Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900)
Commentary on the privilege for the Divisiekroniek
Dahlem Humanities Centre, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany
Please cite as:
Buning, M. (2018) 'Commentary on the privilege for the Divisiekroniek (1516)', in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org
1. Full Title
3. Administration of the Habsburg Netherlands
4. Printing privileges in the Habsburg Netherlands
5. The privilege for the Divisiekroniek
6. Formalities and rationale
1. Full title
The Chronicle of Holland, Zealand and Frisia, starting from the time of Adam till the birth of our Lord Jesus, up until the year 1517, Leyden: Jan Severszoon, 1517
The 1516 privilege for the Divisiekroniek printed by Jan Severszoon was one of the first printing privileges with legal standing in the Northern Provinces of the Habsburg Netherlands, the territory that was later to become the Dutch Republic. The document specifying the privilege, which was printed at the end of the book, offers a window on the logic of the early modern privilege system under the rule of the Spanish Habsburgs. This commentary puts the privilege for the Divisiekroniek in a wider context. Starting with a short introduction to the political structure of the Habsburg Netherlands, it makes some general observations on the rationale and administrative handling of printing privileges in the Habsburg Netherlands before delving deeper into the contents of the privilege granted to Severszoon for the printing of the Divisiekroniek.
3. Administration of the Habsburg Netherlands
Until the end of the fifteenth century, the region that we now know as the Netherlands had never been more than a somewhat loose collection of territories. After centuries of conjugal policies and continuous warfare, the most important parts of the region had come to belong to the Duchy of Burgundy, which was ruled over by the House of Habsburg and the House of Valois. Their descendent Charles V (1500-1558) ascended to power as Duke of Burgundy and Count of Flanders in 1515. He quickly laid down the foundations for an 'empire on which the sun never set' and in the process unified the territories that would later become the Dutch Republic.[i] The provisional tailpiece of Charles V's unification policies was the so-called Pragmatic Sanction (Pragmatieke Sanctie, 1549). The goal of this Sanction was to prevent the fragmentation of the former territory of the Duchy of Burgundy, by then called the Seventeen Provinces, at the hands of the heirs of its respective ruler.
In order to rule more conveniently over his enormous empire, Charles V implemented a number of institutional changes that were aimed at centralizing his power. For what concerns the Burgundian domains, one of the most important of these changes was the appointment, in 1531, of a permanent governor who was assisted by three permanent councils, the so-called Collateral Councils (Collaterale Raden). The Collateral Councils consisted of a Council of State (Raad van State, Conseil d'Etat) providing advice in matters of general policy; a Council of Finances (Rekenkamer, Conseil des Finances) that looked over fiscal matters; and a Privy Council (Geheime Raad, Conseil Secret) that administered affairs of justice and police.[ii] Particularly, the Privy Council would soon play an important role in the administration of a system of printing privileges in the Habsburg Netherlands.
4. Printing privileges in the Habsburg Netherlands
The introduction of printing privileges in the Habsburg Netherlands was not an isolated event but followed suit on developments that had taken place elsewhere. On 5 January 1511 (old style calendar), the Antwerp-based printer Claes de Greve had been issued a six-year printing privilege from the Council of Brabant. When soliciting for this privilege, he argued that printers in Paris, Venice, and Lyon had obtained similar dispensations, which had unmistakably contributed to the general welfare of these regions.[iii] Within a couple of years, printers in the Netherlands started raising the argument that it was "custom and practice" (costume ende usantie) in the Habsburg Netherlands that new works were protected against reprinting by means of a privilege.[iv] This typically concerned a three- to six-years privilege securing the exclusive rights to production and distribution of a specific title. In reality, however, the issuing of printing privileges occurred only occasionally. In the Habsburg Netherlands, no more than ten printing privileges were granted each year.[v]
Printing privileges were issued by three different authorities in the Habsburg Netherlands: the cities, the Provincial Councils, and the federal authorities.[vi] The scope of a printing privilege depended on the jurisdiction of the issuing authority. Urban privileges were, for instance, only valid within the walls of a city. Provincial privileges were only valid within the borders of a particular province. Federal privileges, instead, were valid in all of the Seventeen Provinces. These federal privileges were for that reason also called 'general privileges'. General privileges were issued in the name of the highest authority, i.e. the landlord; yet, they were administratively handled by the Privy Council and the Great Council of the Netherlands (De Grote Raad der Nederlanden, also called Hoge Raad), the highest court in the Burgundian Netherlands which was established in 1473 and was seated at Mechelen. After 1531, the Collateral Councils would take over this administrative role.[vii]
Printers, as well as authors, seem to have preferred a general privilege over an urban or provincial privilege, which probably had something to do with the limited geographical scope of the latter. The Flemish printer Jan Moretus (1543-1610), for instance, obtained a provincial privilege on 23 June 1593 from the Council of Brabant, but then also obtained a general privilege from the Privy Council on 5 March 1594. His general privilege was substantiated on the grounds that his former privilege "could only serve in Brabant, which is why he wanted the privilege to be made general, taking into consideration the large costs he had to make for the embellishment and figures […]."[viii] By securing a general privilege, Moretus tried to prevent that printers residing in juridical districts within the Habsburg Netherlands other than Brabant could copy his work with impunity.
