De Gulden Passer


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12 dec 2019


19:00 - 20:00

Miraeus lecture, Mark McConnell

“How Did Early Modern Publishers Make Decisions?”

Printing technology transformed the production of books in early modern times, with deep implications for the circulation of ideas. But the new technology also created a very significant business problem: publishing risk. The advantages of the new technology were available only if a publisher advanced large sums of money to print an entire edition, and accepted the risk that the copies might not sell. It is well recognized that publishing risk helped determine which books were printed, and what form those books took. But lack of data has precluded a systematic study of the question. Mark McConnell is compiling a database of the detailed cost accounts that were kept by the printer Christopher Plantin in the 1560s. These data shed considerable light on the business calculations that governed publishers’ decisions, with implications for the subject matter of books printed, the number of copies, the inclusion of illustrations, and the features that positioned a book in the marketplace, such as format, paper quality and font selection. Mr. McConnell will present preliminary insights on these questions, drawn from his ongoing research.