The Elzeviers and their Contemporaries Conference Reading, Writing, and Selling Scholarship

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The Elzeviers and their Contemporaries Conference

Reading, Writing, and Selling Scholarship

Friday, 2nd June 2017, Woburn Suite

Speaker Abstracts

Collecting Elzeviers

This overview is about collecting Elzeviers. It covers the collecting a particular publisher; a background to views about collectability; and a discussion of the immediate provenance of Elzevier books within Senate House Library. The time will include a guided visit of the display of Elzevier books from Senate House Library (Room 101).

Dr Karen Attar:

Curator of Rare Books and University Art at Senate House Library and a Research Fellow at the Institute of English Studies. Her major publication is the third edition of the Directory of Rare Book and Special Collections in the United Kingdom and Republic Ireland (2016).


What is in a name? The afterlife of Elzevier

Along with other major names such as Aldus and Plantin, that of Elzevier became a watchword for collectors, and never more so than in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The name was used in advertising by booksellers and publishers of modern books who had nothing to do with the dynasty, and it became a byword for printers and typefounders. This paper will consider some of the ways that the name was exploited, as a marketing tool sometimes showing very little knowledge of supposed seventeenth-century models.

Professor David McKitterick, FBA

Professor David McKitterick, FBA, was Honorary Professor of Historical Bibliography in the University of Cambridge until his retirement in 2015. He is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was Librarian from 1986 until his retirement, and has also been Vice-Master.

He is on the editorial board of the Book Collector. His books include Print, Manuscript and the Search for Order, 1450-1830 (2003) and Old Books, New Technologies; the Representation, Conservation and Transformation of Books since 1700 (2013).


The Elzevir Letter

The books published by the Elzevier family gained a wide reputation for the quality of their typography. Credit for making their types was claimed in France for Claude Garamont (died 1561), one of the most celebrated punchcutters of his time. A counter-claim was later made for Christoffel van Dyck, a punchcutter and typefounder in Amsterdam. English booksellers and publishers of the 18th century, exploiting the name and its associations, advertised many of the small-scale texts that were sold by them as set in an ‘Elzevir letter’. This paper attempts to assess what can now be said about those claims.

James Mosley

James Mosley is a professor in the Department of Typography at Reading University and a senior research fellow of the Institute of English Studies, University of London. He was librarian of the St Bride Library, London, from 1958 to 2000. As a student he set type and printed at the Water Lane Press of Philip Gaskell at King’s College, Cambridge, and worked briefly at a typefoundry in London. He writes and lectures on the history of printing types and letterforms.


Profit or Reputation? Publishing Strategies in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic

During the seventeenth century the family Elzevier played a leading role in almost every branch of the Dutch book world. As the Dutch economy enjoyed its most phenomenal growth, the abundance of new wealth and new readers created a host of opportunities for agile minds to devise new strategies for making money in the business of books. By exploring these new business mechanisms, this paper seeks to place the Elzeviers in this wider industrial context, and to determine where in the multiple branches of the book trade they found their most profitable niche.

Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen

Andrew Pettegree is Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and Director of the Universal Short Title Catalogue. He is the author of over a dozen books in the fields of Reformation history and the history of communication including Reformation and the Culture of Persuasion (Cambridge University Press, 2005), The Book in the Renaissance (Yale University Press, 2010) and The Invention of News (Yale University Press, 2014). His most recent book, Brand Luther: 1517, Print and the Making of the Reformation (Penguin USA) was published in October 2015. His new projects include a study of Newspaper Advertising in the Low Countries and ‘Preserving the World’s Rarest Books’, a collaborative project with libraries funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Arthur der Weduwen is a researcher at the University of St Andrews and the author of Dutch and Flemish Newspapers of the Seventeenth Century (Brill, 2017). His PhD is a study of government attempts to cultivate public opinion in the seventeenth-century Low Countries. He is a long-term associate of the Universal Short Title Catalogue, having first worked for the St Andrews-based project as an intern during his undergraduate years in Exeter.  He is now engaged (with Andrew Pettegree) on a study of the book culture of the Dutch Golden Age for Yale University Press.


