Censorship in the Dutch Golden Age – 1



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).


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 …]


A Serious Game of Hide and Seek


[Amsterdam about 1600]

The year is 1609 and the place is Amsterdam, a city that has arrived on the threshold of what we now call the Golden Age. The VOC – the Dutch East Indies Company – has been functioning for seven years, but its greatness is still something for the future and the riches of the East are – as yet – nothing but a tempting promise. By now, the eighty years struggle of the Dutch with their Spanish overlords is halfway its lifespan. The Dutch have been fighting the Spaniards for 41 years, but a truce has finally been declared. A truce that was designed to bring twelve years of peace to the tired and war-weary contestants.
In fact the Spanish government turned against a part of their own population that had long been suspected of heresy. The expulsion of the moriscos, christians of muslim extraction, was an action that would in time have grave economical consequences, as the most productive and successful members of the population were banished to Afrika. A few years later the Spanish Empire also became embroiled in the bloodiest conflict of the seventeenth century, the German 30 years war that started in 1618.
Only a few relatively quiet and peaceful years had passed, when the Dutch went after each other’s throat in a social conflict that has been called a ‘cold civil war’. The religious background of this conflict is too abstruse to expound on here. Although religious differences were at the core of the conflict that almost destroyed the state, it was actually fueled by fundamental disagreements about the future of the young republic. How was the government to be organized? Should it be centralized from The Hague, where the Stadtholder held court? Or, alternatively, should it be decentralized in a typical Dutch way with local oligarchs taking charge, like they had done for centuries?


[Counterremonstrants attacking their opponents in 1617]
The champions of decentralized government were the States of Holland, dominated by Amsterdam. Until 1618 the States with its pensionary Johan van Oldenbarneveldt were in charge, together with the more liberal minded oligarchs who preached religious tolerance. Stadtholder Maurice was the servant of the Republic, but also a hereditary Prince of Orange in his own right. In 1618 Maurice sided with the intolerant diehard Calvinists, changed the government and had Van Oldenbarneveldt beheaded. This amalgam of feuds is of great interest to the bookhistorian, since printing played a major role in spreading conflicting ideas and arguments.
Pamphlets informed an increasingly engaged public on current affairs and swayed the public opinion of the high and the low in an unprecedented way. Hundreds of these pamphlets appeared each year. Many of those were written by articulate authors who knew how to entertain and to persuade their readers at the same time. Booksellers published most of them without the name of either the writer or the printer, although the government forbade this in a virtually endless series of placards that promised to punish the culprits and pay handsome rewards to those who turned them in.

One of the peculiarities of the Dutch governmental system was its particularism. A city like Amsterdam was a city-state. The seat of the government, The Hague, was divided into two jurisdictions that were each jealous of their prerogatives. The city of Delft is located just an hour’s walk from The Hague. From there William of Orange and the States had ruled the free provinces in the late sixteenth century. A printer living and working in Delft was outside the jurisdiction of the burgomasters of The Hague, but he could send his apprentices with recently printed pamphlets right into the heart of the government buildings without impediment, and no questions asked. Cities were jealous of their privileges and the rights of their citizens.

The decentralized system of government in the Netherlands made the placards futile. More often than not they were published by the central government in The Hague to please an ambassador or a foreign prince or government. Placards can certainly not be considered as acts of a government that was ready to apply a vigorous censorship. The States General knew that their words carried little weight in a city like Amsterdam. Placards had in fact the effect of an advertisement: ‘get this pamphlet.’

 In the seventeenth century Amsterdam presses churned out hundreds of books and pamphlets each year. Although every town, whatever their size, counted some booksellers, most of them lived in Amsterdam. Their output dwarfed the combined work of all others in the Netherlands and later in the century they would indeed publish about a quarter of all books published in Europe. They formed a well-defined community where each had its role: Christian books of different denominations were published by two big booksellers. To one of them, Marten Jansz Brandt, I will return later. There were publishers of maps and travelogues, specialists who catered for the lovers of poems and plays, and there were a few publishers who produced the very first newspapers, setting an example soon to be followed in Britain and elsewhere.

