Friday, June 14, 2013

Keeping a low profile: printers keeping their names out of the papers in the sixteenth century

Here's a question: what authors was your typical sixteenth-century German printer most interested in printing but least interested in taking credit for? In other words, what authors with at least ten editions of their works in VD16 are proportionally most represented by unsigned editions?

The answer is not quite what I expected. Over 50% of the editions from just seventeen authors are unsigned. Here's the list:

Authors Anon Total Percent
Poyssel, Eustachius 12 12 100.0%
Stengler, Fabius 12 13 92.3%
Gebhard <Köln, Erzbischof> 20 27 74.1%
Elisabeth <I., England, Königin> 10 14 71.4%
Oranje-Nassau, Willem van 9 13 69.2%
Werner, Johann Sigismund 10 15 66.7%
Karl <Frankreich, König, VIIII.> 23 36 63.9%
Friedrich <Würzburg, Bischof> 7 12 58.3%
Rollenhagen, Georg 14 24 58.3%
Johann Wilhelm <Sachsen-Weimar, Herzog> 19 34 55.9%
Ferdinand <I., Römisch-Deutsches Reich, Kaiser>; Moritz <Sachsen, Kurfürst> 10 18 55.6%
Heinrich <IV., Frankreich, König> 25 45 55.6%
Maximilian <II., Römisch-Deutsches Reich, Kaiser> 31 56 55.4%
Francus, Jacobus 37 67 55.2%
Condé, Louis de <1530-1569> 8 15 53.3%
Heinrich <II., Frankreich, König> 8 15 53.3%
Severus, Paul 9 17 52.9%

It's not too surprising, perhaps, to find an apocalyptic calculator (Poyssel) and another prophetic tract (Severus) on this list. One example of fool literature (Stengler) and Rollenhagen (principally his Postreuter  and Hinkender Bote) are a bit more surprising. Johann Sigismund Werner makes sense for his religious views, although Caspar Schwenckfeld comes in at only 31%. Jacobus Francus, a pseudonym in any case, deals with recent and perhaps politically sensitive history and might be considered proto-journalism.

But the real surprise are all the writings attributed to royalty, including several foreign monarchs. I suspect that what proved controversial was appropriating their edicts or other writings and publishing them as polemic of one kind or another, which might be a politically sensitive undertaking of the kind that most printers preferred to keep their names off of, even as they were making money off of them.

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A move may be in the works, so posting may be intermittent or infrequent between now and September or October.

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