Dutch private presses before 1800

Although the term ‘private press’ originated in the nineteenth century, in a sense the phenomenon arose earlier. In England, France and Germany, the history of the private press has been compared to similar practices from the fifteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Little research has yet been carried out on private presses before 1800 in the Netherlands.

On the basis of similar practices in other countries and the phenomenon of the private press in modern times, a division into three groups can be made for this period. The first group consists of print shops with a special emphasis on – traditional – design and the application of craft production techniques. By extension it also includes the so-called ‘bibliophile’ publications, works that are attractive to lovers of fine books whether or not printed on a privately-owned press.

The second group consists of private presses that reproduced texts (subversive or not) for personal use or distribution in intimate circles. Commercial interests played scarcely any role. In France, such presses already existed in the fifteenth century: ‘patronised, held, owned, or hired for the occasion by a private person at his own house, or by a congregation in, or close to, their buildings’. These were presses in monasteries, universities and schools, and also privately owned presses.

Publications printed on conventional presses at the instigation of an individual can be considered a third category. Occasional publications and those printed for societies also belong to the domain of the private press.

This chapter examines whether these characteristics were also in evidence in the Netherlands and Belgium (the former boundaries of the Low Countries) in the period before 1800 to such an extent that one could speak of private presses in this region during the early modern period. (MvD)

Court culture and bibliophily

For centuries, books were produced by hand-copying other people’s texts. This resulted in large differences in execution: some manuscripts were purely functional and presented a text only, while others were sumptuously decorated with calligraphy and miniatures. In fact, bibliophily already existed in the manuscript era: the nobility and upper middle class had more money to spend and had the manuscripts they commissioned beautifully executed. The most splendid codices were often found in relationship to a court, for example the court of Charlemagne, or later in Italy the Vatican, or with the French kings or dukes of Burgundy.

Around 1450, when the technique of book printing was invented in Mainz by Johannes Gutenberg, a demand for bibliophile books already existed within book culture. Although illuminators also worked in the Northern Netherlands, this market gradually became concentrated in the South. In the second quarter of the fifteenth century, the sponsorship of the Burgundian dukes in particular stimulated the production of magnificent illuminated manuscripts. Hence many craftsmen moved to the South. When the first printers in the Netherlands started work (by coincidence, the first dated printed book was published in 1473 in both the North and the South) this distinction remained. In the North, more books were printed for everyday use, while in the South more luxurious books were produced.

The transition from manuscript to print was a gradual shift and both production methods co-existed for a long time. Moreover, the first printed books were very similar to manuscripts in appearance because it was assumed that this was what a book should look like. Occasionally the illuminators employed for the manuscripts also carried out further embellishment of the printed book. Thus a long-established technique (manuscript illumination) was applied to a book produced by the new printing technique to make it into a well-designed product.

It is characteristic of the printed book in the early modern period that the buyer personalized it. First and foremost, this was because the books were sold in loose sheets and the buyer then decided what kind of binding he wished to acquire: simple parchment or leather, with or without gold tooling. But, at the beginning of this period, the buyer could also decide on the interior design of the book. Here, once again, there is a clear difference between the Southern and the Northern Netherlands. In France, for instance, a strong bibliophile tradition existed. Antoine Vérard had one or more copies of almost half of his books printed on parchment. These copies could be executed more beautifully because tempera colours could be applied on vellum, whereas scarcely anything but watercolour could be used on paper. He offered these vellum books to patrons at court or the high nobility with the aim of funding his business.

This practice contrasts sharply with the situation in the Northern Netherlands, the present-day Netherlands. Printing on vellum also occurred here in those early years, but it was not so much for luxury as for durability. In comparison, of 127 incunabula printed in the Low Countries, one or more copies on vellum survive, or five per cent. In France seven per cent of editions were on vellum, and in Italy five per cent. The numbers seem similar, but when one examines the book contents in the Low Countries, it is apparent that these comprise school editions in particular (Donatus, 61; Alexander de Villa Dei, 34; Cato, 2) and also letters of indulgence (15). Vellum was hardly used in the Northern Netherlands for books of hours and breviaries, whereas in France and Italy such works were printed on vellum precisely to allow for rich illuminations for the high nobility and clergy.