Layer upon layer: stratigraphy in the history of a bookbinding

A copy of the quarto Elzevier edition of Joannes Meursius, Atticarvm Lectionvm Libri VI. Un Quibus Antiquitates plurimæ, nunc primùm in lucem erutæ, proferuntur, printed in1617 and seen by chance in an antiquarian bookshop in Amsterdam in 2013 is in a binding which at first sight appears to be nothing out of the ordinary. With a cover of parchment apparently over thin boards, it is like countless others of the same period, distinguished only by the presence of uncut edges. A closer look however reveals a much more complex history, involving the international booktrade, two different covers, two distinct structures and an early indication of an interest in preserving wide margins and deckle edges. That the binding should be on an Elzevier edition not only increases the interest, but probably explains why it came to take its final form.

Professor Nicholas Pickwoad

Professor Nicholas Pickwoad trained in bookbinding and book conservation with Roger Powell, and ran his own workshop from 1977 to 1989, and has been Adviser on book conservation to the National Trust since 1978. He was Chief Conservator in the Harvard University Library from 1992 to 1995 and is now project leader of the St Catherine’s Monastery Library Project based at the University of the Arts London where he is director of the Ligatus Research Centre, which is dedicated to the history of bookbinding.



When Merimée in the person of the narrator of Carmen refers to the edition of Caesar he has in his pocket in the wilds of Spain, it is to the Elzevier edition. What drove the firm to produce such famous editions of ancient (mostly Latin) writers, and what authors did they print. Who used them and why did they appeal? This paper will address some of these questions.

Paul Quarrie

Paul Rogan Quarrie (b. 1944), sometime (1977-94) College Librarian, Eton, and part-time lecturer in Historical Bibliography at University College London. Erstwhile Senior Director of Sotheby's  European Book Department, and now in his anecdotage part-time at Maggs Bros Ltd, now at 48 Bedford Square. Author of various works including  a chapter in volume I of the History of OUP (ed. Ian Gadd, 2013) on the classical texts printed at Oxford, and most recently (2015) for Everyman an anthology of English translations of Horace.


Margins, Marks and Mill: Exploring Elzevier Editions in the Library of John Stuart Mill

Somerville College, Oxford holds the personal library of James Mill, historian and political and economic theorist, and his son, the influential nineteenth0century philosopher John Stuart Mill. Donated by J.S. Mill’s step-daughter Helen Taylor in 1905, the library is an eclectic collection of volumes from different publishers and ages, covering everything from economics and politics to philosophy, classics and literature. Within this collection are twelve, seventeenth-century, Elzevier press volumes, including Francis Bacon’s History of the Reign of King Henry VII and works by Descartes, Cicero and Pliny. These dozen volumes in particular provide a unique glimpse of the ways James and John Stuart used their books. Based on discoveries I’ve made while identifying and collating the Mills’ extensive marginalia, my paper will explore the myriad traces that the Mills –and users before and after them – left in their Elzevier-published volumes. Such traces provide tantalising evidence of books in use; they were read and annotated, but functioned in other ways too – for example as repositories for assorted items. By exploring these ‘ways of using’, I aim to demonstrate the varied life of such volumes over the centuries following their publication, often as something other than books to be read.

Hazel Tubman

I finished my DPhil at Oxford in the summer of 2016, the subject of which was the intersection of self-writing practices, cultures of knowledge and the publishing industry in Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Since then I have held short-term research positions at Yale and the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. Over the past year I have been working as a research assistant on a collaborative project between Somerville College, Oxford, Alabama University and the Bodleian Library that aims to digitise the extensive marginalia left by James and John Stuart Mill in their private library, now at Somerville

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