5. The privilege for the Divisiekroniek
The four-year privilege for the Divisiekroniek was one of the first general printing privileges with legal standing in the Northern Provinces of the Habsburg Netherlands.[ix] In addition to the relevant authorities in Brabant and Flanders, it explicitly referred to the “Stadtholder, President and members of our Council in Holland; Bailiff of Leyden” as persons that had to respect and enforce the protection conferred upon the printer of the book.
The privilege was granted on 9 October 1516 (old style calendar) by Charles V (1500-1558) and issued by the Hoge Raad to the Leiden-based printer Jan Severszoon (Jan Zevers, Jan Corneliszoen).[x] Little is known about the printer, except that later, in 1524, he was banned from Leiden on the suspicion of printing and selling forbidden books.[xi] He then moved to Utrecht, where he soon was banished as well. After that, there are no more traces of him, although literature suggests that he continued his activities in Antwerp.[xii]
The Divisiekroniek appeared anonymously, yet historians nowadays generally assume that it was written by the Dutch humanist Cornelius Aurelius (ca. 1460-1531).[xiii] Aurelius was a Canons Regular of the order of St. Augustine, who resided alternately in Hemsdonk (close to Schoonhoven) and Lopsen (close to Leiden). As an exponent of the Christian-humanist movement, he wrote, among others, numerous religious poetry bundles, a biography of Hieronymus, and several essays on classical virtue.[xiv] In 1508, the prolific writer received a laurel wreath from the Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) confirming the importance of his activities for the literary developments of the period. Alas, it remains unclear why the Divisiekroniek was nevertheless published anonymously.
The Divisiekroniek is compiled on the basis of a wide range of historical works from home and abroad. The result is a combination of a regional chronicle and a world history, putting the emphasis on local events: the chronicle primarily describes the history of Holland from the earliest times until the year 1517.[xv] The Divisiekroniek is known as an important work in the history of the book, because of its many woodcut ornaments. Some of these woodcuts have also been ascribed to (the school of) the famous Northern Renaissance engraver Lucas van Leyden (1494-1533), whom Vasari held in higher esteem than Albrecht Dürer.[xvi]
The cost of cutting the woodblocks may indeed have been a reason why Severszoon felt the need to request a privilege. In any case, he argued that it would become disproportionally "costly and difficult" to print the book without having the security of a privilege.[xvii] Hence, as with most privileges, the privilege for the Divisiekroniek was not issued a posteriori as a form of reward. Instead it was granted before the book was put on the market: by securing a temporary monopoly, the publisher could protect his investments. Accordingly, Severszoon's privilege from 1516 stated that it served to "bring the print and impression to perfection."[xviii] The book was eventually published on 18 August 1517 in Leiden. It would become highly instrumental in shaping the collective memory of the inhabitants of the Low Countries. The book was still reprinted numerous times in the Dutch Republic around the turn of the seventeenth century.[xix]
6. Formalities and rationale
The privilege for Severszoon must be situated at the beginning of a long history of printing privileges granted in the Low Countries. A printing privilege gave an individual printer (or author) the exclusive right to commercially exploit a particular book, print, globe, map or other printed material for a limited period of time. Making all the necessary preparations and arrangements to print materials sometimes incurred high costs, while the costs of reproduction were relatively low. Thus, the primary goal of granting printing privileges was to protect investments: by granting temporary monopoly rights, the authorities provided printers with a market advantage, which would make these printers more inclined to take up costly projects that the authorities deemed worthy of being printed.[xx] Printing privileges were thus closely linked to the control and distribution of knowledge.[xxi]
In order to qualify for legal protection, an extract of the privilege had to be printed either in the beginning or at the end of the book. Often, the indication cum privilegio could be found on the frontispiece as well. Other than that, privileges were heritable, alienable, and transferable rights, which soon turned into a commodity that was actively traded.
