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Women Printers

Women worked as typesetters, editors, financial backers, and booksellers--in every sector of the printing business--but were not always identified by name in the business.  Starting in the spring of 2020, I began working with a paid undergraduate research assistant (Rachel Oliver, paid with funds from the Office of Research Services and Sponsored Programs of Georgia Southern University) to identify the women printers in the census.  In Spring 2021, a new research assistant, Baoxin Lau (paid with funds from the Department of History at Georgia Southern University) took up the task, and I presented some early findings at the 2021 Sixteenth Century Society and Conference Annual Meeting.  As this aspect of the work progresses, I will post updates.

Use the links here and the pull-down menu above to see how far we've gotten on the following agenda:

  • a list of all printers involved in the printing of the books in the census, indicating which ones we know to have included women printers or booksellers;

  • brief bio sketches of women printers from Spain, France, and outside Europe;

  • a list of women involved in the printing of the books in the census, with basic information like life dates, kinds of work they did, etc.;

  • analysis of the networks in which these women participated--their birth and marital families, their co-workers, their competition, etc.; and

  • analysis of the specialties in which women are represented (subjects, special kinds of printing like music or cartography, etc.).

Here's a taste:

  • I've identified, either by their printing information or via some sleuthing, about 445 women who were either wife, widow, or heir of a male printer (about 1/3 of the total number of printers); 309 of them certainly worked in the printing establishments, and the remaining 136 probably or possibly did print work.

  • These women worked at a total of 577 printing establishments, which is 42% of the complete list of printers; the regions with the highest concentration of women printworkers were France and the Holy Roman Empire.

  • The women were not just wives of printers, as you might suspect: they were also daughters, sisters, and mothers.

  • Some inherited and ran shops in their own names; many printed as "widow of" their late husbands.

  • Quick analysis suggests that women printed the same kinds of books as men did, in the same languages.  That means vernacular languages as well as Latin.

  • Many of the names of these women are lost, but we are going to pull together biographies and images of those we can find.

  • So far, we've made some progress with French and Spanish printers (including a couple in Mexico City).  As I complete and process these biographies, I will post them.