Jamie Cumby: SRS Study Fellowship (2015-16)

My project investigates the system of book production in sixteenth-century Lyon with a view to understanding its development.  Between the first decade of the century and the outbreak of religious warfare in 1562, Lyon’s book industry exploded.  Although the city was initially one among many branch office locations for Italian printing firms, it came to resemble Venice in terms of scale and importance within the European book world.  Existing scholarship on printing in Lyon during the first half of the sixteenth-century has not looked at the industry’s growth directly.  Instead, studies tend to focus either on religious controversy and print in Lyon, or on the work of the city’s prominent publishers and printers.  Projects that concentrate on the activity of individual bookmen lose sight of the larger network of merchants and craftsmen comprising book production.  This leaves critical questions about funding models, operational costs, allocation of printing jobs, and export networks unanswered. 


Investigating these practical realities of the trade reveal the material conditions of successful growth.  By taking the mechanism of Lyon’s rise to prominence as my central research question, I will fill a gap in scholarship on Lyonnais printing, as well as enrich scholarly understanding of this important feature of the European book world.  To address unanswered questions and find the source of Lyon’s growth, my research will consider the physical features of Lyonnais books, records of the publishers and craftsmen producing them, and evidence of their wider European distribution.  The material conditions of Lyonnais publishing reflect key features of the sixteenth-century book trade.  As my research will demonstrate, the Lyonnais book market was designed to produce editions for export throughout Europe, with a focus on legal books.  In addition to shedding light on financial networks and export markets, this perspective will provide a fresh approach to stylistic trends during the apex of French Renaissance book design.  Ultimately, this project will examine the concrete relationship between Lyon’s status as a centre of trade and the prodigious growth of its book industry.