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Gutenberg brought freedom and suppression. He liberated the word, but from the sixteenth century onwards most secular and religious authorities in Europe tried to regulate and control it. Printers were required to hold official licenses to trade and produce books. In 1557 the English Crown aimed to stem the flow of dissent by chartering the Stationers’ Company. The right to print was restricted to Oxford and Cambridge and twenty-one existing printers in the City of London. The nature of censorship was initially predominantly religious in nature with the aim of suppressing views that were contrary of those of an organized religion on the grounds of blasphemy, heresy, sacrilege or impiety.

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Tolerance and censorship are incompatible. There are civil, ecclesiastical and social components to the notion of tolerance. The first concerns the policy of the state towards dissent; the second focuses on the degree of diversity tolerated within a particular church; and the third deals with accepting or celebrating difference in the street and work place. The practice of religious toleration depends on the principle that society and the state extend freedom of belief and expression by refraining to impose restrictions, conditions, doctrines, or forms of worship or association upon them. The principle goes beyond the sole domain of religion as it incorporates the broader (and more important) goals of intellectual liberty and freedom from censorship. The early history of religious toleration in England is – in one way or another – connected with the Low Countries.

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The accession of Elizabeth I put an end to the years of Catholic restoration under Queen Mary. With the 1559 Act of Supremacy in which Elizabeth declared herself Supreme Governor of the Church of England came an Oath of Supremacy, requiring anyone taking public or church office to swear allegiance to the monarch as head of the Church and state. Anyone refusing to take the Oath could be charged with treason. Between 1559 and 1561 a continuous drift of academics and intellectuals to the Low Countries can be observed. The Elizabethan purge of the universities created a remarkable Catholic diaspora in the Southern Netherlands. During the first decade of her reign more than a hundred senior members of the University of Oxford alone left for Louvain and Douai.

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English Catholicism in exile not only survived in the Low Countries, but also found a more distinct and polemical voice. In December 1425, John IV of Burgundy was allowed by papal bull to establish a university in Louvain, the capital of the Duchy of Brabant. The new university had three faculties: law, medicine and the arts. The faculty of theology was added in 1432. It developed into a bastion of conservatism and hence intolerance. Louvain accused Luther of heresy even before the Pope did. The faculty was actively involved in the battle against Protestantism and in listing books that on the index. In 1559, Philip II established the University of Douai in Flanders with the purpose of preserving the purity of the Catholic faith from the errors of the Reformation. Soon there were English, Scottish and Irish colleges and the university became the chief centre for exiles, including many young men from Oxford and Cambridge who remained loyal to the old faith.

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Next to Louvain and its famous university, Douai became the most important recusant centre on the European mainland. Catholics leaving Britain tended to settle in English monastic foundations in the Southern Netherlands where there were over twenty such islands of refuge representing all important orders. It was here that John Heigham started life in exile. The latter had been involved with the shadowy Catholic book trade in London at the close of the sixteenth century before moving to Douai first and later to St Omer, where he commissioned numerous devotional works for an English Catholic audience. His collaborations with printers in the Low Countries made him the most productive Catholic publisher of his day after the English College press. A notable publication was the Venerable Bede’s Historie of the Church of England (St Omer, first edition 1622; the second dates from 1626).

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Students at the English College at Douai (founded by William Allen in 1568) were groomed to undertake missionary work at home. English refugees in Louvain and Douai constituted for the Catholic authorities in Rome and Spain a potential recruitment force. Hence their financial support to those who had fled their country of origin and who found themselves isolated. Only a few English exiles managed to integrate. Refugees made no contribution to the economic or artistic life in the Low Countries. They were a displaced group of people waiting to return home, deliberately avoiding mixing with locals. Integration and tolerance were the last concept that came to the minds of these displaced exiles. A similar observation can be made for Protestant refugees in the Netherlands.

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In 1608, a group of separatists, who would later become known as the Pilgrims, fled prosecution in England and settled in Amsterdam. In 1609 the Pilgrims moved to Leiden where they stayed until 1620. One of the separatist leaders there, William Brewster returned to England in 1617 helping to make arrangements for the Pilgrim migration to America. In 1620 he and his 120 followers of the Leiden congregation set sail on the Speedwell for Plymouth from where 102 passengers embarked on the Mayflower to undertake the long journey to Virginia. It was because of the anxiety of losing their English identity, the fear that their children would become assimilated in Dutch society, and of course because of the threat of war with Spain, that these Puritans decided to sail for America.

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Protestantism has prided itself as being a liberating creed. Yet, it has to face the fact that its founding fathers believed in stamping out the beliefs of nontrinitarians. Toleration was condemned for encouraging erroneous beliefs – the persecuted advocating persecution. The case for conciliation was first made by English separatists who had fled to the Low Countries. The ideal of toleration was born in exile. In 1606, Leonard Busher fled to the Netherlands where he embraced Baptism. This particular tradition had grown out of the merging of English separatism and Dutch religious tenets during the first decade of the seventeenth century. Primary to this development was the figure of physician John Smyth while he was in Holland between 1608 and 1612. Having joined the so-called Ancient Church in Amsterdam, he was in close contact with local Mennonites, followers of Frisian Anabaptist Menno Simons. His flock were given space to hold their services at the ‘cake house’ of sympathizer Jan Munter. Thus the first English Baptist church was born on foreign soil. In 1614 Busher published his classic Religious Peace, or, A Reconciliation between Princes & Peoples, & Nations in Amsterdam. Addressed to James I and the English parliament, the book is a eloquently argued case for religious toleration, resting on the principle that no sovereign or bishop can compel conscience or command faith.

