4.07 Josse Bade, Editor and Printer

De Spauter's assessment of his market was accurate. He omitted Italy. Despite his internationalism, De Spauter's works were almost never used in Italy during his lifetime, and even later they were used mostly in editions prepared by Jean Pellisson or Josse Bade, to whom we now turn. Bade was born at Asse or Asche in Brabant, whence his self-applied surname, Ascensius. He studied first at Gand and Louvain and then for a number of years in Italy, but it was in France that he earned his reputation, first as a schoolmaster and then as publisher. Marriage was part of his career strategy. While teaching at Lyon in the 1480's he wed the daughter of printer Jean Trechsel, in whose shop he had been a proofreader. Bade's two sons eventually became colleagues in the Paris printing house he founded after the death of his father-in-law. Four of his six daughters married Paris printers, all of whom collaborated at one time or another with Bade. So Bade was transformed from pedagogue to publisher by marriage, and his ongoing business strategy likewise depended on family ties. (26)

Bade's output as a publisher has been studied by Maurice Lebel, who notes that despite his close association with Erasmian circles, Bade chose to print little in Greek, and by Mark Crane, who remarks the strong presence of late scholastic texts in Bade's catalogue. As publisher, Bade concentrated on useful editions of Latin classics, on new Latin translations of Greek texts, on school books, on moral theology, and on liturgical and devotional works. His editions came to have a reputation for the correctness of their texts. (27) This mix of products was closely tailored to the Paris market. The taste for classics was large and growing in the university community there. It was especially marked among the many scholars of law and theology who felt the need to add a classical veneer to their academic pretensions. Scholars of this sort wanted to read a wide variety of classical authors; but good knowledge of Greek was still a rare achievement. Latin learning, by contrast, had been sufficiently reformed on humanist models that even this second-hand scholarly public insisted on good, classicizing translations and a generally high quality of textual editing. They were looking for Latin classics with extensive annotation by humanist scholars, and free of disfiguring medievalisms. There was also a growing market for Greek authors that extended well beyond the traditional interest in Aristotle and other philosophical texts. Parisians wanted to read the Greek historians and orators in good humanist Latin too. (28)

Bade's participation in the liturgical/devotional market was typical of another sector of Paris printing of the day, aimed at the growing population of literate lay folk outside the university. That Bade would stress good texts in such a market no doubt reflected his humanist training. He may also have felt that it would give him an edge in this highly competitive field where the principal marketing strategy of many Paris printers was to ornament their editions with fancy borders and illustrations. In any case prayer books were a diversifying factor in Bade's output.

As for school books, these represent Bade's greatest achievement, since it was in this field that he did his most innovative and experimental work. (29) We know a great deal about his marketing of these books because he provided so many of them with prefaces. Lebel counts forty five prefaces addressed directly to students, professors or booksellers; and, although he rarely spoke of printing or design, Bade frequently discussed the content and use of a given book, its intended audience or effect, and the scholarly controversies that raged in the field of literary education. (30) It is clear, moreover, that Bade devised an international strategy. He deliberately brought to the French market as many elementary and intermediate school texts as he could find in Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands. His long residence in Italy, where he had met scholar-teachers like Aldo Manuzio, Agnolo Poliziano, and Battista Spagnuoli Mantuanus, no doubt helped him acquire new texts for his press as well as the good will of their authors. (31)

It is interesting to note how frequently Bade reprinted certain texts and in what varying guises. We have seen in an earlier chapter (section 2.15) that he first published his own commentary on the Distichs of Cato as part of a larger reference work on morals, then allowed it to be published as a separate by others, and only toward the end of his life reprinted it on his own presses. Bade's notes on Terence, intended from the first to supplement those of other commentators already in print, were similarly published by others -- no fewer than forty times within his lifetime -- but never from his own presses. (32) His editions of the medieval verse grammar of Alexander of Villa Dei represent a continuous process of improving and updating this still-standard work and adapting it to humanist norms of style. (33)


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  • (26) On Bade's life, Crane 2005, 13-27; on family ties in such careers, Armstrong 2005, 8-13.
  • (27) Lebel 1981, 65-67; Bade 1988, 3-27; Crane 2005, 35-46.
  • (28) On the markets for French humanism, see Martin and Dureau 1982; Winn 1997; Crane 2005, 7-11; on the analogous mix of books on the market of university town Bologna, Galli, 129-132.
  • (29) Crane 2005, 72-102.
  • (30) Lebel 1981 68-69; Bade 1988, 5-8.
  • (31) Lebel 1981, 63.
  • (32) Renouard 1908 iii, 279-299.
  • (33) Crane 2005, 76-89.
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