PRINTED MATTER IN THE CITY: IMAGES AND TEXTS
At least in the cities, then, there existed a relationship to printed matter somewhere between the individual's reading of a book, an activity that takes place privately, within the reader's forum internum, and the simple hearing of a written text, which occurs, for example, when listening to a sermon. In the workshop, in the dissident churches, in the festive confraternities, writing in typographic form was close at hand, even for those unable to read. Manipulated in common, by some taught, by others deciphered, printed matter was profoundly integrated into the life of the community, and it made its mark on the culture of the mass of city dwellers. By the same token, it created a public – therefore a market – that reached beyond those who knew how to read and beyond the readers of books alone. In point of fact, the relationship with the written word for most city dwellers between 1530 and 1660 was not one that involved books, or at least not the sort of books valuable enough to be kept a lifetime and appraised in one's estate. The "typographic acculturation" of the urban population depended on other more modest and more ephemeral material. This material accounted for a large part of printers' activities, and in all its forms it offered both text and image, although in highly varying formats and proportions. It is difficult to draw a clear distinction between the image volante (flysheet picture) and the placard (political broadsheet), between the placard and the canard (satirical or sensational news sheet), and between the canard and the slim volumes of the Bibliothèque bleue, as there were multiple transitional forms between each genre. The image volante, the typographic genre at first sight farthest from written culture, gives one example of this. These flysheet pictures always contain printed written material, giving titles, captions, and commentaries, as we can See, for instance, in the images made for trade-oriented or religious confraternities.
The Images Volantes
Always printed on large format sheets, the confraternity images combined picture and text. In some of them, the focus is on the engraved design; in others, for example the placards of pardons and indulgences or the listing of confraternity membership, the printed text is more important. But a vignette usually accompanies the text of such pieces; in turn, the large pictures left space in increasing amounts to writing – to a presentation of the tutelary saint or event that gave the confrérie its name and a mention of the church where it was founded; to a prayer in the patron saint's honor; and to notes on the history or statutes of the confraternity. As one image from the Confrérie du Saint-Sacrement states, this material could always be "read" two ways: "Whoever keeps this writing in a place where it can be read and whoever reads it--or, not knowing how to read, bows his head reverently-will earn plenary Indulgence." Such pictures were for both private and public use. Every year, when dues were payable, all the brothers received a copy to paste on a wall of their bedroom or workshop. Some statutes made this obligatory, for example the Confrérie du Saint-Sacrement of Rueil stipulated that the brothers "will have in their house an image that represents this mystery." When the patron saint's feast day was celebrated, the images were distributed throughout the city and posted in the church. The carpenters, who belonged to the Confrérie de Saint-Joseph based in the parish of Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs, "have a High Mass sung, with Deacon Subdeacon, and Chapter as well, with organ and carillon, [with] tapestries hung outside and inside the church along with the images of the confraternity on which it is marked that King Robert, thirty-seventh king of France, was the founder, and [with] the Bulls of Indulgence which were accorded in the month of March of the year 1665 by Pope Alexander VII." (Emphasis added.) These images provided prayers and pious formulas, they gave the names of the confraternity's masters and churchwardens, and they offered tangible or figurative form to the object of common devotion (the Holy Sacrament, the Rosary, the patron saint). They fed the piety of both those who could and those who could not read. One can imagine that their familiar presence at the center of daily life was an introduction to written culture for those to whom the schoolhouses of the city had failed to teach their ABCs.
Some of these images were printed from plates that remained the property of the confraternities. For example, the carpenters' confrérie in Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs, which we have already encountered, owned "two copper plates which serve to print the Images that are given to the confraternity" and "one large cooper plate which was made in 1660." But more often than not the confraternities turned to specialized imagiers, engravers, and printers. In Paris the printshops of the Rue Montorgueil controlled the market up to the end of the sixteenth century, producing large woodcuts for wall mounting. Later the lead passed to the copperplate engravers of the Rues Saint-Jacques and Saint-Jean-de-Latran, who also published illustrated books. Although religious images long constituted the greater part of the imagiers' work, the confraternities' orders obviously represented only a part of their activities. According to studies made of the prints in the Bibliothèque Nationale collection, religious subjects accounted for 97 percent of the woodcuts put out by the printshops of the Rue Saint-Jacques at the end of the fifteenth century, 80 percent of those at the end of the sixteenth century, and close to 50 percent of those at the beginning of the seventeenth century. There are several remarks that need to be made about this production of religious images – which must be considered as a form of "publishing," as attested by the bookseller-printers' annoyance at the proliferation of picture prints with texts. First, about its extent: Each plate lent itself to multiple reprintings and could serve for an extremely long time. The images extant thus represent only an infinitesimal portion of those that circulated and were pasted to walls, affixed to bedsteads, hung over mantels, closed in strongboxes or drawers, or buried with the dead. On the other hand, the religious image evolved: The large-format woodcuts, which often were printed in series and sometimes were colored by hand, gave way to smaller copperplate engravings that could also serve as illustrations for books of the same format. This double use of the print – as a flysheet and as a plate in a book – is, moreover, only one instance of the multiple reuse of such engravings, and confraternity materials give many examples of this. The same picture could be printed with different titles and texts for different confraternities, when a new text was not simply glued onto leftover stock.