The duration of printing privileges varied from several months to several decennia; however, numerous privileges were prolonged after expiration as well. Also, the costs for obtaining a privilege varied. According to Prosper Verheyden, the stamp duties for a privilege issued by the Council of Brabant were set at 2 carolus plus 11 stuivers in 1548-1549, after which they increased in the course of time to 3 Flemish pounds plus 6 stuivers (example from around 1590).[xxii] Less is known about the stamp duties that had to be paid to the Privy Council, which was the administrative authority ultimately responsible for issuing the privilege to Severszoon; yet we may assume that these duties were roughly in the same range as those in Brabant. Informally, it is also quite possible that applicants for a privilege had to pay an additional sum of money – a “bribe” – to appease the officials involved in the application process.[xxiii]
The standard penalty for infringement of a printing privilege consisted of the confiscation of the reprinted material and a fine for every work illegally reproduced. This fine was usually divided between the authorities and the applicant.[xxiv] As far as we know, however, only few cases of infringement of a privilege reached the courts; most cases were settled amicably. One example where the authorities did intervene to investigate the possible misuse of a privilege involved the Antwerp-based printer Jacob van Liesveldt (d.1545). Van Liesveldt was accused of having printed a papal bull with the notice “cum gratia et privilegio Imperalis Maiestatis” without having been granted the privilege. The printer managed to convince the authorities, however, that he had been wrongly informed, which put the case to an end. It could not prevent that Van Liesveldt would later – on a different occasion – be decapitated for Lutheran sympathies.[xxv]
Aerts, Erik, and others, eds. De Centrale Overheidsinstellingen van de Habsburgse Nederlanden (1482-1795). Vol. 1. 2 vols. Brussel: Algemeen Rijksarchief, 1994.
Armstrong, Elizabeth. Before Copyright: The French Book-Privilege System, 1498-1526. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990.
Baelde, M. “De Toekenning van Drukkersoctrooien Door de Geheime Raad in de Zestiendende Eeuw.” De Gulden Passer 40 (1962): 19–58.
Fredericq, Paul. Corpus Documentorum Inquisitionis Haereticae Pravitatis Neerlandicae: Verzameling van Stukken Betreffende de Pauselijke En Bisschoppelijke Inquisitie in de Nederlanden. 4. 1514-1525. Vol. 4. Gent: Vuylsteke, 1900.
Fruin, Robert. “De Samensteller van de Zoogenaamde Divisie-Kroniek.” In Robert Fruin’s Verspreide Geschriften. Met Aanteekeningen, Toevoegsels En Verbeteringen Uit Des Schrijvers Nalatenschap, edited by P.L. Muller and S. Muller, 7:66–72. The Hague: Nijhoff, 1903.
Goudriaan, K. “The Gouda Circle of Humanists.” In Education and Learning in the Netherlands 1400-1600. Studies in Honour of Hilde de Ridder-Symoens, edited by J.J. van Moolenbroek and A.L. Tervoort, 155–78. Leiden: Brill, 2004.
Gregory, Sharon. Vasari and the Renaissance Print. Farnham: Ashgate, 2012.
Hollander, Aurelius Augustinus den. Verboden Bijbels: Bijbelcensuur in de Nederlanden in de Eerste Helft van de Zestiende Eeuw. Amsterdam: Vossiuspers UvA, 2003.
Kronenberg, M.E. “Lotgevallen van Jan Seversz., Boekdrukker Te Leiden (c. 1502-1524) En Te Antwerpen (c. 1527-1530).” Het Boek: Tweede Reeks van Het Tijdschrift Voor Boek- En Bibliotheekwezen, no. 13 (1924): 1–38.
Tilmans, Karin. Aurelius En de Divisiekroniek van 1517: Historiografie En Humanisme in Holland in de Tijd van Erasmus. Hilversum: Verloren, 1988.
