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1 For background on Rouen in the sixteenth century, see Benedict, chapter 1. 2 The first surviving book printed in Rouen was a description of the royal entry of Charles VIII into the city, printed by Guillaume le Talleur in 1485 (Entrée…Charles VIII; see Le Verdier; Dureau, 173). Aquilon (‘Réalités,’ 356) describes Rouen as the ‘leading provincial city in terms of publishing’ (‘première ville de province, en matière de librairie’). university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 4, fall 2004 D Y L A N R E I D Renaissance Printing and Provincial Culture in Sixteenth-Century Rouen For much of the sixteenth century, Rouen was the second-largest city in France. Located on the Seine between Paris and the English Channel, Rouen was both an important administrative centre, as capital of the wealthy province of Normandy, and an important commercial and manufacturing centre, as the port that linked river traffic from Paris with the ocean-going traffic of the English Channel.1 In the first century after the introduction of the printing press to France, however, the size of Rouen’s printing industry did not live up to the city’s economic and political importance. The most important printing city in France was, of course, Paris, where the first press was introduced in 1470; it retained the largest book publishing industry in France from that point to the present day. In second place came Rouen’s rival, Lyon, the city in the Rhône valley near the borders of Italy, Switzerland and Germany, where printing was introduced in 1473 and quickly grew to rival Paris in both quantity and quality. Between them, these two cities produced 80 to 90 per cent of the books published in France in the sixteenth century (Dureau, 165; Martin and Dureau, 217). Rouen came a poor third. Its industry began relatively late, in 1485, and it never achieved the same kind of scale as Paris and Lyon. On the other hand, it remained far ahead of any other provincial city in France, and over the course of the sixteenth century the city’s printers carved out a solid if modest niche in the French book industry. Rouen became, in effect, a 2 regional centre of production, finding ways to sustain a viable book industry in the face of the national and international scale of production of Paris and Lyon. My own interest in Rouen lies in its cultural life, and the relationship of the city’s local culture to broader cultural developments. This local culture, in particular Rouen’s literary life, was of fundamental importance in shaping the development of printing in Rouen, and in this paper I will explore the way in which local culture and the local printing industry 1012 dylan reid 3 For the first book in Caen, see Girard, 123. For a brief summary of pre-1500 printing in Rouen, see Girard. For a comparison of Rouen’s early printing production with Paris and Lyon, and for Lyon’s advantages on the Germany-Italy axis, see Mellot, L’édition rouennaise, 28. For Rouen’s commercial networks, see Benedict, chapter 1, and Mollat, 119–268. For more details on the socio-economic factors that affected the development of printing in Rouen, as opposed to the cultural factors discussed in this paper, see Mellot, L’édition rouennaise, 28–30. university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 4, fall 2004 interacted and affected each other. The city’s late start in the printing industry can itself be partly attributed to Rouen’s cultural circumstances. On the other hand, having been relegated to a secondary role, Rouen’s printers used the city’s active literary life as an important part of their strategy to survive and prosper in the face of their dominant competitors. In terms of culture, the most significant European development over the period under discussion was the dissemination of the Renaissance beyond its birthplace in Italy. In France, the development of the printing industry and of the Renaissance were closely intertwined. The first books printed in Paris were humanist texts for university professors inspired by Renaissance ideals of teaching, while Lyon’s printing industry was...


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