Giovanni Andrea Vavassore and the business of print in Early Modern Venice
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This thesis reconstructs the activities of a single print workshop, active from 1515 to 1593. By providing a microcosm of the Venetian print industry, it both challenges preconceived notions of the inherent competitiveness of the industry, and demonstrates the sheer variety of printed material available for purchase during the sixteenth century. Chapter One begins by reconstructing the life of Giovanni Andrea Vavassore, a woodcarver from a small Bergamasco town in the Venetian terra-ferma. By charting his integration into a new city and a new trade, it questions the role of religious and social institutions in enabling ‘foreigners’ to feel at home in Venice, and considers the push and pull factors at work among immigrants in the Renaissance. Chapter Two focuses closely on reconstructing the workshop’s output, using a catalogue of works compiled for this thesis to demonstrate the quantity and variety of printed material sold in a sixteenth century printshop. It also gives an insight into the world of the Venetian bottega and the artisans who worked within it. Chapter Three highlights the importance of networking and collaboration in the world of Venetian print. By drawing on a selection of illustrations produced by Vavassore for other publishers, it demonstrates the close working relationships – and geographical proximity – that enabled new printers to enter the trade, and continued to support them in the decades that followed. Chapter Four nuances the idea of the network further, demonstrating the importance of copying, and the sharing of resources, in the workshop’s production of maps. It also offers a new perspective on the purchasing habits of people in the Renaissance, questioning why large multi-sheet maps and prints were popular and how they were used. Chapter Five focuses on ‘popular’ books and pamphlets, relating printed material to the contemporary events, interests, and material objects that both inspired and were derived from it. Chapter Six reconstructs the workshop’s interactions with the Venetian authorities, questioning why certain texts and images were protected by Senatorial privileges and others were not. Finally, Chapter Seven charts the impact of religious reform on the workshop across the eight decades of its activity. By focusing on specific case studies, it examines the devotional texts issued by the workshop in the years prior to, during, and after, the meetings of the Council of Trent; and demonstrates the extent to which the activities of a Renaissance printer and his shop were monitored and restricted by the Inquisition.