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The 15th-century Book Trade: An Evidence-based Assessment and Visualization of the Distribution, Sale, and Reception of Books in the Renaissance

Final Report Summary - 15CBOOKTRADE (The 15th-century Book Trade: An Evidence-based Assessment and Visualization of the Distribution, Sale, and Reception of Books in the Renaissance)

How did late Medieval to Early Modern European society react to the technological change wrought about by the invention of printing with movable type? To answer this question the 15cBOOKTRADE project developed a set of digital resources and an international network to contribute to them, to capture and analyse the historical evidence contained in the half a million 15th-century printed books which still survive today and bear in themselves evidence of their former ownership and use: institutions and individuals, religious or lay, men, women, and children, and their profession. Our digital resources allow to track the extensive movement of each book, from the time it was printed to today, and to visualize its 500-year long wanderings over time and space. They also allow to reconstruct libraries today dispersed, we have traced over 18,000 book collections so far. By the end of the project 10% of the surviving sources has been assessed, from over 400 different European and American libraries. In addition, a unique document for the understanding of the beginning of the knowledge economy was thoroughly studied: the account book of a Venetian bookseller which provides evidence of the sale of thousands of early printed books in the very first 20 years since the introduction of printing in the city which became the European capital of production and distribution, Venice. We now know the price and popularity of the majority of early printed editions. In a large exhibition for the general public held in Venice we compared them with the cost of living to communicate how the dissemination of printing brought about a social r-evolution which affected every aspect of life, not just scholarship or religion as previously stated, with a vast production in primary education material, today almost completely disappeared, which fostered un unprecedented expansion of literacy. Elements and societal challenges of the printing revolution were compared with our ongoing digital revolution.