1st Edition

Women and the Book Trade in Sixteenth-Century France

By Susan Broomhall Copyright 2002

    Focusing on the vastly understudied area of how women participated in the book trades, not just as authors, but also as patrons, copyists, illuminators, publishers, editors and readers, Women and the Book Trade in Sixteenth-Century France foregrounds contributions made by women during a period of profound transformation in the modes and understanding of publication. Broomhall asks whether women's experiences as authors changed when manuscript circulation gave way to the printed book as a standard form of publication. Innovatively, she broadens the concept of publication to include methods of scribal publication, through the circulation and presentation of manuscripts, and expands notions of authorship to incorporate a wide sample group of female writers and publishing experiences. She challenges the existing view that manuscript offered a "safe" means of semi-public exposure for female authors and explores its continuing presence after the introduction of print. The study introduces a wide and rich range of unexamined sources on early modern women, using an extensive range of manuscripts and the entire corpus of women's printed texts in sixteenth-century France. Most of the original texts, uncovered during the author's own extensive archival and bibliographical research, have never been re-published in modern French. Most of the citations from them are here translated into English for the first time. The work presents the only checklist of all known women's writings in printed texts, from prefaces and laudatory verse to editions of prose and poetry, between 1488 and 1599. Women and the Book Trade in Sixteenth-Century France constitutes the most comprehensive assessment of women's contribution to contemporary publishing yet available. Broomhall's innovative approach and her conclusions have relevance not only for book historians and French historians, but for a broad range of scholars who work with other European literatures and histories, as well as women's studies.

    Contents: Introduction; Contexts of female publication: Women's experiences as readers, owners and collectors of books; Women working in the book trades; Women publishing: theoretical and practical contexts; The struggle for textual control: Female authors in print; Strategies of female publication: Dynamic boundaries: Social status, geography and gender in publication; Domestic speech: Rhetorical strategies of family and household; In the margins: gender, textual relation and location; Conclusions; Appendix: A checklist of first and significant editions; Bibliography; Index.


    Susan Broomhall is an Australian Research Council Post-doctoral Fellow in the Department of History, The University of Western Australia. She has published on early modern women in the Sixteenth Century Journal, Social History of Medicine, Nottingham French Studies, Parergon amongst others and her second monograph Gender and Medical Knowledge in Early Modern France is forthcoming from Manchester University Press. She is currently working on a modern edition of the Le Verger Fertile des Vertus and a history of women in sixteenth-century France with Colette H. Winn, a study of the correspondence of the daughters of Guillaume d'Orange, and a monograph entitled Writing Convent Life in Sixteenth-Century France: The Abbey of Beaumont-Lès-Tours

    'This is an extraordinary, comprehensive study of women's involvement in sixteenth-century publication - within the printing trade, as authors of manuscripts, and as writers. Broomhall gives us a vivid panorama of women's involvement in the trade, constantly illuminating how the themes and material conditions of women's writing were linked. Her subtle study brings to life the constraints and the possibilities that sixteenth-century French society allowed women. This is indeed a remarkable book.' Lyndal Roper, Royal Holloway College, University of London, UK 'Susan Broomhall’s book gives us a full and fascinating picture of women as authors and publishers in 16th-century France. From the famous to the little-known, these writers found ways to get around the silence enjoined on women and clever techniques to say what they wanted to say. Broomhall gives lively recreation of their world and of the women and men who read them.' Natalie Zemon Davis, Princeton University, and author of The Return of Martin Guerre '... a compelling book.' H-France '... a ground-breaking work indispensable not only for historians of the book but also for anyone interested in the lives of working women during the sixteenth century.' Parergon 'This scholar's researches have been original and extensive and are to be highly commended.' BHR 'Using a wide variety of sources - from the most celebrated female authors to heretofore unknowns - this is an original contribution to the burgeoning field of the history of the book.' Sixteenth Century Journal '... a welcome addition to both literary and gender studies, as well as to print history. Previous studies of female writers have tended to concentrate on the 'content' of women's writing, but Broomhall sets herself the task of examining the 'context' and conditions of female participation in the book trade. This volume offers an in-depth analysis of women not only as authors but also as readers, printers, editors, patrons, scribes, collector