This early distinction continued, partly because the North did not really have a court. In the sixteenth century, the court resided in Spain and, at the end of the century, the struggle for freedom from the Spanish monarch, Philip II, was raging in the Netherlands. William of Orange was a travelling prince and needed his money to hire armies instead of commissioning artisans to make beautiful books. Some works that he had finely bound are known from his early years. The sons of William of Orange, Maurits and especially Frederik Hendrik and his wife Amalia of Solms, regaled themselves with more princely status but this was not transformed into a major concern for the a courtly library.

Partly inspired by Maurits’ army reforms, two interesting picture books were published describing exactly how soldiers should drill or a handle a certain type of rifle: De Nassausche wapen-handelinge [The Nassau weapon handling] by Adam van Breen and Wapenhandelinghe van roers, musquetten ende spiessen [Weapon handling of cannons, muskets and lances] by Jacques de Gheyn. Hand-coloured copies of both editions exist, which were probably intended for the wealthy high nobility; the colouring made the book very valuable. The famous book on surveying by Sems and Dou, Practijck des lantmetens [Practice of land surveying], was hand-coloured for Maurits and given a special binding.

Frederik Hendrik and his wife had a great sense of court culture, but this was not expressed in a particular concern for books. Frederik Hendrik regarded his library as one for everyday use. He studied his books extensively, took them everywhere with him, loaned them out and made notes in them. A bibliophile he was not. For one book he made an exception, Tableau de l’histoire des princes et principauté d’Orange [Table of history of the princes and principality of Orange] by Joseph de la Pise. Presumably he commissioned the work, became involved in the contents of the text, paid the author handsomely and also paid all the production costs. However, this was probably more due to personal involvement than an interest in bibliophily. The Dutch court in the seventeenth century neither showed nor encouraged a major commitment to bibliophily. (MvD)

Adam van Breen,De Nassausche wapen-handelinge, van schilt, spies, rappier ende targe

Adam van Breen,De Nassausche wapen-handelinge, van schilt, spies, rappier ende targe. ’s-Gravenhage, No name, 1618, plaat 31. KB: 344 G 18. (KB)

The first 'private' printer in Bruges

Bibliophile editions were not only taken up in royal circles: a wealthy patron could also ensure that exceptional, beautifully designed books came onto the market. This was the case with the ‘Officina Goltziana’, the first private press in the Netherlands according to ­Herman de la Fontaine Verwey. This press was founded around 1562 in Bruges by the painter, historian and numismatist Hubert Goltzius at the request of his patron, the bibliophile Marcus Laurinus. Laurinus, Lord of Watervliet, had a large collection of coins, valuable manuscripts and books. He wished to write a history of antiquity based on coins and medals and was thus looking for a skilled artist. In Goltzius he found his man. Goltzius moved to Bruges, became a citizen and gained permission to start a printing shop.

The first book came off the press in 1563: C. Julius Caesar, intended to be part of a series of nine works. Three years later, the Fastos magistratuum et triumphorum Romanorum appeared. Both books are particularly beautiful due to their terse, austere typography and the images of coins on which the history is based. The finishing was not always so satisfactory. For example, plates were crookedly placed on the page. Even so, the page design and the layout of the capital letters in the margins still result in an attractive page. Some commissioned copies are known to have had special bindings.

Bruges was happy with a company that produced such fine publications and the city supported the enterprise with a loan that the wealthy Laurinus guaranteed. De la Fontaine Verwey called the company a ‘private press’ even though the books entered the trade because, according to him, ‘the hallmark of a “private press” is not that no profit is made’. This should still only be a secondary objective. What it comes down to is that the printer wants to perform a favour to himself and his friends.’

