The Book Trade in the Italian Renaissance


Author: Angela Nuovo
This work offers the first English-language survey of the book industry in Renaissance Italy. Whereas traditional accounts of the book in the Renaissance celebrate authors and literary achievement, this study examines the nuts and bolts of a rapidly expanding trade that built on existing economic practices while developing new mechanisms in response to political and religious realities. Approaching the book trade from the perspective of its publishers and booksellers, this archive-based account ranges across family ambitions and warehouse fires to publishers' petitions and convivial bookshop conversation. In the process it constructs a nuanced picture of trading networks, production, and the distribution and sale of printed books, a profitable but capricious commodity.

Originally published in Italian as Il commercio librario nell’Italia del Rinascimento (Milan: Franco Angeli, 1998; second, revised ed., 2003), this present English translation has not only been updated but has also been deeply revised and augmented.

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Angela Nuovo is Professor of the History of the Book at the University of Udine in Italy. She has published extensively on the book trade and private libraries in Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
“The author has provided easily the best and fullest account of her subject, an account based firmly on both archives and books. They are welcome foundations not just for Italy, but for much of the European trade.”
David McKitterick, University of Cambridge. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 67, No. 2 (Summer 2014), pp. 674-676.

“Angela Nuovo is the authority on the Italian book trade. … [She] has provided us with a new, definite guide to the large and expansive literature on the book trade in Italy. … Nuovo’s book is essential reading, both for presenting original research and for describing in English a long Italian tradition of scholarship.”
Paul Gehl, The Newberry Library. In: The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, Vol. 109, No. 2 (June 2015), pp. 270-272.

“The first full-length study of the book business in Renaissance Italy to appear in English, Nuovo’s book now figures as the standard reference work in the field in any language.”
Antonio Ricci, York University, Toronto. In: SHARP News, Vol. 23, No. 4 (Autum 2014), pp. 16-17.

" The Book Trade is an excellent resource. [Nuovo] has produced both a reference book of clearly sorted and articulated information and a grand story using that information.”
Joseph P. Byrne, Belmont University. In: Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2 (2014), pp. 429-430.

" The Book Trade in the Italian Renaissance is the first English-language monograph to offer a thorough overview of the book industry in Renaissance Italy. The volume explores the formation of commercial networks, the challenges of producing, warehousing and selling books, the role of book fairs, distribution systems, juridical aspects of the book trade, and the role of the bookshop as a new space of cultural exchange."
Bryan Brazeau, New York University. In: The Year’s Work in Modern Language Studies, Vol. 75 (2013), p. 311.

“A rich source of knowledge about the book trade, not only in Italy, but also in general. It will undoubtedly remain a standard work of reference in the field for a long time.”
Christian Coppens, Leuven University. In: De Gulden Passer, Vol. 92, pp. 227-229.

"Eine gelungene Gesamtdarstellung des Buchhandels in Italien im 15. und 16. Jahrhundert."
Hans-Jörg Künast, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg. In: Archiv für Geschichte des Buchwesens, Bd. 69 (2014), S. 254-257.

"Dieser Titel kann als einführender Überblick unter anderem auch wegen anders gestalteter Tabellen als eine ausgezeichnete Ergänzung zu dem äußerst interessanten, hier vorgestellten Werk nur empfohlen werden."
Alfred Noe, Universität Wien. In: Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung, Bd. 122 (2014), S. 508-509.

"Nuovos Buch war schon in der italienischen Fassung ein wichtiger Referenzpunkt für Studien zum frühen italienischen Buchdruck. Die erweiterte Übersetzung macht gerade in ihren Detailstudien die Verbindung von Humanismus, Druckwesen und wirtschaftlicher Entwicklung in vielen Details sichtbar. Sie erschließt die umfangreiche italienische Buchforschung und eröffnet dieser den Weg zu einer stärkeren internationalen Wahrnehmung. Bibliotheken benötigen die englische Fassung neben der italienischen; auch Forscher sollten sie haben."
Anja Wolkenhauer, Universität Tübingen. In: Wolfenbütteler Renaissance-Mitteilungen, Bd. 34, No. 2 (2012/2013), S. 264-266.

‘’Il volume è di fatto il saggio più completo ed esaustivo sul tema delcommercio librario italiano tra Quattro e Cinquecento, che in questa nuova versione trova un eccellente perno di analisi negli aspetti giuridici legati al mercato dei libri. Senza esagerare si può ben dire di trovarsi di fronte a un vero e proprio modello di studio da seguirein tutti i lavori di storia del commercio librario. A corredo del volume una nutrita serie di indici, utilissimi strumenti per navigare in quest’opera di valore eccezionale.’’
Natale Vacalebre, University of Udine. In:

‘’È il quadro di tutte le possibili sfaccettature che possono essere analizzate nell’ambito di un singolo argomento di studio (il commercio librario) e l’abilità di incorniciarlo all’interno di un’epoca profondamente conosciuta dall’autrice: questo è ciò che colpisce, oggi più che quindici anni fa, nel lavoro di Angela Nuovo. Nella trattazione […] non viene tralasciato nulla che non abbia rilevanza centrale per la storia del commercio librario.’’
Lorenzo Mancini, Istituto di linguistica computazionale “Antonio Zampolli’’- Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche. In: Nuovi Annali della Scuola Speciale per Archivisti e Bibliotecari, 28, 2014, pp. 263-4.