———. De Divisiekroniek van 1517 Uitgave van Het Bourgondische-Habsburgse Deel (Divisie 29-32). Amsterdam, 2003. https://karintilmans.nl/pdf/dk29-32.pdf.
Van Rossem, Stijn. “Het gevecht met de boeken: de uitgeversstrategieën van de familie Verdussen (Antwerpen, 1589-1689).” Universiteit Antwerpen, 2014.
Verheyden, P. “Drukkersoctrooien in de 16de Eeuw.” Tijdschrift Voor Boek- En Bibliotheekwezen 8 (1910): 203–26 and 269–86.
Verheyden, Prosper. “Verhooren van Mark Martens En van Jacob van Liesveldt (1536).” Tijdschrift Voor Boek- En Bibliotheekwezen, no. 4 (1906): 245–61.
[i] Around the Burgundian domains, Charles V conquered, among others, the province of Frisia in 1523, the Bishopric of Utrecht in 1528, and the areas Drenthe and Groningue in 1536. It was not until 1543, when he finally managed to also conquer the Duchy of Gueldres, that for the first time in history the territory that we now know as Netherlands was brought under the control of one ruler.
[ii] For more information about the genesis of the Collateral Councils, see Erik Aerts and others, eds., De Centrale Overheidsinstellingen van de Habsburgse Nederlanden (1482-1795), vol. 1 (Brussel: Algemeen Rijksarchief, 1994), 265–82, 295–324, 497–552.
[iii] See P. Verheyden, “Drukkersoctrooien in de 16de Eeuw,” Tijdschrift Voor Boek- En Bibliotheekwezen 8 (1910): 203–4.
[iv] Verheyden, 204.
[v] Enumerative lists for this period can be found in Verheyden, “Drukkersoctrooien”; M. Baelde, “De Toekenning van Drukkersoctrooien Door de Geheime Raad in de Zestiendende Eeuw,” De Gulden Passer 40 (1962): 19–58.
[vi] Imperial privileges, for instance, did not apply in the Habsburg Netherlands and also privileges granted by other authorities within the larger Spanish Habsburg Empire did not necessarily have legal standing in the Habsburg Netherlands. See Elizabeth Armstrong, Before Copyright: The French Book-Privilege System, 1498-1526 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 15.
[vii] As righty pointed out by Baelde, the influence of central government was clearly present even when privileges were granted by the Provincial Councils. See Baelde, “De Toekenning Van Drukkersoctrooien,” 23.
[viii] “[…] comme ledict acte et deffence ne luy peult servir sinon en Brabant par où il vouldroit bien que icelluy octroy luy fust général, en regard aux grand fraiz quil doibt mectre pour lemellisement et figures […].” Cited in: Baelde, “Drukkersoctrooien,” 27–28.
[ix] As far as we know, the first printer from the Northern Netherlands to receive a privilege was the Amsterdam-based printer Doen Pietersz, who received, in 1516, a three-year general privilege from the Secret Council for a number of works still to be published. See Verheyden, “Drukkersoctrooien,” 210.
[x] The privilege was signed “By den Conic in sinen hogen Rade. Hanneton onterteykent”. As Armstrong noted: “The king was not personally present as he had sailed on 8 September 1517 for Spain to claim succession there. Hanneton, who signed the grant, was the Audencier.” See Armstrong, Before Copyright, 18–19, note 4.
[xi] Paul Fredericq, Corpus Documentorum Inquisitionis Haereticae Pravitatis Neerlandicae : Verzameling van Stukken Betreffende de Pauselijke En Bisschoppelijke Inquisitie in de Nederlanden. 4. 1514-1525, vol. 4 (Gent: Vuylsteke, 1900), 282 [no. 224].
[xii] M.E. Kronenberg, “Lotgevallen van Jan Seversz., Boekdrukker Te Leiden (c. 1502-1524) En Te Antwerpen (c. 1527-1530),” Het Boek: Tweede Reeks van Het Tijdschrift Voor Boek- En Bibliotheekwezen, no. 13 (1924): 20–22.