Dominated by religious imagery in the sixteenth century, print production included more and more secular subjects during the seventeenth century. Religious pictures account for 48 percent of extant prints from the beginning of the century, but only 27 percent of those of the midcentury. The leading secular use was political. During the Wars of Religion, and particularly during the League, a war of images paralleled the war of pamphlets. Such pictures turned pious imagery to political ends (for example, by juxtaposing a crucifixion scene with a view of the funeral bier of the Duke of Guise and his brother the Cardinal of Lorraine) and often relied on the contrary political uses of a given iconographic motif (for example, the cooking-pot turned upside down). They circulated widely, were carried and brandished during processions, and were "hawked, preached, and sold publicly in Paris in all places and streets of the city," as Pierre de l'Estoile writes in the introduction to his collection of such images. Henry IV grasped the importance of the printed image. For one thing, in 1594 he ordered the burning of all such pieces concerning the League; in addition, he had printed an entire series of propaganda pictures bearing his portrait or celebrating his royal deeds. The success of the printsellers of the Rue Saint-Jacques was obviously due in part to their enrollment in the service of monarchical glory, which brought redoubled orders for prints to illustrate books of propaganda or to be distributed as flysheets.
After political imagery, pictures for entertainment, both satirical and moralizing, account for the next sizable group of nonreligious prints. During the first half of the seventeenth century two themes overshadowed all others: the process of aging and relations between men and women. This last theme appeared in various forms, for example in portrayals of two imaginary beasts, Bigorne, well nourished with "bons hommes," and Chiche-Face (France), dying of hunger for lack of "bonnes fernmes," or in the portrait of Lustucru as a cephalic surgeon, putting women's heads back on wrong side out. In this sort of imagery (which includes the various series of Lagniet's Proverbes published between 1657 and 1663) as in the political engravings, the text takes up less space than in the religious prints. It is often limited to a title and an explanatory or moralizing commentary in verse placed under the picture, which was usually oblong in form. Writing never disappeared completely, however, and, as with the devotional images, the prints that aimed at amusing or persuading did their part to further the entry of the urban populace into the culture of the printed word.
Among the canards and occasionnels, those that were printed on the recto side alone of a large-format sheet differed little (aside from their subject matter) from the larger engravings. But this format was rare among the canards (which presented news of extraordinary happenings), at least among those extant. The inventory of Jean-Pierre Seguin lists only seven of these from between 1529 and 1631. All – with the exception of one not illustrated – have the same layout: From top to bottom of a lengthwise sheet (unlike satirical images, which were generally horizontal), they bear a title, made to be seen and cried, then a woodcut and a descriptive text of ten to twenty lines. Image and text concurrently describe celestial prodigies (Le Pourtraict de la comète, Qui est apparue sur la ville de Paris depuys le Mercredy 28e Novembre 1618, jusques à quelques jours ensuivans [Paris, M. de Mathonière, 1618); the evil deeds of witches and sorcerers (Mort et trespas de Monseigneur le Prince de Courtenay, par la malicieuse Sorcellerie d'un misérable Sorcier qui depuys fut exécuté [n.p., n.d.]); or monstrous creatures, as in the two canards of identical layout printed in Chambéry in 1578 by F. Poumard (the Briefz discours d'un merveilleux monstre né à Eurisgo, terre de Novarrez en Lombardie, au moys de Janvier en la présente Année 1578. Avec le vray pourtraict d'icelluy au plus prez du naturel and the Vray pourtraict, et sommaire description d'un horrible et merveilleux monstre, né à Cher, terre de Piédmond, le 10 Janvier 1578. A huit heures du soir, de la femme d'un docteur, avec sept cornes, celle qui pend jusques à la saincture & celle qui est autour du col sont de chair).
