Elise Watson (University of St Andrews) • Derivative Piety: Marketing Illicit Catholic Print in the Dutch Republic
Though the public exercise of Catholicism was prohibited in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic, its practitioners still wielded significant political and economic power at all levels of society. This included the book trade, of which Catholic print made up an important part. Seeing themselves as one broken half of a soon-to-be reunited Catholic Low Countries, this minority religious community viewed the Southern Netherlands as an aspirational model of Counter-Reformation piety. While Northern printer-publishers sought Southern collaborators, imitated the stylings of Antwerp printers and added false 'Antwerp' and 'Louvain' imprints to their books, booksellers imported enormous quantities of liturgical books from firms like the Officina Plantiniana. Using archival research focused on centres of Catholic print like Holland and the Generality Lands, including a substantial quantity of printed ephemera, this paper will demonstrate how Catholic book producers in the Dutch Republic employed a distinctive brand of imitated Southern Netherlandish piety as a confessional marketing strategy. While this emulation was not actually intended to fool authorities or consumers, employing it gave printers, publishers and booksellers plausible legal deniability to Reformed authorities. It also communicated orthodoxy to the ever-watchful Catholic ecclesiastical censors, and made these works attractive and suitable for distribution in international markets.
Elise Watson is a PhD candidate at the University of St Andrews and an affiliate of the Universal Short Title Catalogue project. Her doctoral research examines printing for the Catholic community in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. In 2020, she received the Ecclesiastical History Society's Michael Kennedy Prize for her article on the participation of Catholic lay sisters in the Amsterdam book trade. She is also the Assistant Editor of Book History Online, Brill's international bibliography in the field of book and library history.