[xiii] For an in-depth study of the Divisiekroniek, see Karin Tilmans, Aurelius En de Divisiekroniek van 1517: Historiografie En Humanisme in Holland in de Tijd van Erasmus (Hilversum: Verloren, 1988). On Aurelius, see also Robert Fruin, “De Samensteller van de Zoogenaamde Divisie-Kroniek,” in Robert Fruin’s Verspreide Geschriften. Met Aanteekeningen, Toevoegsels En Verbeteringen Uit Des Schrijvers Nalatenschap, ed. P.L. Muller and S. Muller, vol. 7 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1903), 66–72; K. Goudriaan, “The Gouda Circle of Humanists,” in Education and Learning in the Netherlands 1400-1600. Studies in Honour of Hilde de Ridder-Symoens, ed. J.J. van Moolenbroek and A.L. Tervoort (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 155–78.
[xiv] Karin Tilmans, ‘Aurelius, Cornelius Gerardi (1460-1531)’, in Biografisch Woordenboek van Nederland. URL:http://resources.huygens.knaw.nl/bwn/BWN/lemmata/bwn3/aurelius [12-11-2013]
[xv] The full title of the book is in translation: The Chronicle of Holland, Zeeland and Friesland, starting from Adam’s time to the birth of Our Lord Jesus, continuing to the year 1517. With the true origin: how Holland was first occupied and inhabited by the Trojans. And also containing the dukes of Bavaria, Hainault and Burgundy; the period they held the country; with the chronicle of the bishops of Utrecht, flawlessly covered and extensively reported.
[xvi] Sharon Gregory, Vasari and the Renaissance Print (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012), 20.
[xvii] “[…] costelick ende moylic […]”. See: nl_1516, 435v.
[xviii] “[…] behoudelic dat hi ghehouden sal wesen dieselve prente ende impressie volmaect ende volbracht te hebben binnen vier jaren naest comende […]”. See: nl_1516, 435v.
[xix] For a discussion of these reprints, see Karin Tilmans, De Divisiekroniek van 1517 Uitgave van Het Bourgondische-Habsburgse Deel (Divisie 29-32) (Amsterdam, 2003), 7–9, https://karintilmans.nl/pdf/dk29-32.pdf.
[xx] On Severszoon's privilege in this context, see also Elizabeth Armstrong, Before Copyright: The French Book-Privilege System, 1498-1526(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 19. For a more general account, see Marius Buning, “Privileging the Common Good. The Moral Economy of Printing Privileges in the Seventeenth-Century Dutch Republic,” in Buying and Selling: The Business of Books in Early Modern Europe, ed. Shanti Grahelli (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 88-108.
[xxi] For the relationship between printing privileges and censorship, see also the commentary on nl_1570.
[xxii] P. Verheyden, “Drukkersoctrooien in de 16de Eeuw,” Tijdschrift Voor Boek- En Bibliotheekwezen 8 (1910): 208.
[xxiii] We still know very little about bribery in the sixteenth-century book business, but see in this context also Stijn Van Rossem, “Het gevecht met de boeken: de uitgeversstrategieën van de familie Verdussen (Antwerpen, 1589-1689)” (Universiteit Antwerpen, 2014), 98–99. Van Rossem provides some very interesting information on cases from later in the seventeenth century.
[xxiv] The standard clause was “Op peyne van confiscatie van de zelve boecken ende boete van een carolus gulden van elcken boeck, tot prouffyte half en half van zyne Majesteyt ende des voers. Suppliants.” Baelde, “Drukkersoctrooien”, 33.
[xxv] On this 1536 case, which was handled by the Privy Council, see Prosper Verheyden, “Verhooren van Mark Martens En van Jacob van Liesveldt (1536),” Tijdschrift Voor Boek- En Bibliotheekwezen, no. 4 (1906): 245–61. Van Liesveldt was known for having printed the first complete translation of the Bible in the vernacular. The Bible translation by Liesveldt had originally appeared with privilege in 1522. The authorities were not against Bible translations as such, but eventually took a firm line with (what they considered to be) false translations and injurious annotations. Liesveldt was decapitated on 27 November 1545 and his translation was put on the Leuven Index of 1546, because it was based on the Lutheran text. See Aurelius Augustinus den Hollander, Verboden Bijbels: Bijbelcensuur in de Nederlanden in de Eerste Helft van de Zestiende Eeuw (Amsterdam: Vossiuspers UvA, 2003), 14.