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Baptist leader Thomas Helwys sailed to the Netherlands in 1608, having been a key figure in organizing the emigration to Amsterdam and Leiden of the separatists led by John Smyth, Richard Clifton and John Robinson. In A Short and Plaine Proof (1611) he developed his radical ideas arguing for total religious toleration (he approved of the freedoms allowed by Dutch secular authorities). In his Mystery of Iniquity (printed in Amsterdam, 1612) he opposed all compulsion, even of Roman Catholics and non-Christians, in matter of conscience: ‘Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least’. He bluntly warned King James that he was ‘a mortal man and not God, and therefore hath no power over ye immortal souls of his subjects’. Earlier he had published A Declaration of Faith of the English People Remaining in Amsterdam (1611), it being the first such confession of an English Baptist church. Amsterdam was the chosen place of refuge for English dissenters during the seventeenth century. Such was the Amsterdam tolerant policy towards faith that the phrase ‘an Amsterdam of religions’ became almost proverbial in English. Independent minister and printer John Canne arrived in the Dutch capital in 1632, soon after becoming the leader of the English Brownist refugees there. In 1634 he published his most important book in Amsterdam, entitled A Necessitie of Separation from the Church of England in which he called for a break with the Anglican Church. Canne remained in Amsterdam until at least 1645 where he ran his own printing press bearing the Richt Right impress. It was at this time that dissident thinking started to make an impact. The 1640s are considered a key decade during which the impetus behind tolerationist ideas came from radical Puritanism. London-born Roger Williams is traditionally seen as opening the debate in 1644 when his call for toleration went as far as embracing heretics, blasphemers, Catholics, Muslims and pagans. Tolerationists provided a principled opposition to religious persecution whilst pleading for the peaceful co-existence of a plurality of religions.

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The 1689 Toleration Act was a landmark in this struggle for religious toleration although its idealistic purpose should not be exaggerated. Cromwell did not strive to create a liberal society in which divergent religious opinions were openly tolerated. Both his re-admission of Jews into England and William III’s Act of Tolerance were politically motivated manoeuvres rather than statements of principle. Theirs was a ‘qualified tolerance’. But toleration that calls for exceptions, freedom for some and not for others, is no tolerance at all. Persecution hides around the corner. As indeed was the case. Atheism, blasphemy, idolatry and adultery were excluded from toleration, because they were regarded as contrary to natural reason and public order. As, for many commentators, was Catholicism. Thomas Helwys, Roger Williams, and the Levellers were remarkable voices in the toleration debate. During the period of their greatest influence, Levellers were willing to extend toleration to Catholics. They were the real champions of religious freedom voicing the idea of a constitution in which the state has no religious role.

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Even John Locke did not go as far. He published some of his early works in Holland, including the famous Epistola de tolerantia (Gouda, 1689), a plea for toleration in matters of belief. The text was translated in Dutch the same year and published in Rotterdam as Brief aangaande de verdraagzaamheid. Locke was one of several proponents of religious toleration who made an exception for Catholics (including Cromwell and Milton). They were objected to on two main grounds: Catholics were idolaters and disloyal subjects owing allegiance to a hostile foreign prince, the Pope.

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 33,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 12 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Medieval urban life held many hazards. There was no common law of the land. Regulations were set by the lord of the manor or by the mayor and his council in towns and cities. The streets of London were perilous and fraught with danger. Life was cheap and tempers were short. There were fights and assaults in the street, knifings in the tavern, and beatings in the home. Criminals received a quick trial and, if found guilty, they were dealt with immediately. In order to exercise some control, the town authorities imposed a curfew at night. After the bell had rung, it was expected that all townspeople were in their homes for the night. The city gates were locked. Anyone found outside their house would be challenged by a night watchman. Everyone in town had a duty to raise the alarm if they saw a crime being committed. The city offered protection and a limited degree of freedom to its citizens by imposing a strict system of compulsion and regimentation.

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Catherine Wheel Alley is a tiny street leading to the hurly burly of Bishopsgate and into the market environment of Middlesex Street in Spitalfields. Today we associate the Catherine wheel with a type of firework consisting of a powder-filled spiral tube, mounted with a pin through its centre. When ignited, it rotates quickly, producing a display of sparks and coloured flames. Fireworks are of ancient Chinese origin. They were used in crude form in medieval times in Europe to celebrate military victories or royal occasions.

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More refined kinds of fireworks, such as the Catherine wheel, are first recorded in the eighteenth century, and it was not until the nineteenth century that new ingredients, such as magnesium and aluminium, could be added to the staple gunpowder base to achieve a colourful display. The name occurs in the history of printing as well. Thomas Creede was a London printer. In 1593 he opened his own printing house at the sign of the Catherine Wheel, near the Old Swan public house in Thames Street. At this establishment he produced a number of significant literary works, including the first quarto editions of Shakespeare’s Henry VI (1594) and Henry V (1600).

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In medieval days the Catherine (or breaking) wheel was a torture device used for capital punishment. A public execution at the time was a big public occasion and as such it was considered a triumph of the law. Every aspect of the process was carried out with military precision. Torture was not an act of blind savagery. It was a horror show, a play with a moral, and a strictly regulated practice. It was a skill, not an expression of rage. The pain to be inflicted was measured carefully. It ranged from the immediacy of decapitation to the slowly inflicted pain limits of quartering. The art of putting the hellish visions of Hieronymus Bosch into practice was experienced as a crowd-pleaser.

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Torture was a work of art. It was what Dostoevsky called ‘artistically cruel’, the penal system’s equivalent to Dante’s poetry. If the crowd gathered round the scaffold, it was not simply to witness the sufferings of a condemned man. This was real life drama. To hear someone curse the authorities was worth waiting for. Death-by-torture allowed the condemned person this sudden freedom where nothing was censored and all could be expressed. The ceremony of dismemberment was the climax of procedures which was eagerly awaited by the crowd. Even after the convict’s death, torture continued. Heads were put on spikes for public display, body parts stolen, corpses burnt, and ashes thrown in the wind. The festival of cruelty seemed never-ending. Capital punishment comprised many kinds of death. Some convicts were hanged. Those who had committed a more serious crime were condemned to be broken alive and to die on the wheel, after having their limbs broken. Some were to be broken until they died a natural death, others to be strangled and then broken. Another option was to be burnt alive which was sometimes preceded by strangulation, on other occasions not. Some serious offenders were drawn by four horses, or had their head cut off. There were no barriers to savagery. It was mostly manual work, done by hand – the hand of the executioner.

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The office of professional hangman did not exist in the early Middle-Ages but dates back to the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries with the development of new judicial procedures and more elaborate corporal punishments that were to shape criminal justice through the early modern period. Prior to this time the court basically arbitrated a private settlement between the victim and the offender in which the former or his/her family received a compensation that corresponded to their social status. When executions did occur they were carried out by a variety of people, all of whom were amateurs: by the accuser himself, by a member of the family, sometimes by a juryman or by the beadle. In the course of time governmental authorities became more actively involved in criminal proceedings. Corporal punishments resulted increasingly from the attempt by public authorities to monopolize the legitimate use of violence in the hands of government. The creation of the office of the trained executioner was a consequence of these developments. His rise coincided with increased criminalization in society which concerned unfortunate groups such as beggars, vagrants, or prostitutes. The rapid expansion of the city made his role all the more powerful. He became a central figure in early urban crowd control and crime prevention.