Some of the occasionnels that were related to political events took up the same formula and were printed on the recto of one sheet (allowing them to be posted). For example, in 1642 Le Pourtraict de Monseignr le Cardinal de Richelieu sur son lit de parade, avec son Épitaphe was printed in Paris by François Beauplet. Folio occasionnels, which bore a longer text than the images volantes but, unlike the placards, were illustrated, were a transitional form between one typographic format and another. They were destined for an ephemeral life, but they could also reach people who did not buy them. Less immediately "popular" because they had written texts alone, the placards still could bring sustenance to the culture of the generality of men, since, when posted on the city walls, those who could read could share them with those who could not. This was surely what reformers hoped for when in 1534 they plastered the walls of Paris with a placard attacking the mass written by Antoine Marcourt and printed by Pierre de Vingle; both fled to Geneva. It was also in an attempt to influence popular opinion that in January 1649 the Queen and Mazarin, residing in Rueil, ordered a placard posted in Paris, the text of which was later printed in the form of a libelle (pamphlet) entitled Lis et fais and distributed secretly in the city by the Chevalier de La Valette on the night of 10-11 February. In the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries, then, the printing profession gave wide diffusion to an abundance of typographic materials designed to be posted on or pasted to the walls of houses and churches, bedrooms and workshops. These materials appeared in a variety of forms that almost always permitted a double reading – of text and image. Thus it is beyond doubt that printing profoundly transformed a culture that, until then, had been deprived of contact with the written word. A change of this importance, which made the printed word familiar and necessary to a full comprehension of the images offered to view, was quite probably decisive for the introduction of literacy in urban areas, a literacy that was both significant and precocious and that in due time created a "popular" market for the book.
PUBLISHING STRATEGIES AND CULTURAL GAPS
The years from 1530 to 1660 marked a decisive stage in the history of publishing in Frances. Although illiteracy remained widespread – even in the cities, which were much in advance of the country areas around them – and although individual ownership of many books remained the privilege of the elites, it was during this century (broadly understood) that a "popular" market for the printed word was established. The groundwork for such a market had doubtlessly been prepared by the circulation of an entire set of materials that, since the block books, had brought together image and text and had made the written word familiar even to those unable to read. This new relationship with the printed word cannot be separated from the social relations that lay at the heart of all forms of popular sociability – work-connected, religious, or festive. Far from supposing, at least at first, any withdrawal into one's inner self, the circulation of printed texts depended strongly on the community bonds woven among the petit peuple of the cities. Popular receptivity to printed matter did not create a literature specific to the popular audience; it meant that the humblest of citizens handled texts that were also read by "notables" great and small. This was what happened with the almanacs, with, the canards, and with the blue booklets. In Paris and Lyons in the sixteenth century and in Troyes in the seventeenth, printers devoted the better part of their activities to publishing these slim volumes that cost little and had a great number of buyers. In so doing, however, they created or reinforced cultural gaps that until then had been little or not much felt.
The first of these gaps was between the cities and the countryside. In rural areas, traditional culture left little room for the printed word, and books were rarely owned and rarely handled. In the cities, however, acculturation to printing happened on an almost daily basis because books were present, because the walls bore images and placards, and because people had frequent recourse to writing. The cultural universe on one side of the city walls became increasingly different from the cultural universe on the other side, and this led to scorn from within and hostility from without. In a world based on oral communication and the gesture, the cities became little islands of another culture, a culture based on writing and typography, in which all or nearly all the urban population directly or indirectly participated. And thereafter all other cultures were to be measured by this new culture that rested on the newest of the aids to communication, and all other cultures came to be deprecated, rejected, and denied.
To this first gap, the "popular" diffusion of printed matter and of the book added another. The new forms of publishing that had produced the low-cost booklets did not make equal use of all available texts. For the most part, they contributed to the distribution of texts that did not belong or that no longer belonged to the printed culture of the elites. This is why medieval texts and works of an outdated piety found their most widespread distribution at a time when learned readers had abandoned them. Likewise, works claiming to decipher the universe and the future and books giving advice on savoir-vivre multiplied at just the moment when the notables began to disdain them. We can see traces, then, of an opposition, which was to prove lasting, between two sorts of texts: those that provided food for thought for the wealthiest or the best-educated members of society and those that fed the curiosities of the common people. Even though these two sets of works did not have two radically different publics in the seventeenth century – as we have seen, there were many occasions for shared reading – it nevertheless remains true that they characterize two sorts of material that the printers published, aimed at clienteles, circulations, and uses that were not the same. These contrasting intentions can be read in the material aspect of the book. For one group the book is a noble object, well-made, leatherbound, and to be carefully preserved; for the other, it is an ephemeral and roughly made thing. By its form and by its text, the book became a sign of distinction and a bearer of a cultural identity. Molière is a good example of this sociology avant la lettre that characterizes each milieu by its books. For him, the presence of the "blue" tales or of an almanac was all that he needed to portray a cultural horizon that fell between that of the humble and that of the learned. "Popular" printing's success thus had complex significance. In part, it was the recovery under a new guise and for the use of a new public of texts that had had their rightful place within the culture of the elites before falling into disgrace. But it also contributed to the decline in status of the books that it offered. In the eyes of the lettered, such works became reading unworthy of their status when they entered the province of the vulgar herd. It was not that editorial strategies created a progressive broadening of the book-reading public; rather, they created, and to an unsuspected extent, systems for gauging differences. Such systems categorized the products of the printing trade in cultural terms, thus fragmenting the market into clienteles presumed to be discrete and establishing new cultural frontiers.