Promoting the Counter-Reformation in Provincial France: Printing and Bookselling in Sixteenth-Century Verdun

Abstract : The decisions made by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent were central to the revitalisation of Catholicism in the second half of the sixteenth century. Yet, for the most part, they were not applied in France where the kings preferred to promote their own Gallican vision of religion. Some of the most influential members of the French Church did not agree with this policy and sought to promote Tridentine reform. This was true of the archbishop of Rheims, the Cardinal of Lorraine, but also of the bishop of Verdun, Nicolas Psaume. Psaume had introduced the printing press in his episcopal seat in the early 1560s, at the very time when the kingdom of France was descending into the chaos of the Wars of Religion. He immediately used print not only to fight heresy but also to reform his own Church. His presence at the Council of Trent was significant as he was able to give a witness account of the proceedings and draw on his own experience. Alongside a more practical emphasis on Tridentine Catholicism in his own diocese, he and his successors wrote and promoted texts that would further their cause. From a provincial and peripheral city, they sought to influence national policy, sometimes working in conjunction with the presses in Rheims. In order to analyse the importance of religious debate in the developing print culture of Verdun, this article uses evidence taken from the local archives, as well from the printed books themselves. It examines the contents of the editions published in Verdun (and in particular in the paratexts) in conjunction with an analysis of provenance marks to be found on other volumes. This enables us to understand fully the importance of the printed book to the local Catholic Church. It illustrates the role played by the ecclesiastical authorities in attracting printers and the use they made of the presses. Their wider attitude to the book in the diocese is considered, as are their sometimes contrasting reactions to Protestant booksellers. Though the part played by local bishops was important, this article also looks at the impact of the newly founded Jesuit college in the city as well as the wider Catholic community. The presence of a strong manuscript tradition of religious book production that preceded the arrival of the presses is also examined and shows how the city changed from being a producer of expensive and exclusive Latin books to the purveyor of often cheap, short, French works that sought to influence the widest possible readership.
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Submitted on : Friday, January 26, 2018 - 4:40:53 PM
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  • HAL Id : hal-01693961, version 1


Malcolm Walsby. Promoting the Counter-Reformation in Provincial France: Printing and Bookselling in Sixteenth-Century Verdun. Daniel Bellingradt; Paul Nelles; Jeroen Salman. Books in Motion in Early Modern Europe. Beyond Production, Circulation and Consumption, Palgrave Macmillan, pp.15-37, 2017, 978-3-319-53365-0. ⟨hal-01693961⟩



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