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Open Access Gender en boekbedrijf

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Gender and the market of books. Women writers in the nineteenth century

According to the prevailing nineteenth-century opinion, the literary quality of the work of female authors was lower than that of their male colleagues. Dutch publishers, however, were not reluctant to publish novels by female authors. Market conditions were decisive. After 1835, the supply of novels generally published exceeded demand. Buyers valued morality above literary quality and, as the work of female authors presumably met high moral standards, publishing the work of women was a safe bid in a competitive market. But demand for female Dutch authors exceeded supply. Dutch (and Flemish) female authors were scarce and only at the end of the nineteenth century, when the ideas of feminism began to take effect, the number of Dutch female authors increased. It is noteworthy that some renowned publishers, such as P.N. van Kampen & Zoon and W.H. Kirberger, had an outspoken preference for women writers. These were so called ‘gentleman-publishers’, who had both material and idealistic grounds to publish the work of female authors. Female authors felt at home with this type of publisher as their values and manners corresponded with the feminine self-image. Around 1880, three major developments influenced the publishing of Dutch female authors: unmarried middle-class women gained the right to paid employment, the ideal type of ‘business publisher’ rose and the audience became segmented into highbrow, middlebrow and lowbrow. The developments are explored in this article on the basis of data from a database created by the author.
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Keywords: bookhistory; gender; genre; nineteenth century; novels; publishers; women writers

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Toos Streng is als gelieerd onderzoeker verbonden aan de Capaciteitsgroep Geschiedenis van de Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen van de Universiteit van Amsterdam. E-mail: . Internet:, Email: E-mail: toos[email protected]

Publication date: September 1, 2015

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  • Het tijdschrift Nederlandse Letterkunde is een wetenschappelijk, peer-reviewed tijdschrift voor de Nederlandstalige letterkunde. Het tijdschrift is een podium voor vakbeoefening in al haar vormen en facetten. De diverse bijdragen beslaan in hun totaliteit het gehele spectrum van Nederlandstalige letterkunde van de Middeleeuwen tot heden. Een jaargang Nederlandse Letterkunde telt drie afleveringen waarvan er steeds één aan een actueel thema gewijd wordt.

    The Dutch-language journal Nederlandse Letterkunde (Dutch Literature) is an academic peer-reviewed journal for Dutch literature. The various contributions cover the entire spectrum of Dutch literature from the Middle Ages to the present. Nederlandse Letterkunde publishes three issues a year of which one is devoted to a contemporary topic.
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