[one of the most popular pamphlets of the truce. Printed in Delft in 1612 this allegory was printed time after time] 

There were outsiders as well, who were shunned by the traditional community of printers and publishers: Willem Jansz Blaeu, now of international fame, was one of them. This nephew of an Amsterdam burgomaster was parachuted into the world of the book by his uncle to become the foremost printer of his time. Blaeu was a loner, without any of the traditional contacts with his colleagues. Most publishers that were comparable to him had extended networks reaching all over the Netherlands and beyond. Blaeu had no such thing.
Blaeu was also a printer of catholic books. He published these under the false name of Van Egmond, a printer that was supposed to live in Cologne. The whole city knew about this and it is easy to see why: Blaeu used the same initials and ornaments in those imprints that could be found in the books that he published under his own name. The same goes for the works of Hugo Grotius that were supposed to be printed in Paris.


[One of the more than 100 woodcut initials Blaeu used in his catholic books]
Next door to Blaeu the printer Joannes Janssonius or John Johnson ran his shop. He too published Catholic books using the imprint of Van Egmond. He is now famous – or notorious – for the editions he pirated from Blaeu, including a book on sea-faring that Blaeu wrote himself. Janssonius also published anonymous pamphlets. He was one of the great publishers of pamphlets who broke the law year after year. His output is easy to recognize, again by the initials and ornaments he used. In the conflict that broke out during the truce he played a dubious role, publishing the propaganda of both sides, although in public he posed as a Calvinist.
I have made some passing remarks on the initials and ornaments that can be used to trace the printers of almost any book. It is time now to take a closer look at them. Almost every printer from 1480 up to 1750 used ornamented letters that can be used to identify their output. From the beginning these were cut in wood, but early in the sixteenth century they were also cast in lead. Most, if not all of these are interesting in themselves as they reflect the art of the time in which they were created. But they can also be used to find printers.


[ a beautiful initial of Van Ravesteyn, also used in his ‘anonymous’ work. It shows that wood engraving was invented long before Bewick]
A few fellow bibliographers have – with some justification – argued that identification with the help of ornamentation should be carried out with caution. Printers used to lend each others materials. Although I have never observed this in seventeenth Dutch printing I have noticed that sixteenth century Venetian printers and printers from Cologne in Germany were in the habit to do so, making the identification of their output an interesting puzzle for some and a nightmare for many of my colleagues.

And then there are the cast initials. These are small slabs of lead, cast in sand or in some kind of matrix and nailed to a piece of boxwood. They were common in the seventeenth century and in fact any printer in the Netherlands could buy the same initials and ornaments. Lucky enough for the bibliographer they are nailed to the wood in different places and the rough handling of the presses made the nails come up through the lead in different ways.


[a nail sticking through a cast initial. This is one of Willem Jansz Blaeu]

The identification of printers with the help of their material was tried as early as the sixteenth century. The well-known specialist Paul Valkema Blouw noticed that printers who published controversial texts – and this were the days when the inquisition burned its victims on the stake – took great care to hide their traces. They did not use any ornamentation and when Margaretha of Parma had printer’s shops in Brussels and Antwerp searched no proof could be found. From the early sixteenth century on printers tended more and more to use the same typefaces so these could not be used to trace the culprits.
Back to Amsterdam and the crisis brought on by the temporary peace. As I mentioned before, the controversies spawned thousands of pamphlets without the printer (or the author) bothering to put their name on them. I have studied these in detail and I have established some patterns in the publishing which I will now put before you.
I mentioned Blaeu and his Catholic books. When in 1672 one of Blaeu’s printing houses burned down – causing damages of the staggering amount of at least 70.000.000 euro in today’s currency – people were saying that this was God’s punishment. Everybody in Amsterdam knew that he published catholic works and indeed these books are easy to recognize for nowadays researchers. 
When I researched anonymous pamphlets published in the years 1600-1625 I was able to trace about 80% of them to a printer without much difficulties. All of them were of course ornamented. Some of them with cast initials that were a little bit more difficult to trace to their owners, but often with wooden initials and ornaments that are unique. Soon it became clear that there was a publisher hiding behind some of these printers who printed virulent attacks on remonstrant preachers but also on the head of the government Johannes van Oldenbarneveldt himself.