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Where does the name Catherine wheel come from? At the age of eighteen, Catherine of Alexandria, known as Saint Catherine of the Wheel, paid a visit to Emperor Maximus II. She hoped to persuade him to stop persecuting Christians. Whilst at the court, she succeeded in converting his wife. The Emperor was furious and Catherine was condemned to death on the breaking wheel. This torture instrument broke when she touched it, so she was beheaded instead. Her symbol became the spiked wheel, known as the Catherine wheel. In 1063, the Order of the Knights of St Catherine was formed with the aim of protecting pilgrims on their way to and from the Holy Sepulchre. These knights wore a white habit embroidered with a Catherine wheel traversed with a sword, stained with blood. It seems unlikely, but the Catherine Wheel became popular as a tavern name. By using the saintly sign, the publican suggested that he would protect his customers from any unpleasantness in his inn, just as the knights of St Catherine protected pilgrims from highwaymen. The name lives on in Catherine Wheel Alley, East London, leading to Petticoat Lane Market. For over 300 years the galleried Catherine Wheel inn stood here until it was destroyed by fire in 1895. During the early part of the eighteenth century this public house was one of the secretive haunts of Dick Turpin. At some point in its long history the name of the pub was changed to the Cat and Wheel in order to pacify Puritans who objected to the name association with a saint.

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The accession of Elizabeth I put an end to years of Catholic restoration under Queen Mary. With the passing of the 1559 Act of Supremacy she declared herself Supreme Governor of the Church of England. The act included an Oath of Supremacy which required anyone taking public or church office to swear allegiance to the monarch as head of Church and state. Those who refused to take the oath could be charged with treason. During that same year Philip II established the University of Douai with the purpose of preserving the purity of the Catholic faith from the errors of the Reformation. Soon there were English, Scottish and Irish colleges and the university became the chief centre for exiles, including many young men from Oxford and Cambridge who remained loyal to the old faith (to this very day there is an Irish College in Louvain). The purge of universities created a remarkable Catholic diaspora in the Southern Netherlands. Douai, located on the River Scarpe some twenty miles south of Lille, became the most important recusant centre on the European mainland. During the first decade of Elizabethan reign more than a hundred senior members of the University of Oxford alone left for Louvain and Douai.

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There is some irony in the fact that four Catholic activists were arrested in the Catherine Wheel tavern in Oxford, before being put through a horrendous ordeal. Thomas Belson had matriculated in 1580 at Oriel College but, like so many other Catholics of his generation, never graduated in order to avoid taking the Oath of Supremacy. Instead, he continued his studies at the English College at the University of Douai, which had been founded by William Allen in 1568. The latter was a former Principal of St Mary Hall, Oxford, but had to resign his post in 1560 with the Elizabethan persecution of intellectuals. He became the spiritual leader of the English community in the Low Countries and was one of many exiled authors who produced a sheer endless list of recusant publications. Many British students were groomed in Douai to undertake missionary work at home with all the dangers that task involved. The authorities in England were highly suspicious of the activities of the refugee community. By the time Elizabeth died, 450 Douai priests had served on an English mission, and 110 of them had been executed. Little is known of Belson’s activities until June 1585 when he was imprisoned in the Tower of London. He had been one of those who were involved in assisting the recently converted Philip Howard, 1st Earl of Arundel, in his attempt to leave for the Continent. On his release he continued liaising between exiled Catholics on the Continent and England. On 18 May 1589 Belson was arrested at the Catherine Wheel, together with two priests who had been with him at Douai, George Nichols and Richard Yaxley, and a servant at the inn, Humphrey Prichard. The four men were taken on horseback to London, where they were tortured and interrogated. After six weeks they were sent back to Oxford, tried, and found guilty. All four were executed on 5 July 1589, the two priests hanged, drawn, and quartered for treason, Belson and Prichard hanged as felons. The brutality of the executions shocked the local population and it took twenty years before another priest was executed in Oxford.

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There is a national myth in the Netherlands that was taught in school well into the sixties of the 20th century: a man who lived in Haarlem, Laurens Jansz Coster, was walking his small children in the nearby dunes and to amuse and teach them he cut a letter from a piece of wood. He dropped the stick with the letter by accident, it fell on sand instead of grass and then in a single instant he saw for his eyes the complete process of printing: the cutting and casting of letters, how to create pages with them and the printing itself. But the invention was stolen on Christmas-eve by a certain Fust or Faust who took it to Germany where he gave the secret to Gutenberg. Faust came to a bad end soon after, when he sold his soul to the devil, but the stolen invention was claimed by the Germans as theirs ever after.

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First told by the Dutch scholar Petrus Scriverius in his book on Haarlem (published in 1628), this story played an important part in the genesis of the history of the book as a serious activity for scholars. Of course printing was invented by Gutenberg, who may or may not have had the same ‘eureuka’ experience as his fictitious Dutch counterpart, but who was to spend long years of trail and error before his printing press became the machine that would change the world. The controversies – the Dutch of course did not give in right away and were helped by some French and English scholars – brought about a vast corpus of books on early printing. The serious study of incunabula (or ‘new-borns’ as they were known in later years) started in the late 18th century while the Dutch claim was only definitly rejected by historians and philologists in the 20th century. It still lingers on, in school and probably in the city of Haarlem too.

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What did Gutenberg invent? The printing process encompasses activities that are quite diverse. One can imagine the thought-process, starting with a ‘what if …’
What if you could press letters, sentences, even pages on a sheet of paper, instead of having to write it all down, letter by letter, word by word? You would have to print on the recto and the verso or frontside and backside of a sheet of paper but that was of course easy. And yes: it would even be easier to print more than one page on the side of a sheet to be able to fold and bind it afterwards. As the position of the pages on the sheet was not sequential this called for some math. To put each page on the right place was called imposition and it was known to the scribes of an earlier age who wrote books by hand.

