the siege in 1574, began to decelerate in the face of recurring outbreaks of plague and other diseases. Epidemics were often exacerbated by poverty and overcrowding. In 1624, five thousand people died within three months, and in 1635 over fifteen thousand succumbed in eight. This attrition was compensated for by the arrival of additional immigrants. Between 1620 and 1700, thousands of new citizens settled in Leiden, with the largest numbers falling between 1655 and 1659. In the first wave of migration, the majority of new citizens had come from the southern provinces. By the mid-seventeenth century, other towns in the Republic (41.0 percent) and Germany (21.6 percent) had superseded Belgium and France as points of origin. By 1670, Leiden had over sixty thousand inhabitants. There were so many new people that they outgrew the town. In 1644 and 1659, the exterior boundaries of the town expanded significantly expanded to the north and west.

The immigrants were attracted to Leiden because of the thriving woolen textile industry and the success of several related products. The industrialists became prominent producers and traders of two new blended fabrics, camlets and warps. The lighter wool sectors (serge, baize, fustian, and rashes) expanded rapidly along with the traditional heavy wool product (the lakens). In 1640, the town erected a cloth hall and in 1645 they added a complementary marketplace. Output continued to expand. At its peak, the textile industry of Leiden in all its branches could produce as much as 140,000 pieces each year. The cloth merchants of Leiden were wealthy and influential international businessmen and they presided over an export industry jealously watched by the rest of the world.

Fig. 1.2: Estimated Value of Leiden Woolen Cloth Production (by type, in guilders, selected dates 1630-1654)


Cloth Type

1630

1642

1654

Says

1,630,000

1,380,000

960,000

Rashes

300,000

340,000

140,000

Fustians

570,000

310,000

150,000

Camlets

110,000

330,000

3,000,000

Warps

180,000

200,000

225,000

Bays

1,000,000

1,170,000

635,000

Lakens

110,000

3,000,000

4,000,000

Other

100,000

100,000

50,000

Total

4,000,000

6,830,000

9,160,000

Source: N.W. Posthumus, Leidsche Lakenindustrie, Vol. 3, 941.

In terms of output, economic orientation, and organization, Leiden was one of the most modern towns participating in the first modern economy. And while her woolen textile industry had roots that extended back hundreds of years, new industries sprouted there during the seventeenth century, including a lively book trade. Printing with moveable type had been invented in the late fifteenth century (perhaps even by a Dutchman) and European book production had grown prodigiously during the sixteenth century. Many of the earliest printers were peripatetic, keeping on the move in search of potential customers armed with small, portable presses. Entrepreneurs such as the cleric Johann Neumeister not only introduced the printed book to more distant parts of Europe, but they also trained others in the art of printing. Early developments in printing outstripped the ability of authorities to regulate it, and at least for a while, printers operated with little outside interference.

This would change in the seventeenth century. Starting at the end of the sixteenth century, the number of printers in Europe rose spectacularly, and the trade became characterized by not only by intense competition but also by increased organization. Censorship issues motivated governments to regulate the trade in books more closely, and guilds were often the preferred vehicle to achieve regulation and control by both officials and members of the book trade themselves.  By 1650, Leiden was the only large town in the northern Netherlands that did not have a printers’ guild. In many other large towns, such as Amsterdam and the Hague, the printers had been brought under the umbrella of the St. Lukas, or artists’ guilds, but Leiden still did not have a formally constituted artists’ guild. Even so, printers had organized independent guilds in nearby places, including Haarlem (1616) and Schiedam (1614). On several occasions, the printers and booksellers of Leiden had had to register their compliance with various censorship edicts issued by the provincial Estates and the Estates General, but most of their business was devoid of regulation and formal organization. Why would these ‘modern’ businessmen, in a ‘modern’ industry, in a ‘modern’ town, in a ‘modern’ economy choose to organize themselves into a guild as late as 1652?

As it turns out, the reason they did so was that guilds are not necessarily antithetical to the kind of economic growth that spurred the Dutch republic to dominance, as the remaining chapters will demonstrate. Early modern guilds adapted to the realities of early modern economic life in a way that made them fundamentally different from their medieval predecessors. In the case of the booksellers of Leiden, the guild helped them sell a large number of books  promote innovations in the way that books were sold, and to remain happy and prosperous while doing so.


de Vries and van der Woude, The First Modern Economy, . Bas J.B. van Bavel and Jan Luiten van  Zanden suggest that the changes in occupational distribution began even earlier; see Bavel and van Zanden, “The Jump-Start of the Holland Economy during the Late Medieval Crisis, c. 1350-c. 1500” The Economic History Review v. 57 (2004), 503.