[a virulent attack on the head of the state, Johan van Oldenbarneveldt]
I already made a passing remark on Marten Jansz Brandt. He was a staunch Calvinist with a populist streak who published any attack on his adversaries, how far fetched or even outright crazy they might be. His opponents seem to have been well aware of his activities were and answered him in kind, often poking fun at his fanatisicm. As a publisher he employed Amsterdam printers of different creeds. All of these also published anonymous pamphlets that were more in line with the opinions of Brandt than with their own inclinations. Some printed pamphlets for his opponents too and if you take a look at their normal output it seems that this was more in line with their point of view. The overall picture seems to show us a publisher who orchestrates attacks on his adversaries using the printers who printed the books that bore his impressum.

 I identified 80% of all anonymous printed pamphlets and that leaves us with 20%. Let me confess immediately that I have not tried to identify those leftovers. Most printers in the Netherlands used the same typefaces and these are thus almost unusable for identification. Almost: the time-honored practice of looking for broken type would probably tell us who the printers were of some of them. The study of lay-out and printing house practices will turn up a few more. But this kind of research fell beyond my scope. I will say something about them though and then pass on to the point I wish to make today.
The 20% or about 400 pamphlets that have not been traced have something in common – apart from the obvious absence of initials and ornaments. They were, for instance, rarely if ever reprinted. It is also clear to me that most of them did not come from the great Amsterdam presses, but were printed in the provinces. This is a notion that yet has to be formalized in research – through study for instance of the lay-out. And then there is the most interesting group: pamphlets by writers who were critical about the the East Indian Company or about the kings of Britain and France and their kin.
In fact, it seems that the authorities cared little about the slandering of parsons, university professors, or even themselves. They cared a lot however about the sensitivities of foreign allies – and their own purses. And so it has the appearance that early seventeenth publishers, their public and the authorities were in fact playing a game of hide and seek. Authors and publishers were hiding, but – at the same time – they were easy to find. The many satirical poems that were published as broadsheets bear this out. The activities of publishers like Janssonius who published everything controversial as long as it sold, point in the same direction.


[Oldenbarneveldt on the scaffold]

It was a game indeed – until 1619. When Van Oldenbarneveldt was beheaded, it became clear that the stakes were higher than many had thought. From then until the death of Stadtholder Maurice in 1626 the number of pamphlets dropped significantly. The percentage of publications that cannot be traced rose sharply. The tone changed too – for a while. An author who did not see the change in time was in danger of losing his head. Pastor Henrikus Slatius was the only Dutch writer who lost his life on the scaffold, in 1622. He was condemned for plotting against Maurice, but the accusations were a fabrication and his confession the result of torture.


[pastor Henricus Slatius tried to escape from the Netherlands dressed as a farmer but his soft, white hands betrayed him. Anonymous broadsheet, printed by Govert Basson in Leiden]
After the death of Maurice the Dutch Republic slowly returned to the more tolerant course that has been its trademark almost ever since. But perhaps indifference is a better word for what defined the Dutch stance. The Dutch were merchants. They were hardly interested in the habits or thought of other peoples, let alone that they would ever put any effort in trying to change these. This pragmatic view of the world shows in the way they handled censorship. When a writer threatened the peace or the economic status quo the authorities stepped in. Otherwise writers, publishers and booksellers were more or less free to do as they liked. And that is exactly what they did. Sometimes booksellers were partners of the inteprid authors they published. They were facilitators, activist dreamers who went into publishing to promote their own ideas or those of others, and some were prepared to sell their souls if necessary in order to make a profit.

