Italian Printed Books and Book Collections in Early Modern French Speaking Europe

Projet ANR-13-BSH3-0010-01

The project “EDITEF” (L’Édition Italienne dans l’Espace Francophone à la première modernité) responds to a pressing need to update current knowledge of the production, diffusion and conservation of works published in Italian in the French-speaking parts of early modern Europe – works which constitute essential corpora for understanding the spread of Humanism and the Renaissance in Continental Europe. Covering a wide range of bibliographical, socio-cultural and prosopographical aspects, the thematic, chronological and linguistic scope of the project has been defined over the last year by an important number of French and foreign specialists.

This preliminary collaboration between researchers from diverse disciplinary and geographical backgrounds was scientifically supported and funded by several institutions: the CESR (Centre for Advanced Renaissance Studies, UMR 7323 of the CNRS-François Rabelais University of Tours), the Val de Loire branch of the Maison de Science de l’Homme, the MRSC (Humanities Research Institute) of Caen, Lower Normandy, the laboratory LLS (Langages, Littératures, Sociétés) of the Savoie University, and the Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris. These institutions have long supported fundamental research in the history of books and reading and have frequently worked together to valorise written heritage through publication, exhibitions and research programmes (BVH, RICERCAR) and to promote data collection projects. The project is actually financed by the Agence Nationale pour la Recherche and takes advantage from the collaboration with the Beni culturali department of the Alma Mater Studiorum of Bologna, Ravenna Campus Branch.

The EDITEF project aims at coordinating innovative research on people active in the production, marketing and conservation of Italian books and their French translations in early modern Europe. It proposes an original approach to studying the inter-regional circulation of these works, focusing on the ways and means of marketing, transportation and peddling, and taking into account the role of the great trading fairs. Particular attention will be accorded to Italian expatriates installed in the French-speaking parts of Europe (merchants, printer-booksellers, polygraphers, etc.) who provide important insight into an “exile culture” whose economic consequences have often been underestimated.

In order to fully evaluate the penetration of Italian culture in France, French-speaking Switzerland and southern Belgium, our range of study material will include preserved public and private collections, incomplete and/or dispersed collections and traces of printer-booksellers' stocks from sixteenth- to eighteenth-century Transalpine Europe. The analysis of inventories and legacies left by collectors, as well as letters exchanged by bibliophiles will enable us to gain a clearer idea of the amplitude of a phenomenon that may aptly be termed as “bibliophilic Italianism” and help us to map the presence of Italian books within the concerned regions.

The EDITEF project also intends to develop several digital tools aimed at furthering the exploitation of collected data and efficiently diffusing the results. Foremost among them will be a multifunctional gateway that will potentially become an essential means of information transfer for all researchers working on the history of Italian books during the early modern period. This gateway will provide access to a biographical database dedicated to the actors of the Italian publishing industry in French-speaking Europe and to collections.