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The printed page

The use of a fictitious imprint

Title page of Voyage d’EspagneTitle page of Voyage d’EspagnePrinters used various devices to evade the censor. One of the most common in the 17th century was the use of an ‘accommodation address’, a fictitious imprint statement designed to make it hard for officers of the state to discover where and by whom a book had been printed.

The printer of the book featured here used the accommodation address, ‘Cologne: chez Pierre Marteau’.

This fictitious imprint, believed to have been devised by the Leiden printer Jan Elzevir in 1660, was widely adopted by printers of works that were theologically or politically contentious in nature, as well as by printers of pornography.

Thus, the use of this accommodation address in a book’s imprint gradually came to act almost as a badge of controversial status.

It was still in use in the 19th century, when the German publishing firm of FA Brockhaus adopted it in its German form (‘bei Peter Hammer in Köln’) when issuing works likely to offend the Prussian censor.

Voyage d’Espagne is now believed to have been printed in Amsterdam, possibly by the printer Abraham Wolfgang (1658-94). Its authorship is uncertain; though commonly attributed to Antoine de Brunel (1622-96), it has also been ascribed to the Dutch writer François van Aerssen (1630-58).

The precautions taken by author and printer to hide their identity point to the danger of being associated with any book containing political observations or comments on the conduct of one of the major European powers.

The copy featured here, purchased in 2004, is from the library of the historian Hugh Trevor-Roper (1914-2003) and contains some marginal annotations in his hand.

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