Pamphlets have been compared to modern newspapers for the impact they had on public opinion, but that is a false comparison. To print a newspaper one needs machines that cost millions. A writer will have to convince an editorial board of his ideas, and if he is lucky he will find them edited if not emasculated on the backside of an advertisement somewhere at the back. In early modern Amsterdam all you needed was twenty guilders in cash to have 300 pamphlets of some 5,000 words printed. This was the normal size of an edition for this type of publication. For a printer it was an afternoon’s work. Knowledge of a certain pamphlet could spread like a wildfire. Some pamphlets were printed time after time and copied by a dozen other printers. For that reason, the comparison with a blog, or even facebook, is a better one.


Print and Urbanity: Horace ‘Elzevir’ Walpole

The large number of paintings Sir Robert Walpole, Britain’s first Prime Minister, assembled for his family home at Houghton Hall in Norfolk formed one of the eighteenth century’s most exceptional collections. Rebuilt during the 1720s with work continuing into the 1730s, Houghton Hall required the original house to be demolished and the village of Houghton to be moved (!) to accommodate the new park. The rebuilt Hall was vast in order to accommodate all large-scale paintings and tapestries. The core of the collection included works by Dutch, Flemish and French masters such as Rembrandt, Rubens, Van Dyck, Poussin, Murillo and Lorrain. Walpole also commissioned many works from living artists. Busy with political affairs of state, he employed specialists to purchase works of art on his behalf and make recommendations. Members of the Walpole family (his sons Robert, Edward and Horace, or his brother Horatio) travelled on the Continent where they bought for Sir Robert. The organisation of the collection at Houghton Hall was left to his youngest son Horace who wrote a catalogue of his father’s collection entitled Aedes Walpolianae (1747/8) in which he supplied a detailed and scholarly description of the collection which became a model for cataloguing country house collections for the remainder of the century.

When Robert died in 1745, his considerable debts were passed on to his eldest son Robert who set about raising capital through the sale of some 130 paintings from their London properties. The proceeds did not come near to settling the debts. Robert only survived his father by six years. The estate – along with its debts – passed to his only son George who was a wayward character. He used Houghton for wild parties and mixed with unsavoury characters. He then suffered a dramatic mental illness and made various suicide attempts. The house fell into disrepair and it was left to Horace to impose a degree of order on to the household. Once recovered, George decided to sell the entire Houghton Collection. The possibility of a private sale caused outrage. The collection was considered to be a perfect foundation for the establishment of a national gallery which, at the time, was very much an undertaking of national pride. After all, London had to compete with the success of the Louvre in Paris.

The loss of 204 outstanding works to the flamboyant Catherine the Great of Russia was a blow to morale and interpreted as a sign of British decline. Horace despaired in private at the prospect at his father’s legacy being destroyed. In the battle of words even some of the more outrageous contemporary rumours of Catherine’s sexual appetite were used to define her as an undeserving recipient of England’s finest collection. Ironically, in 1789, ten years after the collection arrived in Russia, the north wing of Houghton Hall was destroyed by fire. The collection at least was saved for future generations to enjoy.

Horace Walpole was a man of many talents. He was an author, bibliographer, publisher, collector, and a very odd character. Educated at Eton and Cambridge, he became MP for Callington (Cornwall) in 1743, held the seat for thirteen years, but never set foot in the place. A confirmed bachelor, he drew about him a circle of cultured ‘dear friends’, a semi-erotic camaraderie of sensitive aesthetes. His biographers have described Walpole as an effeminate, asexual, or passively homosexual character. Horace Walpole does not quite fit the eighteenth century mould, being more akin to Max Beerbohm’s and Oscar Wilde’s late nineteenth century style. Horace was a decadent, given to dramatic and aesthetic indulgence – an eighteenth century Oscar Wilde, a prototype for Huysmans’s fictional hero Des Esseintes. As an author, he is remembered for his extensive correspondence which is of significant historical interest. He was a prodigious writer of letters, corresponding with many outstanding cultural and political figures of his time. His fame rests upon the novel The Castle of Otranto, subtitled ‘A Gothic Story’, of which melodrama and parody were to become long-standing features of the style initiated by him. Published anonymously, the first edition of 500 copies sold out quickly. The world was moving on, but fiction turned to the past. The castle of Otranto is riddled with dark vaults, subterranean passages, trap-doors, caverns and ghosts. The novel was published on Christmas Eve in 1764. That same year James Watt perfected the steam engine, thus laying the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution. Literature dripped of medieval blood, while London and the big industrial cities were about to be covered in grease and oil. The gap between fiction and life was widening. Literature became divorced from reality. Escape was the name of the game.

