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Nina Geerdink

Female entrepreneurship: authors, printers and profits in the Dutch republic around 1700

Towards the end of the seventeenth century the production of both occasional poetry and translated plays was enormous in the Dutch Republic. Nuptial poetry and elegy evolved from highly appreciated genres written by educated poets into conventional, commercial genres written by numerous people from different backgrounds – from educated authors, being appreciated as poets, to authors who only engaged themselves in occasional poetry and were scarcely known in the ‘Republic of letters’. In the theatre, translation of successful Spanish and French plays had been a (commercial) practice during the whole seventeenth century, the translators often being actors or publishers who did not write plays themselves. At the end of the seventeenth century, though, almost all of the plays performed at the Amsterdam theatre were translations.

Among the writers of occasional poetry and the translators of plays only a few were women. A significant exception was the Amsterdam poet Katharina Lescailje (1649-1711). She produced hundreds of occasional poems and translated seven French plays, six of which were performed and published. Lescailje was the daughter of the Amsterdam theatre publisher Jacob Lescaille and, being unmarried, inherited her father’s business in 1679. She was in fact her own publisher, making money herself by publishing commercial literary products. Was it a coincidence that the only female author engaging actively in commercial genres by the end of the seventeenth century was a publisher herself?

This paper focuses on the relationship between female authors and (female) publishers and printers. Was Lescailje the only woman being both a poet and a publisher? The number of female publishers grew. Do their publication records indicate more attention (and money) to writers of their own sex?

SvD, July 2012

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