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Cosmopolitanism and foreign books in early modern England.

WHEN DISCUSSING COSMOPOLITANISM in early modern England, scholars have tended to stress its development within royal court culture and the trade in luxury goods. R. Malcolm Smuts, for example, has noted the "fascination for European culture" in the court of Charles I, while Linda Levy Peck has examined how "the well-off increasingly identified themselves as cosmopolitan through the appropriation of continental luxuries." (1) In her study of the effects of this fascination with Continental culture, Anna Bryson has shrewdly analyzed how the manners and social behavior of English men and women were influenced by courtesy literature and translations of foreign conduct books. (2) In this essay, I want to look at English cosmopolitanism in connection with a more diffuse, less courtly, and less luxurious set of commodities: books in Latin of Christian and humanist scholarship, and books in English of Puritan and Catholic polemic, both of which were printed abroad and imported into England. These two types of foreign books helped foster intellectual exchange but also stimulated religious discord, contradictory effects, I argue, that contributed to an emerging split in the meaning and politics of early modern cosmopolitanism.

As the English book trade grew in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, its printers and booksellers maintained close ties to Continental authors, papermakers, printers, booksellers, and merchants. English stationers relied in particular on their Continental counterparts to supply them with one specific type of book, Latin texts of Christian and humanist scholarship. These books were part of what was known as the Latin trade, and they were books that English stationers tended to avoid publishing themselves. Printers on the Continent were able to produce them more cheaply and more accurately than English printers could, and after the books were printed the Continent had a larger potential readership for them than England did. (3) This does not mean, however, that these publications were unprofitable for English booksellers; in 1616, members of the Stationers' Company established the Latin Stock in an attempt to monopolize the market for these books. Though the stock company lasted little more than a decade and was largely unsuccessful, its very existence testifies to the financial gains that could be realized from importing Latin books from abroad and selling them in English bookshops. (4)

The prevalence of books in the Latin trade can be difficult to determine since most of its titles are not included in Pollard and Redgrave's Short-Title Catalogue (STC). (5) But various lists of the holdings of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century libraries, especially those of early modern intellectuals, academics, and university students, suggest how plentiful these books could be. Over 90 percent of the 194 printed books listed in the library of Bishop Richard Cox following his death in 1581 were Continental publications, almost all in Latin. (6) Books that survive from the libraries of John Donne and Ben Jonson show a similar tilt toward Continental publications (80 percent). (7) Of course, not all readers shared this taste for Continental or Latin publications; in 1625, only about 40 to 50 percent of the books in Roger Townshend's library were Continental publications, while of the 241 books in the wide-ranging library of Frances Egerton, the Countess of Bridgewater, none was in Latin or Greek, though eighteen were in French. (8)

The division in the English book trade between foreign and domestic books was often blamed on English printers, whom authors lambasted for "carelessness," "lack of skill," and being "absolutely ignorant of the liberal arts." Edward Grant, for example, asked in exasperation, "Where amongst us is that noble printer, Robert Estienne?" not to mention his sons Henri and Charles Estienne and other learned Continental printers like Aldus Manutius, Sebastian Gryphius, Jean Crespin, Christopher Plantin, and Johann Heruagius. (9) The reputation of English printed books for poor quality even led some printers, most famously John Wolfe, to print surreptitiously books in foreign vernacular languages (with false imprints listing fictitious Continental origins) as a way to avoid the stigma of an English imprint. (10)

The author Richard Vernam attributed the poor quality of English books not simply to the "ignorance" of printers but also to their excessive desire for "profit and greed." "Humane learning flourishes on all sides" in Germany, Vernam pointedly observed, whereas England has "only a few printers and those are either quite ignorant of their art or else care more about profit and greed than advancement of letters." (11) Richard Montagu would voice substantially the same complaint almost fifty years later, impugning "the stupidity and stinginess of printers," which led them to favor cheap "garbage" over "serious" works:
 On top of the hundreds of difficulties with which we are afflicted
 we have unfortunately had to put [up] with the stupidity and
 stinginess of printers. For they are accustomed to work for profit,
 they are only following a mercenary trade. And so they load whole
 waggons and carts with hackneyed twopenny-halfpenny garbage. They
 have no taste for serious things. Latin writings are not read, and
 as for Greek, they exclaim against them as if they were heretical.

