Liefhebberij of ondernemerschap? Uitgevers van bellettrie in de tweede helft van de negentiende eeuw

Toos Streng


According to book historian Laurens van Krevelen, belle lettres in the nineteenth century was a marginal publishing sector that existed by the grace of enthusiastic individuals and internal financing. In this contribution, van Krevelen’s thesis from 2003 is examined in the light of the purchasing policy of the Uitgevers-Maatschappij Elsevier (Publishing Company) founded in 1880. It showed that, up to 1865, the potential market for belle lettres was indeed limited, but fairly predictable. Also, the market for literature was larger than the one for ‘light reading’. After 1865, the individual-buyer’s market grew steadily, which caused expectations for the potential belle lettres market to rise considerably. However, in the course of the 1880s, the capricious and unpredictable nature of the mass market became apparent. Not until the end of the nineteenth century did literature become a marginal activity in the publishing sector, which could only exist on account of internal financing.

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© Tijdschrift voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde | ISSN (print): 0040-7550 | eISSN (online): 2212-0521