Books and Their Makers during the Middle Ages: A Study of the Conditions of the Production and Distribution of Literature from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Close of the Seventeenth Century - Vol. 2

By George Haven Putnam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII.
THE ELZEVIRS OF LEYDEN AND AMSTERDAM. 1587-1688.

THE name of Elzevir has for more than two centuries been a familiar one to collectors of choice books. These Dutch printer-publishers of the seventeenth century were able to associate their imprint with certain publications of such distinctive typographical excellence as to ensure for the editions known as "Elzevirs" a prestige that has endured to the present day. Aldus alone among the early publishers has had a similar fortune, and while the "Aldine" editions are, of course, in respect to their number and to their typographical excellence, much less important than the "Elzevirs," it must be remembered that having been issued more than a century earlier, their production called for a much larger measure of originating capacity and initiative on the part of their printer-publisher. The principal authority on the history of the Elzevirs is a comprehensive and carefully written monograph of Alphonse Willems, published in Brussels in 1880.

Louis Elzevir, who, as far as its publishing undertakings are concerned, was the founder of the family, had been brought up as a binder in the Flemish University town of Louvain. He was a Protestant, and in 1580, when existence for Protestants had been made difficult in the Catholic provinces of Flanders, Elzevir, in company with hundreds of others of his faith, made his way across

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