A number of editions appeared in 1565 and 1566 but, after the aforementioned Fastos, production ceased. This sudden end has been associated with a book which may well have been printed on this press in March 1567: the Epistolae monitoriae, in quibus curam religionis ad magistratum pertinere […], a work that created problems in that time of religious turmoil. Goltzius left Bruges for a while. After 1570, Laurinus and Goltzius continued their collaboration and tried to complete the series on Roman antiquity. Their collaboration was complicated by unclear financial arrangements. It is certain that they no longer wanted to print themselves, and so they brought in Plantin. It was an inglorious end to a venture that had begun idealistically. (MvD)

Fine works in the Republic

It was mostly the conventional publishers who published fine works in the Republican era. In the eighteenth century in particular, large, costly illustrated books were on the market, often modelled on French editions which were lavishly provided with large engravings. Publishers promoted these books by deeming them to be ‘Treasure chests’ or ‘Treasuries’ and thus knew how to attract buyers well enough, even though they had to publish certain works in instalments to spread the costs. Deliciae selectae naturae (1771), a book by G.W. Knorr with astonishing coloured prints, issued in a numbered edition and costing the considerable amount of 128 guilders and 16 stivers, was nevertheless bought by mayors, notaries, army officers, doctors and professors. In addition, it is a painstakingly printed book with printed colour plates and further hand-colouring. Subsequently the work was often bound in a beautiful binding. Is there a touch of a bibliophile tradition here? Or is it also a matter of utility value? It seems that the characteristic features of the Netherlands noted by Simon Schama are also interwoven through the book world.

Home presses in monasteries and universities

Presses that printed texts for personal use can be regarded as a second group of private presses. One can also include presses in monasteries, the first university and school presses, and presses in private homes; all these printed what was wished. The majority of early printing presses could be included in this group, as in the early modern period printers would often have had one or more presses at home. However, these were used for their livelihood. The term ‘home printer’ is more specific: a printer on whose press publications were printed primarily for their own pleasure and that of their circle. This often concerned texts that were prohibited or unprofitable, or for which the commercial market was negligible. In any case, printing was not done from a commercial point of view.

In the manuscript period, monasteries had been the main places where texts were duplicated. With the advent of the printing press this role was taken over by the commercial printers. Printing shops became established in some monasteries such as the Broeders van het Gemeene Leven [Brethren of the Common Life] in Brussels, Leuven, Gouda, ’s-Hertogenbosch, ­Marienthal and Rostock. Claudin deals with these monastic printers in his work on private printing in France in the fifteenth century. However in the Low Countries, the printers seem more like commercial enterprises than private presses. The canons regular in Den Hem near Schoonhoven, for example, clearly began their business on a commercial basis as they wished to earn money for repairs after a fire in 1495. In Gouda, the printing shop of the Collaciebroeders [Collacie Brethren] had intensive contact with Gheraert Leeu who bequeathed them a variety of typographic material. The Brussels Brethren probably had to cease their business because they could not find enough buyers for their publications. These monastery printers in the Low Countries did not work for their own circle and their production seems similar to that of commercial enterprises of the time, so they are not ‘private presses’.

In the Netherlands, there was no tradition of university presses in the early modern period. No separate university printing shops were established, but certain printers were appointed as university printers, a post they practised alongside their normal business. Even Willem Silvius, brought to Leiden especially to be the university printer, did not print exclusively for the university. He died soon after his arrival and the post was passed on to Plantin and later to J.J. Paets, both printers who also had their own establishments. (MvD)