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What if you cut each letter on a separate block so that you could use the letters again and again? The Chinese method of printing was to cut whole pages at a time on a block of wood and so did the makers of the so-called blockbooks that were published about or after the time Gutenberg started printing. But the cutting of whole pages in a tiny roman or gothic script was difficult – if not impossible at all – and uneconomical as the resulting block was to fragile to be put under a printing press. You could rub it of with your hands by placing a piece of paper on the inked wood thousands of times like the Chinese did but then you could only use one side of the paper. and the process was slower. You could also use such complete pages for one text.

The answer to this would be to use separate little blocks but you would soon find out that wood was to soft and sensitive to water and ink to put pages together from separate wooden letters. And was the cutting of hundreds of copies of each separate letter feasible at all? Using some kind of metal for letters was of course the answer – and so was casting them in series, instead of cutting them all separately. To cast letters you needed a matrix. How to create it? You could use sand or clay like the casters of silver and bronze did – this is how dentists still make crowns and how goldsmiths like Benvenuto Cellini worked in the days of Gutenberg. But you could also try and find a more permanent matrix. To be able to make that you had to create a punch that was struck in a small rectancle of copper and made to fit a mold later on. Dies and coins were made like that well before the classical era.

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What Gutenberg did, was to combine different techniques that had existed for some time – and sometimes even for ages – giving them a twist of his own. The ink was probably something that he created out of nothing, but even that may have been related to the oil-based paints that had recently been invented by the Flemish painter Van Eyck.

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The invention spread like a wildfire over Europe. His successors Fust and Schoeffer were not as secretive as Gutenberg – who may have been after the money, by selling “manuscripts” that were made at a fraction of the cost of a written book but were sold for the full price. But in some old sources printing was called ‘artificial writing’ and maybe we should think of it as that and accept that there was no clear divide between before and after Gutenberg. You bought a book – the artificial kind became cheaper in time and a few snobs declared that they would not have them in their palaces since they did not like paper.

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Some of the inventions ascribed to Gutenberg have been questioned. According to bookhistorian Paul Needham and scientist Blaise Aguerra y Arcas the variations in the letters show that Gutenberg at least in some of his books did not use matrixes as we know them from the 16th century. At least part of his material seems to have been casted in sand or perhaps some other not permanent material like plaster. As the detailed pictures of type in this book show there was a lot of variation in 15th century letters – even on pages that were printed by Jenson himself – who is credited by Lotte Hellinga as the inventor of the permanent matrix.

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Perhaps Gutenberg did invent the matrix as it was used until the 19th century but did he not invent or use it when he started to print his first books. It seems that not every printer used permanent matrixes, but that some had their letters casted in not permanent ones as were used by goldsmiths of their days. A non permanent matrix makes casting of type a labor-intensive job: you have to recreate the matrix for every single cast. Casting letters in sand takes probably at least forty times as much time to get a usable amount of type as using a permanent matrix. Why would printers use such a less advanced technique? The answer may be that they simply did not have all the information on how it was done. The first printers may have had to reinvent parts of the printing-process.

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It took at least twenty years before printers did their work more or less in the same way. We are then well into the eighties of the fiftheenth century. Some pictures in this book show a diversity that give some support to this idea. On the other hand the letters we see on the page are at least six steps away from the original design on top of the punch. With a punch one could make a lot of matrixes that would have to be adjusted and that was a process that may have created variations. Then there is the casting: handwork that needs a lot of dexterity and easely results in quite diverse letters – siblings that were looking different but were all coming from the same matrix. Simply by re-using casted type even more variation was created, and inking and the uneven quality of the paper also did their part.

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In the beginning there may not have existed a dichotomy between the written book and it’s printed cousin. Buyers were supposed to have their printed books rubricated, historiated and bound, just like they did before when they ordered their books to be written at one of the ateliers that could be found in any city. Most of the earliest printed books that survived, have spend time with the rubricator and the painter. But perhaps these copies own their survival just to that. There are of course lots of books that were meant to be touched up but that never saw a paintbrush. This completing of books by hand was done until the middle of the 16th century but the emancipation of the printed book from the artisans started somewhere in the seventies of the 15th century. Erhard Ratdolt is a printer who deserves to be named as one of the great innovators. He was one of the first who had his initials and ornaments cut in wood so they could be printed instead of having to be painted in in each single copy of an edition (in those days 300-500 was probably a normal print run).

The mechanization of all activities that were part of the process of creating books changed the way books looked in many ways. The one reason for this was the disappearance of color from the book. The rubricator touched up all letters and words with red or blue ink that deserved special attention from the reader or helped him on his way through the text. But printing in color was difficult and time-consuming and thus expensive. The printers had to find other ways to express the different kinds of information that could be found on the pages of their books. They did this by using white as a mean of dividing paragraphs, by using smallcaps, the italic and all the other ways that we now use to structure our texts even if we are writing them by hand. Eventually color returned to the book. But not as a way to bring articulation to the text. It was used for illustrations and for artistic expression.

PD

Introduction

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Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) lived in Rotterdam, where he published his rightly famous Dictionaire in 1697. The importance of this book for the dissemination of the ideas of Descartes and Spinoza can hardly be underestimated.

According to the French writer and philosopher Pierre Bayle (1647-1706) there was no country in the world where writers and their publishers enjoyed so much license as in the Dutch Republic. Bayle remarked that Milton would not have written his De typographia liberanda if he had only lived in the Netherlands, as it would never have occurred to him that the press was not free, let alone that it needed to be liberated. In the Calvinist United Provinces catholics and protestants of all denominations used the press to disseminate their views without questions asked and according to Bayle catholics were indeed more free to publish in the Netherlands than in catholic countries. [Nouvelles de la Republique des Lettres. Mois de Mars 1684. Amsterdam, Henry Desbordes, 1684: *2-verso-*3-recto]

By 1684 Bayle had been living in Rotterdam for three years and he must have known by then how the Dutch society functioned, with it’s special form of liberty. A liberty that was in fact circumscribed by unwritten rules that may have been hard to fathom for a foreigner. Indeed Dutch censorship differed radically from the usual practice in other European countries in the sense that it was not institutionalized. From time to time publications were forbidden but for anyone who, like Bayle, compared the Dutch republic to, for instance, France, it must have seemed clear that the press was free and that Holland was indeed an author’s heaven. The grand total of forbidden publications in the period 1570-1720 was about 200: less than 0.1 percent of the number of titles counted for that period in the Short Title Catalogue, Netherlands (that contains about 200.000 editions at the moment).

