Posters, Pamphlets and Prints: the Ways and Means of Disseminating Dissident Opinion on the Eve of the Dutch Revolt

Chapter 7

Posters, Pamphlets and Prints: The Ways and Means of Disseminating Dissident Opinions on the Eve of the Dutch Revolt.

When Maximilien Morillon, the vicar-general of the metropolitan see of Mechelen, wrote on 7 June 1567 to his master and confidant, Cardinal Granvelle, then in Rome, he was in a rather cheerful frame of mind. The past twelve months had truly been an ‘annus horribilis’. But now, after the unnerving explosion of Calvinist field services, the devastation of hundreds of churches and a rash of local insurrections, things seemed at last to be returning to normal. The heretics had fled the country, the Feast of Corpus Christi had just been celebrated in Brussels with great devotion and the vicar-general had even overheard people expressing regret that Granvelle had ever left the Habsburg Netherlands.   To Morillon one of the most hopeful signs was the cessation of ‘posters and pasquinades’.   His relief was understandable. For a year or more the religious and political establishments had been openly assailed by a hostile press. With the country awash with Protestant books and Beggar pamphlets, even respectable printers had concluded that they would do no harm if they followed suit and reprinted such material. Besides, entrepreneurs hate to turn away good business and in those topsy-turvy times, the future seemed more than ever uncertain.
In the history of the Low Countries 1566 has become known as the ‘year of marvels’; it was a crazy time when the collapse of the old order   seemed a distinct possibility. Protestants thought of it as the year when the ‘door of the gospel’ first opened in the Low Countries and others, looking back on 1566 from the perspective of the successful revolt in 1572, spoke of it more generally as ‘the first freedom of the Netherlands’.   1566 was also a high point in the history of printing in the Low Countries. According to the recently completed Belgica Typographica [BT], which furnishes a finding list to almost...