- Journeymen-Printers, Heresy, and the Inquisition in Sixteenth-Century Spain
Clive Griffin, who is well known for his meticulous studies of the printing industry in sixteenth-century Spain, has put the Holy Office's records to an entirely new use. Historians of the printing revolution have long been hampered by the lack of documentation concerning the lower echelons of workers who manned Europe's presses. Griffin realized that Spain's Inquisition archives might be used to reconstruct the largely undocumented lives of journeymen-printers who happened to work in that country. The results of his research are of interest to several constituencies. Griffin regards the light that the Inquisition records shed on the workers' lives and the daily operation of the presses to be the most important result of his work, of general interest to specialists in the history of printing during the early modern period. Further, as almost nothing is known in particular about the men who operated Spain's printing presses, the monograph is a welcome addition to the history of Spanish printing. A large proportion of the Spanish industry was owned and manned by foreigners, which leads to the third important result: the perilous connection between printers and heresy. The Inquisition, which might be seen as the Department of Homeland Secutiry of its day, was intensely suspicious of foreigners in general and of printers in particular, most of whom were French. Books, as much as individuals, were the threat to Spain's [End Page 872] Catholic orthodoxy and civic peace, and the producers of books bore close scrutiny.
The Inquisition's vigilance paid off in 1569, when two French immigrants, one a typesetter and the other a type-founder, were arrested on the suspicion of "Lutheranism." Over the course of ten chapters, Griffin follows the Inquisition's methodical capture, interrogation, and punishment of scores of foreign workers employed in various presses all over Spain. In chapter 1 Griffin provides useful background information for readers who may come to the book from a variety of disciplines, not necessarily Spanish history and Inquisition studies. Chapters 2 and 3 expertly chronicle the details of how the tribunals, mainly the Inquisition of Toledo, systematically tracked down and interrogated suspects. An interesting challenge for the researcher is the Inquisitors and their secretaries' ignorance of foreign languages, events, and even the difference between Lutheranism and Calvinism. Names are mangled, and the subtleties of doctrinal points sometimes are lost in the court recorders' and inquisitors' inability to cross linguistic and ideological barriers.
For this reviewer, who is quite familiar with the workings of the Inquisition, the chapters that reconstructed the workforce and operation of the Spanish presses (chapters 4–7) were the most valuable. Here Griffin brings to bear the full force of his expertise and skillfully leads the reader through the obscure world of Spanish printing. In general, Spain was a magnet for enterprising foreigners because wages were higher and, in many cases, technological expertise less. The printing industry was a case in point. Workers who could barely pass muster in the Low Countries and France could easily find employment in Spain. Because of events in Lyon, the capital of France's printing industry, in the 1560s a stream of emigrants made their way to Spain, carrying with them not only their skills but their knowledge of Calvinism. Most were young, not highly skilled, but very mobile and employable. Shops could be almost entirely French-run affairs, and because of the nature of the business workers were effectively sealed off from the surrounding Castilian or Catalan society. Once a job began, the press ran virtually nonstop, and workers labored, ate, slept, and relaxed in one another's company. Also interesting are chapters 8 and 9, in which Griffin pulls apart the various beliefs of the defendants. While there is nothing new here in terms of the heretical beliefs under scrutiny, the deftness with which Griffin navigates the interrogations and arrives at some conclusions concerning the defendants' varying level...