Leiden home presses

A true home press was founded in the early seventeenth century at the University of Leiden by the orientalist Thomas Erpenius. He had a printing press, modelled on that of the Paris Arabist Savary de Brèves, set up in his own house to enable him to print Arabic texts, as conventional printers were unable to do so. ­Erpenius acquired the type material from Franciscus Raphelengius, the son-in-law of Plantin, who had been professor of Hebrew and Aramaic in Leiden. Erpenius’ printing shop, the Typographia Erpeniana linguarum orientalium, prospered and became one of the most comprehensive and important printers of Oriental ­typography in Europe. At his death in 1624, this private printing business was sold to the house of Elzevier for 8000 guilders. Erpenius really wanted his business to be profitable. This was sometimes difficult, as is ­revealed in a letter from Maria van Reigersberch to her husband Hugo de Groot. Maria van Reigersberch had discussed self-publishing De Groot’s De jure belli ac pacis with Erpenius. He advised her strongly against it, not only because the printing would cost so much, but especially because it would be difficult to persuade the booksellers to take the work: ‘it is all about the distribution’.

Apparently the University of Leiden was an environment that inspired people to private enterprise in the book field. In 1632, two scholars from Leiden, Marcus Zuerius Boxhorn and Petrus Scriverius, bought the printing shop of William Christiaensz van der Boxe in order to have him print their work. Van der Boxe was also allowed to print books by others, but their work took precedence. A private press? The books do not look very special. It was therefore more an ‘out-of-control hobby of two wealthy learned gentlemen’, which does indeed sound very much like a private press activity. Even the Leiden city council saw the usefulness of a private printing shop, or, more accurately, the enterprising town clerk, Jan van Hout, gave them the idea. Thus in 1577 a unique experiment began: in Leiden town hall, a printing firm was established at which all municipal documents were printed, soon followed by all kinds of forms. Jan van Hout purchased a press and type material for the city and advanced the required funding. The publications of the press were exemplary and their appearance was characterised by the use of the Civilité type and initials. In 1597, Van Hout acquired ownership of the press and became the formal printer. Production remained the same: small municipal publications such as statutes and ordinances. At his death in 1609, the type material was probably distributed among other Leiden printers. (MvD)

*Kevren der stadt Leyden des graefschaps van Holland.* Leiden, opt Raedthuys, 1583, p. 6-7

Kevren der stadt Leyden des graefschaps van Holland. Leiden, opt Raedthuys, 1583, p. 6-7. KB: 1701 D 21. (KB)

Home presses and prohibited works

Although a general view prevailed that the Republic was a sanctuary where a great deal could be published that was prohibited by censorship in the surrounding countries, it was not the case that everything could be so easily printed. Moreover, conventional printers produced many of the books published under a fictitious address. Thus Plantin printed for the Huis der Liefde [House of Love] and it is known that Blaeu issued prohibited publications whether under a fictitious address or not. Known printers, who sometimes became victims of these activities, printed secret religious works and prohibited political tracts. In this field there were undoubtedly many small printers actively working and there were certainly home presses amongst them; who exactly they were is difficult to determine because obviously they tried to operate without any trace.

Once again, a Leiden example: the Pilgrim Press. The Pilgrim Fathers, fleeing from England because of their religion, operated a press to print anti-English books in Leiden in a house near St. Peter’s Church. They had type material, composing sticks and a press with which they produced their own books. In the years 1617 to 1619 approximately 17 books were printed in the outbulding they rented from Willem Pouwels van Thoorenvliet. In the end, their activities did not remain secret and type material and press were seized – or were they? An incident aboard the Mayflower, the ship on which they sailed to America, suggests that a press was on board. When a few beams were severely damaged after a heavy storm, repairs were made using a ‘great iron screw’ from Holland. The type material later resurfaced at the English printer, Gilles Thorp, in Amsterdam. Doubts have recently arisen concerning the story of the screw and the printing activities of the Pilgrim Press. The publications could have been printed by nearby Leiden printers and the great screw was perhaps not from a press.(MvD)

Home presses and religion

A number of people can be named who founded private printing presses in Amsterdam. The reason for taking matters into their own hands was not so much scholarship, as in Leiden, but religion. The arrangement was often similar to that described earlier. Someone with money wanted certain texts printed and he either equipped a printing shop and placed a trained printer at the head or bought an existing printing shop and there printed what he wanted. The Polish philosopher and educator Jan Amos Comenius, for example, was registered in the Amsterdam book printers’ guild without his trade being specified. Presumably he was the financier of the printing shop who worked for the Bohemian Brethren and printed some of his own works and those of his sympathisers there, but the ­professional leadership was in the hands of Jan Paskovsky.