In 1747, Walpole leased a small suburban house in fashionable Twickenham, south-west of London. Built in 1698, it was called ‘Strawberry Hill’ after the area of land on which it stood, known as Strawberry Hill Shot, and in its time had been occupied by the actor and dramatist Colley Cibber. Walpole set about transforming and extending the dwelling into a Gothic castle. He wanted the house to look like a medieval manor, without sacrificing any modern luxuries or refinements. The house became an odd mixture of papier-mâché friezes, fireplaces copied from medieval tombs, a Holbein chamber evoking the court of Henry VIII, traditional Dutch tiles on the floor, contemporary carpets throughout and modern paintings on the walls. Strawberry Hill was built for theatrical effect. The house was a stage set on which Walpole performed his life. To some, it was the manifestation of a gay aesthetic. Strawberry Hill was the most famous house in Georgian England. It fuelled the vogue for all things medieval. For Victorian Gothic purists such as Augustus Pugin, it was a sham. For modernists, it indicated the failure of the age to build anything of stylistic significance.

Strawberry Hill was filled with art, antiquities and curiosities of every period from the ancient to the modern. Walpole wrote and printed his own catalogue, A Description of the Villa of Horace Walpole in 1774, which he revised and enlarged in 1784. His collection of miniatures which included works by Holbein, Hilliard and Isaac Oliver, was one of the finest anywhere and his ceramic collection (over 1,200 pieces) ranged from ancient Greek pots to contemporary porcelain. Not all of the collection was of artistic merit, but Walpole delighted in his eclectic array of objects of historical curiosity from a pair of gloves belonging to James I to the spurs worn by King William in the Battle of the Boyne, and a lock of hair of Edward IV. In the Great Sale held in 1842, described by many observers as the sale of the century, Walpole’s collections were dispersed world-wide. The auction lasted thirty days.

To bibliophiles Walpole is the person who started the first successful private press. The term ‘Private Press’ refers to a movement in book production which flourished at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It started with the founding of William Morris’s Kelmscott Press in 1890. Those involved created books by traditional printing and binding methods, with an emphasis on the book as a work of art and manual skill, as well as a medium for the transmission of information. Morris studied incunabulum from which he drew inspiration for manufacturing his own paper, ink and type design. If Morris turned his personal ambition into a ‘movement’, Walpole had set an early example of the notion of a private press. He founded his Strawberry Hill Press in June 1757. It is the most celebrated of the early English private presses, unique for the importance of the books, pamphlets, and ephemera it produced. Walpole called it the Officina Arbuteana and employed Irishman William Robinson as his printer. Walpole was an admirer of the Elzevier publishing dynasty, referring to his private press as the ‘Elzevirianum’. On 16 July 1757 he wrote to George Montagu: ‘Elzevirianum opens to-day; you shall taste its first fruits’. His cousin Field Marshal Henry Seymour Conway called him ‘Elzevir Horace’. Many of the first editions of his own works were struck off within its walls. The first works printed at Strawberry Hill, on 8 August 1757, were two odes of Thomas Gray, ‘The Progress of Poesy’ and ‘The Bard’. Several books of interest were printed at the press, such as Hentzner’s Journey into England, Mémoires de Grammont, The Life of Lord Herbert of Cherbury, etc., and several of Walpole’s own works. The emphasis of the press was on the physical quality of the book produced. The publication of Lucan’s Pharsalia is a notable example.