Adam Smith,  An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of  the Wealth of Nations (New York: Modern Library, 1776/1937), 651.

See for example Hermann Kellenbenz, ‘The Organization of Production,” in The Cambridge Economic History of Europe Vol. 5 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), 462-548.

See Jan de Vries, “The Transition to Capitalism in a Land without Feudalism,” in Peasants into Farmers? The Tranformation of Rural Economy and Society in the Low Countries (Middle Ages-19th Century) in the Light of the Brenner Debate ed. P. Hoppenbrouwers and J.L. Van Zanden (Turhout, CORN, 2001), 67-84.

See for example, Jan Nernardus Akkerman, Het Ontstaan der Ambachtsgilden (Amsterdam: J.H. De Bussy, 1919) or  Nicolaas H.L. van den Heuvel, De Ambachtsgilden van ‘s-Hertogenbosch  (Utrecht: Kemink en Zoon, NV, 1946).

See for example, Johannes ter Gouw, De gilden: een bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van het volksleven (The Hague: N.V. Uitgevers-Maatschappij ‘Oceanus’, 1866/1947).

See for example, A.J.M. Brouwer Ancher, De Gilden  (The Hague: Loman en Funke, 1895); J.G. van Dillen, Bronnen tot de Geschiedenis van het Bedrijfsleven en het Gildwezen van Amsterdam 3 vols. (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1929-1974); I.H. van Eeghen, Inventarissen der Archieven van de Gilden en van het Brouwerscollege  (Amsterdam: Stadsdrukkerij, 1951), and J.C. Overvoorde, Archieven van de gilden, de beurzen, en van de rederijkerskamers [te Leiden] (Leiden: Drukkerij Hermandad. 1921).

See for example D. Nicholas, Medieval Flanders (London and New York: Longman, 1992).

See for example J. Overvoorde and J.G. Ch. Joosting, De gilden te Utrecht tot 1528 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1896/7).

Jan Lucassen and Maarten Prak, “Guilds and Society in the Dutch Republic (16th-18th Centuries),” in Guilds, economy and society: Proceedings Twelfth International Economic History Congress ed. Clara Eugenia Nunez (Madrid: Fundacion Fomento de la Historia Economica, 1998), 64. A similar figure is asserted in Bert De Munck, Piet Lourens, and Jan Lucassen, “The establishment and distribution of craft guilds in the Low Countries, 1000-1800,” in Craft Guilds in the Early Modern Low Countries: Work, Power, and Representation ed. Maarten Prak, Catharina Lis, Jan Lucassen, and Hugo Soly, (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2006), 50.

Ibid., 68

Ibid., 68.

J.C.Overvoorde, Archieven van de gilden, de beurzen en van de rederijkerskamers [te Leiden] (Leiden: Drukkerij Hermandad, 1921).

Rudolf Hirsch, Printing, Selling, and Reading 1450-1550 (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1967), 12.

Lucassen and Prak, 65.

Overvoorde, Archieven, 337.

Overvoorde, Archieven, 338.

G.J. Hoogewerff, Geschiedenis van de St Lucasgilden in Nederlanden (Amsterdam: Van Kampen,1947). 

Beatrijs Brenninkmeyer-de Rooij, “Theories of Art” in The Golden Age: Dutch Painters of the Seventeenth Century ed. Bob Haak (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1984), 61.

Jonathan Israel, The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477-1806 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 123. For a more in-depth discussion of Dutch-English rivalry in textiles that emphasizes the significance of the urban context, see John Munro, “The Symbiosis of Towns and Textiles: Urban Institutions and the Changing Fortunes of Cloth Manufacturing in the Low Countries 1270-1570,” Journal of Early Modern History v. 3 (February, 1999), 1-74.

Israel., 309.

N.W. Posthumus, De Geschiedenis van de Leidsche lakenindustrie II: de Nieuwe Tijd (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1939), 882.

Ibid., 129.

