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The making of transregional Catholicism Print culture in the Archdiocese of Cambrai (1559-1659)

This dissertation studies the production of religious books in the Ecclesiastical Province of Cambrai between 1559 and 1659. From its foundation in 1559, this province included most of the French-speaking (or Walloon) regions of the Habsburg Low Countries. Because of its specific location at the frontier between the Kingdom of France and the Spanish Habsburg territories, the region has been afflicted by long-lasting warfare, disrupting its economic life and ultimately bringing about major border shifts in the second half of the 17th century. However border towns such as Arras, Cambrai and Cateau-Cambrésis likewise acted as the centres of diplomacy and peace negotiations. Moreover, during the religious conflicts ravaging France, the Low Countries and the British Isles during the 16th century, the ecclesiastical province became a refuge for Catholics originating from all of these countries. Hence, the region was not only the theatre of war, but also at the crossroads of many of the transregional exchanges characterizing early modern Europe.

Taking into account the specific position of the Ecclesiastical Province of Cambrai, this dissertation asks how contacts, mobility and transfers across borders shaped and changed the publication of Catholic books between its foundation in 1559 and  the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659, incorporating much of its territory in the Kingdom of France. The study focusses on three subjects in particular: (1) how the position at the Franco-Habsburg frontier influenced local book production, (2) in which ways and to what extent the religious refugees residing in the province made use of the facilities of local printing houses to serve their political and religious goals, in their home countries as well as in their host societies, and (3) how the province functioned as an intermediary region in the transfer of innovative Catholic literature between France, Spain, Italy, the Low Countries, the British Isles and the Holy Roman Empire. As such, the different historical actors contributing to the transregional exchange of Catholic books (authors, translators, publishers, religious orders, refugees, patrons, …) will be discerned. Moreover, it will become clear that in the early modern period, while sovereigns continued to increase their influence on the structures and hierarchy of the church, Catholic literature still preserved its universal character.

The dissertation consists of nine chapters, illustrating several aspects of book production in the ecclesiastical province. Chapter 1 explains the golden age of the printing press in the region during the early decades of the 17th century. Chapter 2 reconstructs the trade networks of local booksellers, using booksellers’ catalogues, the archives of the Plantin-Moretus firm at Antwerp and the catalogues of the Frankfurt book fair. Chapter 3 asks to what extent the vicinity of the French border influenced local book production. Chapters 4 and 5 focus on how religious refugees made use of the printing presses in the province, integrating the histories of refugees originating from France, other parts of the Low Countries as well as the British Isles. Chapters 6 and 7 highlight the importance of translations and translators for the transregional transfer of Catholic books in the period of Catholic reform. Finally, chapters 8 and 9 study how books written by local authors as well as by British Catholics residing in the region spread all over Europe.

Date:1 Oct 2013  →  23 May 2017
Keywords:Book history, Counter-Reformation & Catholic Reform, Transregional history
Project type:PhD project