English printers and publishers were choosing to invest in books that would reliably turn a profit, in Montagu's analysis, with the unfortunate result that "whole waggons and carts" of cheap English books were being printed and almost no "serious" Latin ones.

If economic motives caused English printers and booksellers to import many of the books in the Latin trade, domestic political measures helped create the other primary market for foreign books in early modern England: radical Protestant and Catholic works. According to the calculations of Maureen Bell and John Barnard, about seven percent of STC entries from 1475 to 1640 are for books that were printed abroad, the vast majority of which originated in the Netherlands or France. (13) Unlike the books in the Latin trade, which were intended to facilitate intellectual exchange across Europe, these books were meant to further religious sectarianism. Ecclesiastical licensers for the press would never have allowed these texts to be printed in England, so strident Puritan and Catholic authors, printers, and booksellers were forced to print them abroad.

Once in Europe, Puritan authors often turned to printers in Dutch cities like Amsterdam and Leiden, while Catholics availed themselves of the Jesuit English College presses in Douai and St. Omer, France. As the author of A True, Modest, and Just Defense explained in 1618, "it is not safe" for nonconformist Puritans "to suffer the Printers to know that wee haue any such Coppy to bee printed," and, as a result, they must hire, at "great charge and hazard," "the printing of [our books] in some other Land." After their books were printed, religious extremists then faced the problem of distribution, for "open sale in every Booke-sellers shop" was not possible; if their books were "taken by the Bishops," then the publications would be "burnt, or otherwise utterly suppressed." (14) Both radical Protestants and Catholics, as a result, had to distribute their books through secret networks of merchants, congregations, and booksellers. (15)

These two types of foreign books--learned works circulating through the Latin trade and sectarian works distributed through clandestine Puritan and Catholic networks--give us some idea of what "foreign books" signified in early modern England. But this split in the market, I want to suggest, also points to an important aspect of English cosmopolitanism. When writers discussed what we would now call cosmopolitanism, they tended to do so in one of two ways. On the one hand, they used the term "cosmopolite" to denote "a citizen of the world," a person who sought greater knowledge through studying and traveling to foreign countries. It was this type of person who would have been expected to purchase the scholarly works of the Latin trade. On the other hand, writers used "cosmopolite" to describe a base sinner who delights in worldly pleasures like fighting, feasting, cheating, and whoring, a sense that forward Protestant authors sometimes used to disparage their religious adversaries. This division in the semantic meaning of "cosmopolite" registers a key tension in early modern English culture surrounding the influence of Continental writers, books, and religious beliefs.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists the earliest usage of "cosmopolite" in 1598, but John Dee used the term two decades earlier in his General and Rare Memorials Pertayning to the Perfect Arte of Nauigation (1577). (16) In this work, Dee includes a "Little Discourse" criticizing the "Publik Behauiour," "Ciuile Conuersation," and "Industry" of the "the People of this ALBION" (sig. G3v). In order to rectify these deficiencies in social behavior as well as increase "the Common-Wealths Prosperity," Dee recommends studying "the State of Earthly Kingdoms, Generally, the whole World ouer" so that a person might "fynde hym self, Cosmopolites: A Citizen, and Member, of the whole and only one Mysticall City Vniuersall." Dee here draws on the Stoic political philosophy that held a person should strive to be a citizen of the world (kosmopolitis), an idea emphasized in his book by printing the word "Cosmpolites" in a marginal note. Studying other cultures, Dee suggests, is necessary not only to improve the behavior of the English people but also to promote the nation's political and economic health. Doing so, he argues, will allow "this Brytish Monarchy" to surpass "any particular Monarchy, els, that euer was on Earth, since Mans Creation." (17)