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Spinoza’s work was published in the Netherland and of course banished. In fact the government took little notice of this book, although it’s invitation to atheism was duly noted. But the author was left alone and was never prosecuted by the government. Imagine how he – an outcast jew and supposed atheist – would have ended up in France.

A recent study paints a bleak portrait of censorship in the Dutch Republic. Although the author does not deny that the actual number of forbidden books was small, writers and publishers had, according to her, constantly to cope with clear and present danger. This view of the Dutch Republic as a sort of police state deserves to be redressed. It makes heroes out of men who probably saw themselves as honest businessmen and who indeed would have been surprised to find themselves framed as champions of the free word. Probably another Frenchman, who in 1687 called Amsterdam the Mecca for writers was more to the point – especially as he was not the only one to think so. As we will see censorship in the United Provinces was in fact a quirky affair that largely depended on individual whims, on local magnates but also on ambassadors or even on kings and of course on orthodox calvinists who roamed the streets looking for dissident opinions. [Olga van Marion. Verboden in de Gouden Eeuw. p. 31. In: M. Matthijsen. Boeken onder druk. Amsterdam 2011. The  unknown 'frenchman' of Van Marion was the in fact the philosopher Pierre Silvain Regis (1632-1707) who was a follower of Descartes. For those who - like me - are interested in the genesis of footnotes: he is 'a frenchman' too in her source and in the source of that source. Regis never left France and became a respected member of the French Academy in 1699. His observation on the Dutch 'Mekka of authors' was of course wishful thinking of a 'modern' thinker, haunted by reactionaries and not based on any direct experience with the Dutch.]

From time to time the States General or the States of Holland (the province were about 90% of all Dutch publications were printed) would forbid a specific book or even whole categories, like pamphlets that concerned themselves with foreign heads of state, but Dutch booksellers cared little for their placards. In a certain sense it can it be said that they practised self-censorship. When they expected that they might run into difficulties they published their books and pamphlets without the name of the printer or publisher (and of course without the name of the author!). This was explicit forbidden by laws that were repeated time after time but few seem to have cared about it.

[To be continued ...]

PD.

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Thames Street is a narrow river-side street in Vintry which, during the reign of Henry VIII, contained the grand residences of many courtiers and merchants. Wool exporter and Lord Mayor of London John Lovekyn had a grand mansion in Thames Street overlooking the river. Sir William Walworth also lived here. The street represented money, authority and power. Historically, the area gained fame for the two greatest benefits to mankind, wine and printing – and for the unfortunate legacy of mob violence. These riots have gone down into history. They are represented in a remarkable set of early London cityscapes.

 

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Vintry is one of the twenty-five wards of the City of London and owes its name to its former status as a site for the wine merchants of Bordeaux who stored and sold their products there. The ‘Worshipful Company of Vintners’ is one of the Livery Companies which probably existed as early as the twelfth century. It received a Royal Charter in 1364. Chronologically, these merchants were preceded by cooks as has been recorded in Fritz-Stephen’s (who was clerk to Thomas à Beckett) lively Description of London of 1170. In this, the first general description of the metropolis, the author lists in great detail the cook shops on the banks of the River Thames which he thought the acme off civilization, ‘at any time of day or night, any number could be fed to suit all palates and all purses’.
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There is a theory that the word ‘Cockney’ is derived from the Latin ‘coquina’ (cookery) at the time that London was widely praised for its cook shops. Later in the thirteenth century the river banks were taken over by vintners and their wine vaults. The cooks packed their pots and pans and moved elsewhere, to Eastcheap and Bread Street. Connected to all this is the name of Geoffrey Chaucer. He was born in the parish of St Martin Vintry into a prosperous Suffolk merchant family which had been engaged in the export of wool to the Low Countries and the import of wine. His great-grandfather Andrew of Dynyngton was also known as Andrew the Taverner, and most likely kept a tavern there. The move to London was made by Geoffrey’s grandfather Robert Dynyngton, known as Robert Malyn le Chaucer (that name, meaning ‘maker of shoes’, may well have been adopted by Robert on the death of his employer, the mercer John le Chaucer). Robert’s son John Chaucer became a prominent London wine merchant and an influential freeman of the city. Young Geoffrey Chaucer was much aware of the link between tavern and creativity. 04 Before the fourteenth century, popular uprisings tended to operate on a local scale. This changed when downward pressures on the poor resulted in mass manifestations of resistance across Europe. In the 1320s, beginning as a series of scattered rural riots, the peasant insurrection in Flanders escalated into a full-scale rebellion that dominated public affairs for nearly five years. Between May and August 1381 England experienced a popular uproar of dramatic severity. Rioters rebelled against the landowning classes and the incompetent government of Richard II. They murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Treasurer of England, numerous lawyers and royal servants, and laid siege to the Tower of London.
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The spirit of rebellion lasted all summer and was recorded with horror by contemporaries, including Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower and the chroniclers Thomas Walsingham and Jean Froissart. That the rebels marched from country to capital was a new phenomenon. This was the first manifestation of urban mob violence in England. A specific target of the crowd was London’s immigrant population. The Peasant’s Revolt had begun in the Essex village of Fobbing in May of that year. It started with the arrival of a Royal commissioner, John Bampton, enquiring into tax evasion. Unrest spread quickly through the county and into Kent. In early June Wat Tyler joined the uprising in Maidstone and assumed leadership of the Kentish rebels. He marched his men into London who left a trail of destruction behind them. They burned down the Palace of Savoy, home of the hated John of Gaunt. The latter was the fourth son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault and took his name from his godfather, John, Duke of Brabant, one of Edward’s allies in the Low Countries: Gaunt is a corrupted form of Ghent. The rebellion soon appeared to be out of control. A horde of drunken men went in search of immigrants.
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The massacre of Flemish citizens took place in the neighbourhood of St Martin’s Vintry. The area was a known haunt of Continental merchants and was located one block down Thames Street from the house of John Chaucer, father of the author. Dozens of Flemings were dragged from the sanctuary of the city churches, beheaded, and their bodies left to rot. Nobody was spared during that violent outburst, except those who could plainly pronounce ‘bread and cheese’, for if their speech sounded anything like ‘brot’ or ‘cawse’, off went their heads, as a sure mark they were Flemish. One of the victims was merchant and financier Richard Lyons. Most likely of Flemish descent, he was killed in Cheapside on 14 June 1381. At his death he held lands in Essex, Kent, Suffolk, Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex, and Hertfordshire, as well as London property which included a large house in Thames Street. Lyons had been engaged in the exercise of the sweet wine monopoly. One of the leaders of the London riots, afterwards executed for his involvement, was Jack Straw. Geoffrey Chaucer refers to the massacre of Flemings by Straw and his gang in ‘The Nun’s Priest’s Tale’.

