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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.  Thanks to the Office of Research Services and Sponsored Programs and the Department of History at Georgia Southern University, since spring of 2020, I have worked with paid and for-credit undergraduate research assistants/interns to identify the women printers in the census.  I presented some early findings at the 2021 Sixteenth Century Society and Conference Annual Meeting.  Since academic year 2022-23, we have not only worked to write mini biographies, but to enter data into RootsMagic, which has produced not only new connections not found initially, but in maps and analytical reports.  Mady Bullard, who was an ORSSP research assistant in '22-'23, presented her work at the 2023 CURIO Research Symposium on the Georgia Southern Statesboro campus, and was awarded top honors by the judges!  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:

  • We've identified, either by their printing information or via some sleuthing, about 639 women who were either wife, widow, or heir of a male printer (about 30% of the total number of printers); 461 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 833 printing establishments, which is nearly 40% 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, stepdaughters, granddaughters, 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 (frustratingly, we have more last names than first names, and more married names than birth names), 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 we complete and process these biographies, I will post them.

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