Dee was not alone in propounding the Stoic notion of kosmopolitis. The English translation of Justus Lipsius's A Direction for Trauailers (1592) offers examples of biblical, classical, and contemporary travelers who believed "it a great staine and dishonour to the libertie which nature hath geuen them ... to bee restrained within the narrowe precincts of a little countrie, as poore prisoners kept in a close place." Instead, these travelers viewed themselves as "Cosmopolites, that is Cytizens of the whole world." "For as with the wise Sacrates, they counted euerie place their country," allowing them to "profite, and inrich themselues with experience, and true wisedome." (18) As Francis Meres would later remark, "a contented Cosmopolite, though banished from his owne country, may liue as well in an other." (19) It was ultimately this sense of the word that the lexicographer Thomas Blount drew on in his Glossographia, or A Dictionary Interpreting all such Hard Words (1656), the first English dictionary to include an entry for "cosmopolite," which he defined as "a Citizen of the World; or Cosmopolitan." (20)

In opposition to the Stoic theory of the cosmopolite, the Protestant poet John Vicars offered a more caustic characterization of "proud Cosmopolites" in 1618, describing them as "carnall Worldlings" consumed with material desires:
 Goe then, you godlesse Heliogabolites,
 You carnall Worldlings, proud Cosmopolites,
 Goe please your selues in swearing, feasting, fighting,
 And not what's lust, but what's your Lust delight in.

These lustful delights included possessions like "wealthie Mannours," "stately tenements," "Ward-roabes stuft with proud Apparell," and "Coffers full of treasure," in addition to sinful practices like filling one's mouth "with oathes" and one's "thoughts with strife and quarrell." Cosmopolites, according to Vicars, were not dedicated to God but bewitched by "Mammon, Sin-bane, Soules-decay." (21)

In a similar manner, Thomas Adams separated "they that liue by the Gospell" from "the Cosmopolite," preaching in 1614 that "the vanitie of carnall ioyes, the varietie of vanities, are as bitter to vs [i.e., true Christians], as pleasant to the Cosmopolite or worldling." (22) In another sermon Adams returned to the idea of the cosmopolite, claiming that "semi-atheisticall Cosmopolites ... bring as many sinnes with them euery day to Church, as they haue beene all their liues in committing. Their hands are not washed from aspersions of lust and bloud: their eyes are full of whoredome, their lips of slander, their affections of couetousnes, their wits of cheating, their soules of impiety." (23) For Adams, as for Vicars, cosmopolites were sinners ensnared by covetousness and the carnal joys of the world rather than committed to the heavenly delights of God.

The difference between viewing "cosmopolites" as citizens of the world or seeing them as sinful worldlings not only parallels the division in early modern England between foreign books of scholarly humanism and religious sectarianism, but I think points to a certain reciprocal influence. The Latin trade was an important site for the spread of Stoic cosmopolitanism in early modern England, whereas radical Continental publications helped establish the notion of a gulf separating true believers from vain, carnal sinners. But this apparent contradiction might perhaps be better regarded as opposite sides of the same coin. Many of the controversial religious books imported into England were marked by an insistence on the absolute categories of orthodox and heretical, but at the same time they also tended to advocate moving the English Church either closer to or further away from the Catholic Church of Rome or one of the Protestant churches of Europe. (24) In contrast to the intellectual commitments of scholarly works, these radical foreign books might thus be seen as arguing for a type of cosmopolitanism that privileged the religious over the intellectual, the circulation of ideas among a narrow segment of the Christian world rather than among all the members of the educated world. From this point of view, then, it might be more accurate to talk of two different kinds of cosmopolitanism in foreign books--one intellectual, the other religious, both open to Continental influences, just not the same ones.


(1.) R. Malcolm Smuts, Court Culture and the Origins of a Royalist Tradition in Early Stuart England (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1987), 187; Linda Levy Peck, Consuming Splendor: Society and Culture in Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 18.

(2.) Anna Bryson, From Courtesy to Civility: Changing Codes of Conduct in Early Modern England (Oxford: Clarendon, 1998).

(3.) Julian Roberts, "The Latin Trade," in The History of the Bookin Britain, Vol. 4, 1557-1695, ed. John Barnard and D. F. McKenzie, with the assistance of Maureen Bell (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 141-73; for the contents of a typical shipment, see esp. 157.

(4.) Roberts, "The Latin Trade," 161-62; R. J. Roberts, "The Latin Stock (1616-1627) and Its Library Contacts," in Libraries and the Book Trade, ed. Robin Myers, Michael Harris, and Giles Mandelbrote (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2000), 15-28.