A similar arrangement is to be seen in the publication of Jacob Böhme’s works. The wealthy Arnhem Mayor, William Gozewijn Huygens, enabled Böhme’s follower, Johann Georg Gichtel, to set up a printing shop for printing Böhme’s work. Gichtel then hired two Amsterdam printers, David Hoogenhuysen and his son Andries. In 1682, this company published a 15-volume edition of Böhme’s Alle theosophische wercken [Complete theosophical works].

Another example from this circle was Antoinette de Bourignon from Flanders. She arrived in Amsterdam in 1667 and, hoping to have her work printed there, founded a printing shop in her own house.There the similarity with the previous examples ends. Antoinette was her own patron: she financed the purchase of the press in 1669 and did not hire tradesmen but allowed the press to be operated by her followers. It soon became clear that these inexperienced folk were not achieving high productivity and that this approach – judging for example by the many misprints and inefficient working methods – was much more expensive than printing at a professional printing press. Thus the second part of La lumiere nee en tenebres [The light born in darkness] appeared in 1669 without a printer’s name. The text in some places is printed very unevenly, although this also applies to the third part which bears the name of Jan Janssonius as printer. Thus de Bourignon turned to professional printers, but the press was kept and even taken along when she moved to nearby Schleswig-Holstein in 1672. There, although the press was prohibited out of fear of incitement, de Bourignon ignored the injunction and continued printing. In 1674, on the orders of the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorp, her home in Husum was raided and everything was seized: press, type material, paper stock and even half-printed books. Hence this idealistic press also came to an end. (MvD)

Home presses and biology

A very different example of a home press is that of Christiaan Sepp, a graphic designer and illustrator. Sepp had come from Germany to Amsterdam in search of work and was also an enthusiastic amateur biologist. In his spare time, he and his son Jan Christiaan made drawings and subsequently copper engravings of insects. These were carefully hand-coloured prints with all kinds of interesting facts that were distributed among friends. The first instalments therefore mention in the imprint on the title page that they were printed ‘for the author’. The printing of the first installment is somewhat uneven; the ink is sometimes thick and sometimes thin. Yet they were so popular that they turned their hobby into their profession. The son, Jan Christiaan, became a bookseller and thus began the successful company of J.C. Sepp and Son. The business released a number of superb books onto the market, such as Nederlandsche insecten [Dutch insects] and Flora Batava [Flora of Holland], as well as books on birds and types of wood and marble. This company, which started as a private press, developed into a professional business. The printing of engravings is in any case an activity that artists often practise at home; a plate press is easier to set up and requires less investment than a press plus type material in diverse body sizes and all the other equipment required for type composition and book printing.

Three quarters of a century earlier, Maria Merian had brought out a self-published illustrated book on insects, the Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. Ofte Verandering der Surinaamsche insecten [Metamophosis of Surinam insects]. Merian had tried to finance the book by subscription but that had proved unsuccessful. Hence she chose to self-publish it in Latin and Dutch. The imprint reads ‘for the author, living in the Kerkstraat [...] where this was printed and coloured copies can be obtained’. The work could be further personalized at the customer’s request by choosing between two different title pages, the way in which the text was added to the plates or the method of hand-colouring – work that could take weeks and was performed in the home of the Merian family. All this resulted in a very interesting edition, particularly due to the attractive illustrations (often minutely hand-coloured), which is highly valued to this day. Merian kept the plates and thus could print what and when she wanted, and she was also able to sell series at a later date. So, this private enterprise was also commercial.

