The Book in the 16th century

As may have been understood from the above allusion to Granvelle's Belgian library, the 16th century is also the century in which the foundations were laid for huge private libraries, which would play a critical role in the years to come at a general level. As Elisabeth Eisenstein writes in her iconic book, The printing revolution in early modern Europe, "An enrichment of scholarly libraries came rapidly; the sorting out of their contents took more time." (Eisenstein, 2012, p. 51).   

The book historians state that during the 16th century, Gutenberg's invention of printing with metallic, portable characters had alternated reading and learning methods (Febvre & Martin, 1958). The new media of massive communication and distribution of information is for sure the printed book. The cinquecentine editions, aka the printed texts of the 16th century, started to become more usual and uniformed for all the readers. Albeit the bindings and illumination would still differentiate a copy belonged to a prominent owner or a humble one. The augmentation on literacy can be documented based on three different facts as far as the printing industry is concerned. Firstly the tirage of the printed books was increased; as a result, the multiplication of the copies led to the decrease of the prices of the printed book (Barbier, 2006, p. 185). One thing is for certain the scholarly access to knowledge was increased due to the number of new printing offices; limits to information were broken since "limits set by the very largest manuscript libraries were also broken" (Eisenstein, 2012, p. 231).

The precise number of the printed books during the 16th century is not determined yet. However, the research proves that for the German-speaking countries, the number of new publications was between 130.000 and 150.000. Their appearance also alternated from the incunables, which tend to imitate the manuscript text.  The Austrian book historian and librarian Hans Zotter argues that if the average of every tirage was about 500 copies, then half a million books should have been printed in that era (Janzin & Güntner, 2006, p. 25). A reason for this increase was, of course the upgrade of the literacy level; apart from the clergy and aristocracy, the bourgeois class of doctors, lawyers, and the merchants were added to the capable of reading and writing (Barbier, 2006, p. 185). As a result, this audience demanded books for education and leisure in their mother tongue instead of Ancient Greek and Latin (Febvre & Martin, 1958, p. 54).

Another critical aspect of the century is that since the new technology had become familiar for the people working on it, the printing offices started to change their organization and workflow during the 16th century (Janzin & Güntner, 2006, p. 33). As a result, the appearance of typeface designers, punch cutters, pressmen, inkers, proof-readers, etc., as separate professions started in this century. A typographer was no longer the person who took on all the activities for printing a book (Richardson, 1999, pp. 66–70). In other words, we observe modifications in the hierarchy of roles within the book production and marketing circuit. Booksellers were not necessarily publishers and presses' owners, they could just buy and sell books that publishers are printing. According to the historians of the book, during the 16th century it is certain that, as it was explained, the reformers benefited of the power of the new medium by printing reformation pamphlets (Barbier, 2006, p. 189). Nevertheless, what is a generally accepted truth that influenced the whole Europe and the recently discovered New World was that printing transformed the interaction among the state, the market and the culture with in massive way (Burke, 1987, p. 179).

The Vatican library grew by obtaining works even from Protestants authors as a way for Catholics to be informed on the reformation statements and using its arguments and flaws against Protestantism. In a similar way and as a result of the humanistic spirit, many men of power would build rich private libraries for themselves and their circles. Examples of that could be of course: a) Charles V's library according to catalogues of the Royal Library of the Escorial (Sanchez-Molero, 2000), b) the library of the Spain ambassador in Italy, Diego Hurtado de Mendoza; and c) as it will be examined further,  the library of Cardinal Granvelle. As we are aware today, these collections were influenced one by another. For instance, books that were dedicated and meant to be given to the Emperor were firstly sent to Cardinal Granvelle so that he would present them to Charles V (Brooker, 2015). Additionally, researchers conclude that printers and booksellers sent their books as gifts to him to curry favour with the Cardinal.

As it is known, the increase in the number of authors using the patronage system occurred as early as the 15th century. Writers offered their works or writing skills to influential people of the time with a triple aim (Richardson, 1999, p. 136). Initially, they tried to solve their livelihood problem or get temporary earnings through a gift from the patron's side. Secondly, the interest of an influential person in their work would lead to prestige and perhaps to its greater dissemination. Thirdly, the protection that a patron could offer in case of disfavour was important.

As they were called, the dedicatory letters were usually found at the beginning of the book as an introduction and referred to the great authority of the chosen patron by weaving in his praise. In addition to this text, which may or may not, have been included in all the editions of the work, its author or printer who chose to make this dedication saw to make a particular copy on high-quality paper, or even with a precious binding. In this way, this copy also had a purely economic, commercial value. It is interesting to note that in some dedication letters, miniatures survive showing the author kneeling and handing the book to the patron.  Logically, the intercession of one of the recipient's relatives in the delivery of the dedicatory copy was considered an even more successful approach to achieving patronage.

With regard to the Vatican library, we know that in 1455 Pope Nicholas V had in his possession 1,160 manuscripts which formed the central core of the Vatican library, while in Venice, Cardinal Bessarion bequeathed 772 manuscripts belonging to his incredible collection. However, the collectors of printed books were remarkable people whose role could be considered pioneering to the establishment of the new medium (Macerata et al., 2018, p. 7). The reference to this library is indicative as, despite the increase in the number of books in terms of production, in an average 16th-century house one could find between 3 and 65 volumes. From 1505 to 1530 bibliophiles such as Mendoza, Cardinal Granvelle, or Cardinal Grimani (Richardson, 1999, pp. 309–310), and Cardinal Georges d'Amboise (1460-1510) (Toscano, 2012, pp. 51–88) formed huge collections for their times. However, the latter two are not discussed further in this thesis.