(5.) A. W. Pollard and G. R. Redgrave, eds., A Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland, and Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475-1640, 2nd ed., rev. W. A. Jackson, F. S. Ferguson, and Katharine F. Pantzer, 3 vols. (London: Bibliographical Society, 1976-91).

(6.) E. S. Leedham-Green, "Bishop Richard Cox," in Private Libraries in Renaissance England: A Collection and Catalogue of Tudor and Early Stuart Book-Lists, ed. R. J. Fehrenbach and E. S. Leedham-Green, 5 vols. (Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1992), 1:3-39.

(7.) Mark Bland, "The London Book-Trade in 1600," in A Companion to Shakespeare, ed. David Scott Kastan (Oxford: Blackwell, 1999), 450.

(8.) R. J. Fehrenbach, "Sir Roger Townshend's Books," in Fehrenbach and Green, eds., Private Libraries, 1:79-135; Heidi Brayman Hackel, Reading Material in Early Modern England: Print, Gender, and Literacy(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 250-51.

(9.) Edward Grant, "Candido lectori," in Roger Ascham, Familiarium Epistolarum Libri III (London, 1576), sigs. A15r-v; trans, and quoted in J. W. Binns, Intellectual Culture in Elizabethan and Jacobean England: The Latin Writings of the Age (Leeds: Francis Cairns, 1990), 400-401.

(10.) Denis B. Woodfield, Surreptitious Printing in England 1550-1640 (New York: Bibliographical Society of America, 1973), esp. 9-10, 20-21.

(11.) Richard Vernam, "Methodo Geographica," in Nicholas Carr, De Scriptorum Britannicorum (London, 1576), sig. B8v; trans, and quoted in Binns, Intellectual, 402-3.

(12.) Richard Montagu, Analecta Ecclesiasticarum Exercitationum (London, 1622), sig. a5v; trans, and quoted in Binns, Intellectual, 403. For a similar take on the greed of printers penned by a Puritan author, see George Wither's The Schollers Purgatory (London, 1624), in which he excoriates the "meere Stationer" who "exercizoth his Mystery without any respect either to the glory of God, or the pub-like aduantage," making him "the aptest Instrument to sowe schismes, heresies, scandalls, and seditions through the world" (sig. H4r). See also Zachary Lesser's insightful discussion of claims like Montagu's and Wither's in relation to the economics of early modern publishing in Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication: Readings in the English Book Trade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2004), esp. ch. 1.

(13.) Maureen Bell and John Barnard, "Provisional Count of STC Titles 1475-1640," Publishing History 31 (1992): 48-64. They list 88 percent of foreign STC books as being printed in France or the Netherlands (including Belgium).

(14.) "To the Christian Reader," in A True, Modest, and Just Defense ([Leiden], 1618), sigs. A3r-v.

(15.) Keith L. Sprunger, Trumpets from the Tower: English Puritan Printing in the Netherlands 1600-1640 (New York: Brill, 1994), ch. 6.

(16.) Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed, s.v. "cosmopolite," n. and a.; John Dee, General and Rare Memorials pertayning to the Perfect Arte of Navigation (London, 1577).

(17.) For a perceptive discussion of Dee's thought on this issue, see William H. Sherman, John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1995), 143-45.

(18.) Justus Lipsius, A Direction for Trauailers, trans. John Stradling (London, 1592), sigs. A3r-v.

(19.) Francis Meres, Wits Common Wealth: The Second Part (London, 1634), 519.

(20.) Thomas Blount, Glossographia, or A Dictionary Interpreting all such Hard Words (London, 1656), sig. L4r.

(21.) John Vicars, A Prospective Glasse to Looke into Heaven, or The Celestial] Canaan Described (London, 1618), sig. E3r.

(22.) Thomas Adams, "The Shot, or The wofull price which the wicked pay for the Feast of Vanitie," in The Diuells Banket (London, 1614), sig. Y3v.

(23.) Thomas Adams, "Gods House, or The Place of Prayses," in The Happines of the Church (London, 1619), 218-19.

(24.) Anthony Milton, Catholic and Reformed: The Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant Thought, 1600-1640 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).
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Title Annotation:FORUM: English Cosmopolitanism and the Early Modern Moment
Author:Farmer, Alan B.
Publication:Shakespeare Studies
Geographic Code:4EUUE
Date:Jan 1, 2007
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