The mad squire

Finally, a single example from the nobility, a group that in France, for example, sometimes set up private presses. As far as it is known, this did not occur in the Netherlands. But Everard Meyster, the ‘mad squire’ who became famous because he managed to so turn the heads of the citizens of Amersfoort that they dragged a large boulder into the city (to be seen to this day), was also a poet who strove to have his work appear in beautiful editions. An exceptional result was Nimmer-dor berymt [Never-dry in rhyme], a long poem from 1667 about the Nimmerdor estate, printed by the Utrecht printer, J. van Paddenburgh. The book is small in size, but because it was printed completely in green ink – now discoloured to brown – it is a remarkable little work. Three years later he had two pamphlets printed in great haste, so full of misprints that one cannot speak of a bibliophile character. Meyster was more a self-publisher (private publisher) than a private press. This was quite a regular occurrence: a wealthy poet took his poetry to the printer and had a booklet printed at his own cost which he distributed among friends and acquaintances. But these were not always special books by any means. (MvD)

Christiaan Sepp,*Beschouwing der wonderen Gods, in de minstgeachtte schepzelen. Of Nederlandsche insecten.* Te Amsterdam, Gedrukt voor den auteur, 1762, titelpagina van aflevering 1 en plaat Tab. II

Christiaan Sepp, Beschouwing der wonderen Gods, in de minstgeachtte schepzelen. Of Nederlandsche insecten. Te Amsterdam, Gedrukt voor den auteur, 1762, titelpagina van aflevering 1 en plaat Tab. II. KB: 555 E 5:1. (KB: JU)

Maria Sybilla Merian, *Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. Ofte Verandering der Surinaamsche insecten.* Tot Amsterdam, Voor den auteur, 1705, titelpagina

Maria Sybilla Merian, Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. Ofte Verandering der Surinaamsche insecten. Tot Amsterdam, Voor den auteur, 1705, titelpagina. KB: 1041 B 35. (KB)

Maria Sybilla Merian, *Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. Ofte Verandering der Surinaamsche insecten.* Tot Amsterdam, Voor den auteur, 1705, plaat 2

Maria Sybilla Merian, Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium. Ofte Verandering der Surinaamsche insecten. Tot Amsterdam, Voor den auteur, 1705, plaat 2. KB: 1041 B 35. (KB)

E. Meyster, *Nimmer-dor*. Utrecht, Johannes van Paddenburgh, 1667, titelpagina

E. Meyster, Nimmer-dor. Utrecht, Johannes van Paddenburgh, 1667, titelpagina. KB: 760 D 31. (KB)

E. Meyster, *Nimmer-dor*. Utrecht, Johannes van Paddenburgh, 1667

E. Meyster, Nimmer-dor. Utrecht, Johannes van Paddenburgh, 1667, p. 5. KB: 760 D 31. (KB)

Occasional publications

Occasional publications are often produced by private presses today. A wedding, an anniversary, a farewell or retirement, a death; any of these occasions may set a marginal printer to work.

Likewise in the early modern period special booklets were often made for such events and, in general, conventional printers were used. Therefore the 6632 editions that can be found in the Short Title Catalogue, Netherlands (STCN) using the keyword combination ‘occasional writings’ and ‘poetry’ cannot all be called private press publications. Even though the initiative for such publications often came from an individual, and most were not made from a commercial viewpoint, odes to famous people such as a stadholder or Michiel de Ruyter were probably printed for profit. In addition, poems on the appointment of clergymen or professors would have found quite a number of customers. However, marriage poems were most often intended for distribution only among acquaintances and guests, and can therefore be regarded as private editions.

Sometimes a hack writer was hired to create the poem, in other cases family and friends did their utmost, just as it is now with a song sung or a sketch performed at many weddings. The name of the (hired) printer is mostly mentioned, sometimes not. Nevertheless, in most cases publication would have been carried out by a professional press. Are these then private press publications or not? Not in the strict sense, but they are privately printed publications because a private individual has requested them. The Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague has a very ‘private’ occasional poem, the wedding greetings to Gael and Kretschmar: Bruilofts-wensch aan […] Willem Henderik Gael en […] Anna Maria Kretschmar in den echt vereenigt den 21 september 1779. This exceptional little work was partly stamped (not printed) with lead type; the staves and music notes were drawn by hand.

