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Ian Maclean, Learning and the Market Place: Essays in the History of the Early Modern Book. Leiden: Brill 2009. ISBN 978-90-04-17550-1. Xi + 458 pp., 9 b/w ill. Hbk. €126

Reviewed by Christopher Burlinson

[1]  Learning and the Market Place, a collection of fourteen essays by Ian Maclean (including three new articles and two others forthcoming at the time of the collection’s publication), is a magnificent and comprehensive account of Maclean’s scholarly work, conducted over the last twenty-five years or so, upon the early modern publication of, and trade in, learned books. It pays tribute to the scope and variety of Maclean’s work at the intersections between intellectual history (particularly the history of scholarship, and, as this collection makes clear, the history of scholarly classification) and that of the international book-trade (its licensers and financers, as well as purchasers and readers).

[2]  The gathered essays focus upon the years between approximately 1560 (especially the early years of the Frankfurt book fair) and the 1630s, mapping out and analysing a surge, and then a downturn, in the European market for scholarly books. In every single essay here, Maclean displays a quite extraordinary weight of scholarship. He traces the workings of the continental book market in the late Renaissance (with a special focus on Germany, but also on France, with two reprinted articles late in the collection on the Lyon book trade, on Portugal, and England), in particular through the labours of the bibliographers and cataloguers of the day: it is one of this book’s most satisfying features that as well as providing models of historical enquiry into catalogues, inventories and finding aids, Maclean has himself assembled a formidable array of appendices, bibliographies and book-lists of his own. This is a book with much to say to scholars in bibliography, in economic history, in historical geography – but it also provides a complex and nuanced account of the international world (and language) of scholarship in the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries, the post-humanist world of letters and learning and England’s place in it.

[3]  As well as providing new material, then, Learning and the Market Place allows its readers to see, in retrospect, a number of points around which Maclean’s work has cohered. One of these is the structure and the workings of the European book trade in the late Renaissance, and more particularly, the way in which this market acted not just as a medium for scholarship and scholarly publication, but also as a force that shaped it, and shaped the way in which it was received and classified. The first essay in the collection, ‘The Market for Scholarly Books and Conceptions of Genre’, traces some of the ways in which the generic classification of scholarly texts functioned not just as a scholarly tool, or even as a means of establishing legal protection, but also as a means of marketing – a means, moreover, of generating and stimulating the book market. ‘Genre,’ Maclean writes, became during this period ‘no longer an ideal category belonging to a closed and sufficient system of categories; rather it was, at best, a crude reflection of the contemporary state of knowledge in relation to existing academic institutions, at worst a means by which potential purchasers could be attracted to the parts of a sale catalogue most susceptible to be of interest to them’ (23-24). The essay that follows, ‘The Readership of Philosophical Fictions in France in the Sixteenth Century’, complements this first piece by considering the ways in which the category of ‘philosophy’ was shaped by a book market that catered partly for the institutional and partly for the more amateur scholar.

[4]  A second point around which these essays collect is the Frankfurt book fair. Maclean analyses the fair as a focus for networks of information exchange, book production and correspondence, and Learning and the Market Place reprints essays on the diffusion of books on medicine; on the texts of Melanchthon at the fair in the late sixteenth century; and on André Wechel, and his capacity to place himself within the expanding market of the first decades of the seventeenth century. Maclean writes with prodigious detail and prodigious data, and this work allows him to open up a third area of interest (on which he presents considerable new work here), namely the involvement of English books in the European book market and book fairs. An essay, published in this collection for the first time, on Alberico Gentili and ‘the Vagaries of the Book Trade between England and Germany, 1580-1614’, concludes by noting that the market for English-language books “remained purely local until the eighteenth century” (322), but as Maclean also points out, in another previously unpublished essay (‘English Books on the Continent, 1570-1630’), many Latin writings by English authors were sold and read on the continent: we should see English book-production in the early seventeenth-century, Maclean claims, not just as a vernacular enterprise, but as he puts it earlier in the book, a ‘full bilingual culture’ (183). This claim for the persistence of Latin, as not just the scholarly language of the seventeenth century but the cosmopolitan language of the book trade, is complemented by Maclean’s work on Wechel, the ‘French refugee’ who was, ‘by the time of his death, subsumed into the international Latinate publisher Andreas Wechselus’ (183). As in a further new essay on ‘Lusitani Periti’ and the bibliographical identifications made by Portuguese writers of their national identity, Maclean shows that the publication of scholarly books in Latin provided a means for writers from the geographical peripheries of Europe to contribute to a shared learned culture, and a shared market. This work has great implications for the shape of scholarly bibliography and book history: Maclean wonders at one point whether “’he STC itself could eventually be extended’ to accommodate Latin publications by English authors (351). It is a book that all scholars of early modern history and intellectual thought will want to read.

University of Cambridge, June 2011