Last updated on 11 Dec 1998 by Philip Tan
A bit about the history of Lyon & Printing...
The information here might help clue you in to some of the events in Little Leadings. This is not term-paper stuff - if you want to get a deeper understanding, Prof. Ravel's courses might do the trick. There is also a bibliography on the page about this site.
- The Reformation in a nutshell
The Reformation was a sixteenth-century period that saw many distinguished and common people turning away from Catholic rituals and objects of worship. They viewed the Catholic faith as a form of idolatry, worshipping symbols and relics rather than God. One major point of contention was the role of the Bible in Christian life. The Catholics wanted to restrict scriptural study to theologians and priests, while the Protestants believed in the ubiquity of the Text and wanted to make the Bible available to everyone to read.
The movement to return to a more fundamental form of worship was landmarked by Martin Luther's printings in Germany. He was protesting the abuse of powers and the granting of Indulgences by the Catholic Church, and that's where the word 'Protestant' comes from. Catholics referred to Protestants as Huguenots, a reference to ghosts (le roi Huguet) that rattled doors and harmed people at night. Denominational nomenclature (Calvinists, Lutherans, Anabaptists) marked out divisions within the principles of the Reformed church.
- Violence in Lyon
Violence was frequent in this period. Protestants actively destroyed Catholic churches and defiled their objects of worship, in an effort to show that material objects were only man-made, not ordained by God. Catholic believers thought that Protestants were heretics and blasphemers, and took in their own hands to punish the Protestants for their irreverence to God.
Bloody riots occurred with increasing frequency all over France (and other parts of Europe) as the Reformation shifted into the period known as the Counter-Reformation. Catholic priests and Protestant pastors (even Jean Calvin) easily forgave their followers for causing violence; sometimes they even chose deliberately inflammatory Biblical passages for their sermons. This culminated in the Vespers' Massacre of 1572. This story takes place after the height of the Reformation, when Protestant and Catholic forces seemed to be wreaking equal damage.
Poor management of resources by the government and high levels of poverty and starvation in the poorer quarters of the populace also lead to non-religious violence, such as grain riots.
- The Print Industry
Paris and Lyon were the two great capitals of printing in France, and there were many smaller enterprises in other cities. The print shops ranged from large, multi-roomed, multi-press industries to small, quick-and-dirty backrooms. They were run by Master Printers and businessmen (sometimes the two were the same person), and staffed by print artisans and journeymen.
Print products ranged from broadside posters to political pamphlets to leather bound Bibles to paperback fiction. Most academic and spiritual books were first published in Latin, eventually to be translated into vernacular tongues. Less weighty (sic) material was frequently written and published directly in the vernacular. French quickly caught on as a popular language of print: after 1539, all judicial acts were to be in French.
The print trade was considered a noble calling. The press itself was defined as a 'divine invention', and the artisans and journeymen believed their labor was central to the dissemination of knowledge. Thus, they expected to be paid well for their skill and sweat. Although early artisan-master relationships were extremely cordial (they frequently ate together), the increasingly competitive environment and the influx of printer-wannabes* lead to a straining of working relations.
The artisans organized themselves into a trade union known as the Company of Griffarins. Natalie Zemon Davis notes, "Golfarin is an old French word for 'glutton.' This was an accusation often thrown at the journeymen by their masters, who resented their demands for a higher food-salary. From Golfarin, the name became most frequently Griffarin, a neologism suggesting claws or talons, and thus the power of the Company." The Griffarins referred to journeymen working for lower wages as Forfants. Forfants faced considerable peril from the tightly bound Company.
* This is not a recognized term among scholars of sixteenth-century France.
- Oral culture and print culture
The definitive book on this would be Walter J. Ong's Orality & Literacy, (Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1982), which discusses how exposure to print culture affects thought processes of people. In sixteenth-century France, most rural villagers had a strong oral culture that they used to disseminate rules of thumb, folklore and news. With the arrival of print culture, they did not immediately give up those traditions. Instead, they verbally discussed the printed material, using texts to supplement their vocal discourse.
City dwellers would be exposed to a large amount of text each day - even orphan girls were taught the alphabet. Rural peasants relied on journeymen carrying sacks of books for their texts. The initial foray into rural book selling was probably due to the efforts of evangelical Protestants, eager to see the vernacular Bibles made available to everyone. Once there was that initial exposure to print, other books began to find their way into villagers' hands.