N.W. Posthumus, “De Neringen in de Republiek,” Mededeelingen der Koninklijke Academie van Wetenschappen, Afdelin Letterkude LXXXIV(1937): 1-84.

Dirk Jaap Noordam, “Nieuwkomers in Leiden, 1574-1795” in In de nieuwe stad: Nieuwkomers in Leiden, 1200-2000  ed. Jaap Moes and Ed van der Vlist (Leiden: Dirk van Eck, 1996), 42.

J.G. van Dillen, “Leiden als industriestad tijdens de Republiek,” Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis 59 (1946): 42.

N.W. Posthumus, Leidsche lakenindustrie Vol. 3, 48-60.

Noordam, “Nieuwkomers,”43.

de Vries and van der Woude, 283.

Ibid., 285.

For a discussion of the Dutch claim, see Victor Scholderer, "The Invention of Printing," The Library XXI (June 1940): 1-25.

Lucien Febvre and Henri-Jean Martin, The Coming of the Book: The Impact of Printing 1450-1800 (London and New York: Verso Press, 1976), 168-9.

Hirsch, 12.

Two excellent studies of political culture are Paul Avrich’s Russian Rebels 1600-1800. (New York: Schocken Books, 1972) and David Underdown’s Revel, Riot, and Rebellion: Popular Politics and Culture in England 1603-1660. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985).

Natalie Davis, Society and Culture in Early Modern France (Stanford CA: Stanford University Press, 1975), 1.

See Carlo Ginzburg, “Microhistory: Two or Three Things that I Know about it” Critical Inquiry 20 (Autumn 1993), 10-35. For a fuller discussion of microhistory, see Edward Muir and Guido Ruggerio (ed.) Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991).

Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth Century Miller (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1992).

Fernand Braudel, “Histoire et sciences sociales: la longue durée,” Annales E.S.C. 13 (1958), 725-53.

In particular, see Claude Levi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966)   and Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Culture; Selected Essays (New York: Basic Books, 1973).

See for example Jeffrey Watt’s use of Emile Durkheim in Choosing Death: Suicide and Calvinism in Early Modern Geneva (Kirksville, MO: Truman State Univ. Press, 2001).

See M.M. Bakhtin, Rabalais and his World (Bloomington: Univ. of Indiana Press, 1984.)

See for example Lynn Hunt’s The Family Romance of the French Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).

See Donald McCloskey, “Does the Past have Useful Economics?”Journal of Economic Literature 14 (1976), 434-61.

For an overall compendium of research done on material culture in early modern Europe, see Rafaella Sarti, Europe at Home: Family and Material Culture 1500-1800 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002).   

R.B. Merriman, Six Contemporaneous Revolutions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938), passim

For a review of these articles, see Trevor Aston, ed. Crisis in Europe 1560-1660 (New York: Anchor/Doubleday, 1965).

See I. G.A. Schöffer, ‘Did Holland’s Golden Age coincide with a period of crisis?”. Acta Historiae Neerlandica 1 (1966): 82-106.

Hans Halmeijer and Dik Vuik, Fluiten, Katten, en Frigatten: De schepen van de Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, 1602-1798. (Bloemendaal: De Boer Maritiem, 2002).

A.Th. van Deursen, “Tussen Eenheid en zelfstandigheid,” in De Unie van Utrecht: Wording en werking van een verbond en een verbondsacte ed. S. Groenveld and H.L. Ph. Leeuwenberg (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1979), 139.

J.L. Price, Holland and the Dutch Republic in the Seventeenth Century: The Politics of Particularism. (Oxford: Clarendon, 1994), 250.

Wayne te Brake, Shaping History: Ordinary People in European Politics 1500-1700 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 5.

Philip Gorski,The Disciplinary Revolution: Calvinism and the Rise of the State in Early Modern Europe (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), 39.

Jan de Vries and Ad van der Woude, The First Modern Economy: Success, Failure, and Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500-1810 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

James Tracy, A Financial Revolution in Habsburg Netherlands: Renten and Renteniers in the County of Holland, 1515-1565 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985 and John Brewer, The Sinews of Power: War, Money, and the English State 1688-1783 (New York: Alfred Knopf, 1988).  See also Marjolein t’Hart and J.L. van Zanden, A Financial History of the Netherlands (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).