Commercial networks

Chapter 1: The Commercial Network of The Company of Venice

Johannes de Colonia and Nicolaus Jenson

Peter Ugelheimer, The Creator of the Commercial Network

The Transfer of the Network to Ugolino di Fabriano and Giovan Pietro Bonomini

A Transfer of Control in Perugia
The Network Ceded to Gerhard Lof

A Transfer of Control in Siena

Giovan Pietro Bonomini: From Tuscany to Portugal

Chapter 2: The Development of Commercial Networks

The Giunti

1. The First Generation

2. The Second Generation

3. The Third Generation

4. The Giunti in Rome

The Gabiano Family

1. Giovanni Bartolomeo da Gabiano

Other Booksellers’ Commercial Networks

1. Bernardino Stagnino

2. Giovanni Giolito de’ Ferrari

3. The Sessa Family

4. The Varisco Family

Juridical Relations Among Wholesalers and Retailers

1. The Practice of Sales on Commission in the Book Trade

2. The Sale or Return Contract

3. Other Types of Relations Between Wholesalers and Retailers


Chapter 3: Press Runs

Press Runs Inferred from the Zornale of Francesco de’ Madi (1484-1488)

Geographical and Historical Oscillations

Press Runs in the Cinquecento

Chapter 4: Warehouses

The Market: From Local to Transnational
The Growth of Warehouses: The Warehouse of Sigismondo dei Libri (1484)

The Warehouse of Platone de’ Benedetti (1497)

The Warehouse of Niccolò Gorgonzola (1537)

Book Warehouses in the Cinquecento

Book Warehouses and Paper Supplies

Chapter 5: Marks and Branches


1. Marks in Printed Books

2. Contention Over Marks

3. The History of an Emblematic Mark: The Giolito Phoenix

4. Non-Commercial Marks on Printed Books


1. The System of Branches

2. The Transnational System of Branches

3. The Gabiano Family in Lyon

4. The Manuzio Firm in Paris

5. The Branch System in Italy

6. The Giolito Branch Organization

The Giolito Branch in Naples (1545)

The Giolito Branch in Rome (1582?)

7. Branches and Marks

8. Branches and the Diffusion of Publishing Initiatives

9. Foreign Branches in Italy?

Chapter 6: The Book Privilege System

The Institution of the Privilege

Book Privileges

Literary Privileges

Venetian Legislation Regarding Printing (Up to 1540)

Venetian Legislation Regarding Printing (1540s to 1603)

Applying for a Privilege

Notification and Display of Privileges

The Privileged Printer

Pre-publication Censorship and Licencing

Book Privileges in Rome

The Great Venetian Bookmen and Papal Privileges

Selling and Distribution

Chapter 7: Distribution

Distribution among University Cities: Cultural Contacts and Fiscal Exemptions

Distribution from Venice

Chapter 8: Fairs

Italian Bookmen at the Frankfurt Fair

Pietro Perna (d. 1582)

Pietro Longo (d. 1588)

Giovan Battista Ciotti (d. after 1625)

Italian Books at the Frankfurt Fair

Italian Fairs

Venice, a Permanent Book Fair

Book Fairs in Italy

The Fairs of Recanati and Foligno

The Fair of Lanciano

A Bookseller at the Fairs: Bernardo d’Asola, Agent of the Gabiano Firm (1522)

Chapter 9: Retail Sales: Distribution Inside and Outside of Bookshops

Cartolai and Peddlers in the Diario of the Ripoli Press (1476-1484)

Cheap Print Sales Outside of Bookshops

The Sale of Books in Cartolai’s Shops

Shop Sales: The Zornale of Francesco de’ Madi (1484-1488)

The Price of Books

Chapter 10: Shop Inventories

The Characteristics of Shop Inventories

Inventories of the 1470s and 1480s

Inventories of the 1490s

Early Sixteenth-Century Inventories

Inventories in the University Cities: Giunti in Perugia; Giolito in Turin
and Pavia

Bookshop Inventories after 1550








Table: Editions and Copies in Bookshops

Chapter 11: Managing a Bookstore

Internal Views

Inside the Shops: The Placement and Arrangement of Books

Bound Books, Used Books

Buying and Selling a Bookshop

Men of Letters and the Bookshop


All those interested in the history of the book, the history of the economics of the book trade, the economic history of the Italian Renaissance, the shopping history, the history of consumption of culture.