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Jean Froissart’s Chronicle is a crucial source for students of the first half of the Hundred Years’ War. The author originated from Valenciennes and had started his working life as a merchant. Having become a clerk, his skills were soon recognized and he was employed by Philippa of Hainault, Queen Consort of Edward III of England, as court poet and historian. The Chronicle depicts the rebellion – Froissart describes Wat Tyler as a ‘tiler of houses, an ungracious patron’ – and illustrates the latter’s demise. Having been summoned to speak with King Richard II at Smithfield on 15 June 1381, Tyler outlined the rebels’ demands, which included the abolition of serfdom. A fracas then ensued, allegedly because Tyler kept his head covered in the King’s presence, leading the Mayor of London, William Walworth, to try to arrest him. In the struggle between the two men, Tyler was wounded. The other rebels quickly dispersed, having been granted a royal pardon. Tyler was dragged from the nearby hospital of St Bartholomew, and summarily executed at Smithfield.
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A lavishly illustrated edition of the Chronicles in four volumes was commissioned by Louis of Gruuthuuse, a nobleman and bibliophile from Bruges. The four volumes are now in the Bibliothèque Nationale and contain 112 miniatures of various sizes painted by some of the best Brugeois artists of the day including splendid images of the meeting between Richard II and the rebels and the murder of Wat Tyler in the style of Flemish illuminator Loiset Liédet. The London cityscape figures splendidly in the background of both scenes. It may be coincidence or it may be a distant reminder of disturbances in the area, but towards the end of the fifteenth century Thames Street became a centre of legal printing and documentation. The very first book printed in London was Antonius Andreae’s Quaestiones super XII libros Metaphysicae Aristotelis. Dating from 1480, it is a Latin commentary on the metaphysics of Aristotle. Its publication was financed by the draper William Wilcock. The printer of this work went by the name of Johannes Lettou. He may be the same Johannes who worked in the previous years in Rome, mainly for the papal Curia. Apart from the colophons in his books, Lettou’s name is known from a register of aliens in which he is recorded as head of a household of German printers living in what is now Lower Thames Street. A member of this household was William de Machlinia [Maclyn], with whom Lettou formed a partnership in about 1481/2. Their first publication was the Abbreviamentum statutorum, a handbook for lawyers that contained summaries of the laws of the land, alphabetically arranged by subject. The partners published in the following years at least five books of common law. They include two editions of Sir Thomas Littleton, Tenores novelli, in 1482/3 and 1484. Their final joint publication was a full edition of the parliamentary statutes from the reign of Edward II, Nova statuta, during the printing of which Lettou is thought to have died. William de Machlinia continued the business alone for another few years in which he published an edition of the statutes promulgated by the only parliament of Richard III in 1484/5 – one of the earliest examples of an official publication. In March 1486 De Machlinia printed the bull in which Pope Innocent III granted dispensation for the marriage of Henry VIII and Elizabeth of York. There was an old tradition for legal books, manuscript and print, to be richly decorated. Lettou and De Machlinia made a gesture for honouring this tradition, for many copies of their books are decorated with red and blue initials.

 

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The presence of printers in Thames Street was continued by the eminent Henry Bynneman who, using his familiar sign of the Mermaid, had premises here. Motto to the press was ‘Omnia tempus habent’, which is the opening phrase of a passage in Ecclesiastes III and translates as ‘To every thing there is a season [and a time to every purpose under the heaven]’. Thames Street has certainly served a variety of aims and purposes over is long history. Elizabeth’s reign was a period of a great expansion of Italian culture in England in spite of Puritan suspicions. In the 1560s a number of Boccaccio’s vernacular works appeared in English translation and Bynneman’s press was active in publishing those.
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Giovanni Boccaccio was a sophisticated Florentine who performed various diplomatic services for the city government. He was above all a talented urban writer. The background for his Decameron is the Florentine plague epidemic of 1348 (in a sense this is the first urban disaster story). Throughout the narrative urban values of quick wit and intelligence are treasured, while stupidity and dullness are punished. This city orientation was an emerging feature of Europe fiction and Boccaccio strongly influenced its development. Geoffrey Chaucer was intrigued and inspired by Boccaccio’s work. His Canterbury Tales also uses the concept of a large story as the framework which includes all other tales allowing the author to explore a wide range of experiences, perspectives, themes and opinions. Fluent in French, conversant in Italian and widely read, he was open to assimilate the rich domain of Continental literature. Chaucer masterfully adapted Boccaccio’s urban passion. The city was about to take centre-stage in European literature.

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The characteristic mode of portraying the city in early European painting was as a cluster of towers hidden behind an enclosing barrier, and seen in the background of a scene to which it not necessarily holds a narrative connection. The urban setting is more often than not separated from the storyline of the painting. The city is a decorative addition, a distant stage set. Towards the end of the fifteenth century Venetian civic pride began to manifest itself in art. Painters like Vittorio Carpaccio or Gentile Bellini started to pay closer attention to topographical accuracy as settings for their narratives. Urban backdrops, either observed or imagined, acquired a more dominant presence and detailed presentation within the composition of their work. A contributory factor to that development in Venice and elsewhere was the ground-breaking innovations that took place in printing and the graphic arts.

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Printing had arrived in Italy in 1464, hardly a decade after the invention of the printing press, when two clerics, Conrad Sweynheym from Mainz and Arnold Pannartz from Cologne, set up shop in the Benedictine monastery St Scholastica at Subiaco, in the Sabine mountains near Rome, where they lived as lay brothers. In 1465, they issued the edition princeps of De oratore by Cicero, the first book printed in Italy. Sweynheym and Pannartz printed just three books at the monastery before moving their press to the Palazzo Massimi at Campo dei Fiori in the centre of Rome. There, they printed twenty-eight volumes in editions of up to 300 copies each. These included editions of, amongst others, Caesar, Livy, Virgil and Lucan.
However, there was no viable market for such publications and they failed to sell their stock. Sweynheym dissolved the partnership in 1473 and returned to his former profession as an engraver, while Pannartz struggled on alone until his death in 1477. The output of these and other early printers was predominantly classical texts that appealed to the small community of Humanists, but not in the least to Roman ultramontanists who were concerned with legal affairs at the papal court.