Often a special performance was carried out for the couple. For example, much attention was spent on the booklet made by family and friends of the bride for the marriage of George Wilhem Nieman and Elisabeth Duisenberg in 1755. Four specially written poems, a beautiful, hand-coloured symbolic frontispiece and a song were bound together; the binding was decorated with ribbons featuring cupids in silver thread. Another poem for this occasion was printed on pink silk.

The poem Aan myne moeder, myne zuster [...] op den dood van mynen vader [To my mother, my sister [...] on the death of my father] from the late eighteenth century seems to anticipate the practice of numbered editions. On page A [1] is stated: ‘Prezent exemplaar no. 17’ [Gift copy no. 17]. The term ‘presentexemplaar’ [gift copy] is often inscribed in these publications, revealing the purpose: they were to be given away.

Printing for societies

Poetry produced by or for members of societies is another category of private publications. These sometimes appeared in magazines but more often as a booklet in a limited edition, often only for members of the society. The many literary societies active in the Netherlands between 1750 and 1800 published over 200 articles, booklets and books. Many of these publications have not survived and are known only from archival sources, probably precisely because they were not widely circulated or were published in small editions.

A special case is the society ‘Door vlijt en Kunst’ [By diligence and art], known from 1766 as ‘Kunst wordt door arbeid verkregen’ [Art is obtained by work]. The society was founded by four friends in Leiden. The Leiden publisher Cornelis van Hoogeveen was the most active of them. He wrote several plays and many, many occasional poems. The printer’s name is not mentioned in most of these although it is suspected that Hoogeveen laid them on the press himself. The Koninklijke Bibliotheek holds a publication containing stage plays from the society, Tooneelpoëzij onder de spreuk. Door vlijt en kunst [Dramatic verse under the motto. By diligence and art]. It contains seven pieces from the years 1761 to 1764.

On two of the texts it is noted on the verso of the title page that 12 copies have been printed on respectively large, or good, paper, followed by a number. This is probably one of the earliest numbered editions in the Netherlands. It may well be that the total print run was higher and that only a small percentage was printed on special paper but only a few have been preserved. Whether they had a high print run and wide distribution is still the question. They are exceptional editions for a closed circle, thus almost private editions. And Van Hoogeveen? His profession was printer and judging by the STCN he published nearly 500 books: sometimes commercial publications, but mostly stage plays and occasional publications for one of the societies of which he was a member. It did not turn out well: although his parents left him well off, he died in destitute circumstances. Too much printing for pleasure?

*Bruilofts-wensch aan den weledelen heer en mr Willem Henderik Gael, en de weledele ionkvrouwe Anna Maria van Kretschmar. In den echt vereenigt den 21. September 1779.* S.l., s.n., 1779, p. 5-6

Bruilofts-wensch aan den weledelen heer en mr Willem Henderik Gael, en de weledele ionkvrouwe Anna Maria van Kretschmar. In den echt vereenigt den 21. September 1779. S.l., s.n., 1779, p. 5-6. KB: 853 C 68. (KB)

Tooneelpoëzij, onder de spreuk: Door vlijt en kunst. S.l., s.n., 1761, p. 2-3

Tooneelpoëzij, onder de spreuk: Door vlijt en kunst. S.l., s.n., 1761, p. 2-3. KB: 2220 F 11. (KB)

Private presses before 1800?

Certain aspects of the modern private press editions have precursors in the Dutch book business prior to 1800. But does this mean that one can speak of a private press before 1800? Actually the term ‘private press’ is an anachronism for this period. Beautiful books were made, sporadically there was particular attention paid to design and binding, some enthusiasts set up presses in their homes, printing was carried out under private initiative and books were published in very small editions. In that respect, the later private press movement in the Netherlands surely had predecessors, albeit modest. (MvD)