Hugo Grotius’s text edition of this particular work was published by Raphelengius in Leiden in 1614 with reissues in 1626 and 1627 (and probably also in 1639). A revised edition was published in 1643 by Blaeu in Amsterdam. The house of Blaeu also brought out two Grotius editions of the Pharsalia in small format in 1619 and 1627; these editions were reprinted in 1626 and 1636 by Blaeu’s neighbour Janssonius. Walpole sought the support Richard Bentley, classical scholar and Master of Trinity, Cambridge, to supplement the notes supplied by his Dutch predecessor. After two laborious years of preparation, the volume appeared in quarto, M. Annaei Lucani Pharsalia. Cum notis Hugonis Grotii et Richardi Bentleii, etc. (Strawberry-Hill, 1760). Five hundred beautiful copies were printed on paper marked J.W. (= James Whatman), the outstanding papermaker of his day.

Antoine Pluvinel on horses

Anabaptist printer and publisher Crispijn de Passe was born in 1564 in Arnemuiden (Zeeland) in the Netherlands. He was educated in culturally vibrant Antwerp, the outstanding printing and graphic centre of sixteenth century Europe. There he started his artistic career. By 1585 at the latest, he became a member of the prominent Guild of St Luke and worked as an engraver for various publishing houses. When Catholic Spain conquered Antwerp in 1588, reducing this cosmopolitan centre to a stagnant religious backwater, Crispijn de Passe, like tens of thousands other intellectuals, fellow artists and craftsmen, left the city with his family. He went into exile in Cologne where he founded his own publishing house. He specialized in portraits and genre graphics which were destined both for the European and English markets. His work was in demand.

In 1611, Crispijn left Cologne for religious reasons and relocated his studio to Utrecht. There he teamed up with Aernout van Buchell (Buchelius) and continued his highly successful career. His sons continued in his footsteps, working on their own in Paris, London, and Copenhagen, and carrying the international fame of the De Passe studio with them. In 1623, Crispijn II produced a series of outstanding engravings for one of the classic seventeenth century work on the art of horse-riding. The author of the book was Antoine de Pluvinel. In its complete form Le maneige royal was published posthumously in 1625. It was edited by Pluvinel’s friend Menou de Charnizay, and given its definitive name L’Instruction du Roy en l’exercice de monter à cheval (Teaching the King how to ride a horse). The author had been riding instructor to Louis XIII.

Antoine de Pluvinel was born in Crest, Dauphiné, France, in 1555. He learned riding in Italy and was educated according to the Neapolitan school under Giovanni Pignatelli, who introduced the Italian style of horse-breaking with strict and forceful methods. Pluvinel, on the contrary, became a proponent of less brutal ways. His practice was based on understanding the character of the horse and motivating the animal’s cooperation through patience and praise. He applied subtle training methods, insisting that a horse moves more gracefully if he enjoys being ridden. The principles of the Neapolitan school of riding however did persist. One of the English noblemen who studied in Italy was William Cavendish, a nobleman and a royalist, who was obliged to live in exile after the defeat of Charles I. He was to become the first Duke of Newcastle and is credited with introducing school riding in England. Whilst in exile, he taught the schooling of horses in Antwerp and drew on his experiences of the disciplines of the Neapolitan School to publish A General System of Horsemanship in 1658.

In 1594, Pluvinel founded the Académie d’Équitation near to the place now known as the Place des Pyramides. There, the French nobility was trained not only in horsemanship, but also in all the refined accomplishments demanded of a gentleman (dancing, dressing, etiquette). Pluvinel’s influence on the aristocracy endured well into the seventeenth century. Richelieu, the future Prime minister of King Louis XIII was one of those who attended the Académie. Pluvinel’s book was a massive success. It was re-printed several times, and translated into many languages. He died on 24 August 1620 and is remembered and recognized by many as the ‘Father of French Horsemanship’.