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Ulrich Han another German printer in Rome produced classical texts from 1467 to 1471, by which time he was overstocked with Cicero, Livy and Plutarch. He then formed a partnership with merchant Simon Nicolai Chardella who instructed him to print books on Roman and Canon law and pamphlets pertaining to affairs at the court. This market-orientated attention meant that Han’s business began to prosper. Other best-selling publications at the time were guides to Rome’s sights and indulgences. Large numbers of German pilgrims journeyed to the city and few of them would have been able to read Latin. They were eager to purchase a travel guide, a Renaissance Baedeker in their native language. Adam Rot ran a printing press in Rome from 1471 to 1474. He was the first to publish books for visiting pilgrims, issuing several guides on the marvels of Rome. The venture proved a commercial success and the history of the guidebook was secured.

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The incunable Peregrinatio in terram sanctam by Bernard von Breydenbach is one of the earliest travel books containing detailed illustrations of European and Middle Eastern cities. The book was used as a preparatory guide for pilgrimages to the Holy Land. The author’s journey took place from April 1483 to January 1484. A reckless person as a youngster and seeking salvation, he and two companions set out from Oppenheim in Germany and reached Venice two weeks later. They spent three weeks in the city which allowed the book’s illustrator Erhard Reuwich of Utrecht ample time to make sketches of his urban impressions. His image of Venice is regarded as the first purely topographical view of the city. It is significant that it appeared in a medium that that was not weighed down by traditions of narrative painting or expectations of patron or public. The book was aimed at distant readers who had never been to Venice, Jerusalem, or any of the other cities depicted and described. Reuwich created an observed vision of the city, not the background to an alternative storyline. The Peregrinatio was originally published in Mainz and became a contemporary ‘bestseller’. The splendid illustrations played a crucial part in the success of this book. Another spectacular image of Venice was published soon after. Jacopo de’ Barbari’s ‘View of Venice’ is one of the most stunning achievements of Renaissance printmaking. The aerial view was printed from large woodblocks on six sheets of paper which were then joined together to cover an area of nearly four square metres. Eleven copies are known to survive of the first state of the woodcut printed in 1500 (one of those is held at the British Museum). The original woodblocks are in the Correr Museum in Venice. The print took three years to produce and was based on careful surveys of the streets and buildings of Venice, almost every one of which can be seen clearly. It was later updated by others to reflect new building projects in a second state of the print. Publisher of the image was Anton Kolb, a merchant from Nuremberg in Germany who was resident in Venice. He recorded that no woodcut on such a size using such large blocks had ever been made before. Kolb was granted copyright on the design by the government of Venice and allowed to sell impressions for the high price of three ducats. Generally speaking, however, in artistic renderings the city remained subordinate to the representation of the religious or historical narrative. Neither painters nor patrons showed any particular interest in exploring the possibilities of producing townscapes for their own sake. The contents of the story remained fundamental to the creative effort.

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Closely associated to the emergence of travel books was the phenomenal progress made in the art of cartography. The biography of every great city is represented by the history of its maps and panoramas. In the chaos of urban growth the cartographer brings line and harmony (the map of the London Underground system is the most reassuring document the overwhelmed visitor to the metropolis can wish for). Maps and topographical drawings became a popular form of wall decoration. Monarchs, nobles and eminent citizens commissioned artists to adorn their residences with panoramas of cities, either in single sheets or in series. The sixteenth century developed a passion for geography. The expansion of travel, the Spanish and Portuguese exploration of Africa, Asia and the New World, along with the rediscovery of Claudius Ptolemy’s Geography (the earliest printed edition with engraved maps was produced in Bologna in 1477), stimulated the demand for accurate maps. Political struggle and continuous warfare contributed to this demand. An army in action needed detailed locations of possible battlegrounds and accurate views of the cities that were to be besieged. The art of map-making demanded scientific precision (no more artistic sea-monsters or mermaids in the margin) which could only be obtained through training in the use of mathematical scales and instruments.

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Antwerp-born Antonius van den Wyngaerde was a prolific topographical artist who produced panoramic sketches and paintings of towns in the Low Countries, England, Italy and Spain. He is recorded as saying that among all the joys that the art of painting has to offer, ‘there is not one that I hold in higher esteem than the representation of cities’. His first known work was a vista of the Dutch city of Dordrecht (historically in English named Dort) from around 1544. On a visit to Italy, he created views of Rome, Genoa, Naples and Ancona. Between 1558 and 1559 he visited England, perhaps more than once, where he made views of Dover, London and the palaces of Greenwich, Hampton Court, Oatlands and Richmond. He is best known for many panoramas of cities in Spain that he drew while employed as court artist (‘pintor de cámera’) by Philip II to whom he was known as Antonio de las Viñas. He was commissioned by the king to document all the main towns and produced at least sixty-two cityscapes (he also drew the first picture of Gibraltar). Always striving for accuracy, Van den Wyngaerde also depicted vivid town activities, but there is no trace of the squalor of street life that prevailed in all cities of that time. These images served to demonstrate the might of Philip’s Spain and give visual expression to the might of his rule.

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They depended on the artist’s direct observation and visual memory – but also on his imagination. Any suggestion of realism was illusory. This is clear from his view of Valencia. The lay-out of the streets here is wide and straight as if the city had been formally planned. The squares are made larger and some of the towers moved to different positions. Despite many details, the picture is an idealized rather than an accurate representation. The same applied to his view of Granada where the size and height of churches are increased (without distorting the arrangement) in order to draw attention to the city as a ‘civitas christiana’. Shortly after the artist’s death, Philips sent the collection of views to the Plantin press in Antwerp for engraving. His likely ambition was to create a Spanish city atlas. Unfortunately, the project was never completed. Van den Wyngaerde’s views were dispersed to Vienna, Prague and London and it took until the late 1980s that the corpus of Spanish views was finally published. At the time of its creation, this record of Spanish city views was unique and without precedent. No other European ruler could boast to possess such a complete and accurate visual overview of his realms.

