Pirate printers? Printing and copying in the French book trade during the wars of religion.




The French book trade came of age in the sixteenth century, just as the country experienced deep political crisis.

Book trade centres like Paris and Lyon were home to large numbers of printers, whereas smaller towns supported just one or two. To keep afloat, many printers copied or ‘pirated’ each other’s works, and at times of political crisis, unregulated copies flooded the market. Although this practice is well-attested in bibliographies, it has never been systematically investigated.  

This project explores the relationships between printers in different cities by examining ‘copied’ or 'pirated' books. Investigating the books copied, the printers involved and the editorial and typographical changes made will show how printing worked both as a national and as a local business, and how it was shaped by political events. As well as revising understanding of one of the most important book markets in early modern Europe, it will engage with issues of commercial property, tensions between competing cities, the emerging idea of the nation and the political use of print in times of crisis.