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The first volume of the Civitates orbis terrarum was published in Cologne in 1572. This city atlas, edited by Georg Braun and largely engraved by Franz Hogenberg, eventually contained 546 prospects and map views of cities from all over the world. It provided a comprehensive image of urban life at the turn of the sixteenth century. Braun, a cleric of Cologne, was the principal editor of the work, and was supported in his project by Abraham Ortelius whose Theatrum orbis terrarum of 1570 was, as a systematic collection of maps of uniform style, the first true atlas. The Civitates was intended as a companion for the Theatrum although it was more popular in approach, no doubt because the novelty of a collection of city views represented a more risky commercial undertaking than a world atlas for which there had been a number of successful precedents. A large number of Jacob van Deventer’s plans of towns of the Netherlands were copied, as were Stumpf’s woodcuts from the Schweizer Chronik of 1548, and Sebastian Munster’s German views from the 1550 and 1572 editions of his Cosmographia. Another source was the work of Danish cartographer Heinrich van Rantzau, better known under his Latin name Rantzovius, who provided maps of Scandinavian cities. A significant contributor was Antwerp-born artist Joris Hoefnagel (with Antonius van Wyngaerde the most prolific topographical artist of his day) who not only contributed most of the original material for the Spanish and Italian towns, but also re-worked and modified those of other contributors. Plantin’s printing house in Antwerp, famous for its Polyglot Bible of 1572, was active in the fields of science and cartography as well. By offering mapmakers a space where they could interact with explorers and by supplying the know-how of printing precise and detailed maps, Christoph Plantin became a driving force behind the creation of the modern atlas. Why were the northern regions particularly active in this field of knowledge gathering? The strong topographical tradition was partly due to political developments in Germany and the Low Countries. The more Emperors Maximilian I, Charles I and Philips II tried to expand the power of imperial institutions at the expense of local city autonomy, the more these developed and sophisticated cities resisted interference in their affairs. Shared adversity created unity. It promoted civic awareness of the city’s history, its traditions, its institutions, and its cultural output. The Aristotelian concept of the’communitas perfecta’, the idea of a fully autonomous body possessing all the means of securing its own welfare and pursuing its chosen goals, supported an outburst of local pride and found expression in a variety of topographical works.

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Book illustrators and map makers in particular pushed forward the development of topographical images and cityscapes. It makes the presence of Ambrogio Lorenzetti all the more remarkable. The latter was an Italian painter of the Sienese school who was active between approximately from 1317 to 1348 (the year that he died of the plague). Although few of his pieces have survived, he is considered one of the most inventive artists of the early fourteenth century. The Republic of Siena at the time was a powerful city-state where merchants and bankers had developed a strong commercial base with a range of international contacts. Politically, this was a turbulent age marred by a string of violent conflicts. Governments were overthrown and reinstated. During the late 1330s the Council of Nine (the city council) commissioned Lorenzetti to paint the ‘Allegory and Effects of Good and Bad Government’ series in the Sala dei Nove of Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico. The artist created an ensemble of urban images that is exceptional within the medieval tradition. Unlike most contemporary paintings the subject matter is not religious but civic. The aim of the painting is to exalt the political creed of the government of the ‘Nove’, a clique of Guelphs who retained power in Siena until 1355. Lorenzetti’s frescoes promoted the morality of government. By showing comprehensive cause-and-effect situations of corrupt governing in comparison to those of virtuous leadership, these images were aimed at reminding members of the council to seek justice at all times. The murals occupy three of the four walls of the Council Room. On the eastern wall Lorenzetti depicted the scenes of the ‘Effects of Good Government’, while on the western wall the ‘Effects of Bad Government’ are depicted. Overlooking both these murals, the personifications of the allegorical depictions of the virtues of good government are found on the northern wall.

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In the foreground of the ‘Allegory of Good Government’ figures of contemporary Siena are represented. They act as symbolic representations of the various civic officers and magistrates. Behind them, on a stage, there are allegoric figures representing Good Government. Wisdom is seated upon a throne and holds an orb and sceptre, symbolizing temporal power. He is dressed in the colours of the ‘Balzana’, the black and white Sienese coat-of-arms. Around his head are the four letters CSCV, (Commune Saenorum Civitatis Virginis) which explains his identity as the embodiment of the Siena Council. The virtues of good government are represented by the female figures of Peace, Fortitude and Prudence on the left, and Magnanimity, Temperance and Justice on the right. On the longer wall of the room is the fresco of the ‘Effects of Good Government in the City and in the Country’. Part of that image is ‘Peaceful City’ which provides the first panoramic view of Siena. The city is filled with palaces, markets, towers, churches, streets and walls. Busy shops indicate prosperity. The fresco then blends into the ‘Peaceful Country’. The transition is made by an entourage passing through the city gate. The scene shows a bird’s-eye view of the Tuscan countryside, with villas, castles, and farmers working the fields.

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The wall on which the fresco of the ‘Effects of Bad Government’ is depicted used to be an exterior wall, so has suffered damage in the past. The image shows Tyrammides (Tyranny) resting his feet upon a goat (symbolic of luxury), his hand holding a dagger, while the figures of Cruelty, Deceit, Fraud, Fury, Division, and War flank him. Above him float those of Avarice, Pride, and Vanity. The city itself is in ruin. Houses are being smashed and the streets are deserted. Crime and disease are rampant. The countryside suffers from drought and shows two battle-ready armies advancing towards each other. The disaster of bad government served as a powerful reminder to members of the council. 12 Lorenzetti supplied a painted view of a secular city in detail and inclusiveness. Commerce, trade and various social activities are visualized, while religious manifestations are almost entirely excluded. There are three identifiable churches, but they are marginal to the composition. Even the city’s impressive duomo has been squeezed into the background – no more than a tiny tower. Lorenzetti’s secular medieval city is not a faithful portrait of Siena, nor is it a true topographical representation. His ambition was to depict an ideal city, one that should be compared to Siena, but not be mistaken for it. The buildings are real structures, but the totality is imaginary. Topography is overruled by the artist’s message. His purpose was to portray the peaceful prosperity of a well-governed city. For the sake of the representation of various trades, social interaction, and communal celebrations, he re-designed the heart of the city and created a large open foreground which allowed him to display a variety of activities. That space in front of the new Palazzo Pubblico is not the Piazza del Campo, nor is it any other known open space in Siena. This large area behind the remarkably thin city-wall is a creation of the artist’s fancy. In other words, ‘Lorenzetti Square’ is an imaginary public place. The streetscape serves a particular purpose and is made subordinate to the moral message – Lorenzetti’s Siena nevertheless remains a remarkable portrait of a proud city.

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