FYI France

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by Jack Kessler,

February 15, 2016 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on February 15, 2016.

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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to:

Here this file is one of a number made available -- hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe. Please email suggestions for improvements to me at




Lyon, Early Printing, & Transitions In Media


L et me highly recommend, to anyone interested in Early Printing, or in the Arts of the Book, or the arts of communication in any & all forms, or in Lyon, or France, or The New and our perennial transitions "to" it --

-- Lyon's is a story of hitech and its impact, of the young printers who scandalized & revolutionized & transformed their 16th c. Europe using the new tools & techniques of information and above-all communication which they had developed -- many lessons to be learned therefrom, in the many Silicon Valleys scattered across the world today, and for those of us reacting to them --

-- So the following is a wonderfully-illustrated new book on the stories of all of the above, their setting in Lyon, how it all happened and where and when, and how it all has been commemorated in Modern Lyon, what you can see & visit about all this there now --


Guide de Lyon, Capitale de l'imprimerie:
Dans la Presqu'île des XVIe-XVIIIe siècles

Éditions Lyonnaises d'Art et d'Histoire
EAN: 978-2-84147-326-7
120 pages ; imp. Sep. 2015


-- presented with interesting organization, fine book-design itself with good conception graphique & mise en page -- nice fonts! -- written very well by Corinne Poirieux and Sheza Moledina, and with excellent translations into english by Bruce Wall --




Contents, a few particularly-interesting-image descriptions, & excerpts:

"The 16th Century was the century of Lyon's grandeur. By 1550 its population had reached about 60,000, mainly concentrated on the banks of the Saône on either side of the bridge, in the neighborhoods of Saint-Jean and the rue Mercière, where most of the foreign merchants who made the city famous lived... One of the first major strikes in French history was initiated in 1539 by print craftsmen..."

Image [remarkable aerial-view!]: "Plan de Lyon, Simon Maupin, 1625. Du pont de Saône au pont du Rhône, l'axe majeur de la ville."

** The History of Printing in Lyon

* The printing industry in Lyon at the Renaissance

"Lyon was and is at a crossroads of road and river transport, linked both with the Germanic world and that of the Mediterranean... Lyon became one of the foremost financial centers in the West, attracting bankers and merchants from all over Europe, and particularly from Italy... François I and Marguerite of Navarre made numerous visits and showed great concern for the development of banking and for the city's economic prosperity. Indeed, the bankers of Lyon provided a significant part of the resources needed to finance the king's costly military expeditions... Known as 'Myrelingues' -- city of a thousand tongues -- Lyon became highly cosmopolitan; although there was no university, the presence of the clergy, combined with a well-off, cultured clientele, inevitably favored the rise of the printing industry..."

* The printing district

Image: "Première représentation gravée d'une imprimerie et d'une librairie", in La grant danse macabre, Lyon, Mathieu Husz, 1499."

Image: "A quelques pas de l'église Saint-Nizier, la rue Mercière, rue marchandei", in Plan scénographie de Lyon, 1555."

"Lyon, a frontier town, was not annexed to the French crown until 1312. Until then it had been part of the germanic Holy Roman Empire... right up until the end of the 15th century the left bank of the Saône, the Presqu'ile (peninsula) was known as the Imperial-side; it contained dwellings, workshops, shops and warehouses, convents and large unbuilt areas. The right bank of the Saône, the the prosperous quarter around the Change (Exchange) was called the Royal-side... [remembering, too, that Lyon remained a frontier town, think Wild West, until relatively recently, 1860, that "Savoie" began across the river]..."

"... a few steps from [the church of Saint Nizier, on the left bank Imperial side of the Presqu'ile] is the rue Mercière, the main commercial thoroughfare in the Middle Ages, linking with the Guillotière on the Rhône. This district was ideally placed for workshops and trading establishments -- as witnessed by the names of several streets (rue des Forces, rue de la Poulaillerie, rue de la Fromagerie, recalling respectively tailors, poultry- and cheese-merchants). It is not at all surprising that printers and other book-related traders chose to set up around the rue Mercière... Several printers are buried [in the church of Saint Nizier], the most notable being Barthélemy Buyer and Sébastian Gryphe..."

* Barthélemy Buyer and the beginnings of printing in Lyon

Image: "C'est le premier livre lyonnais! Colophon de l'ouvrage, ou « achevé d'imprimer », in Compendium breve, du cardinal Lothaire, Barthélemy Buyer, 1473."

Image: "Premier incunable français, avec des gravures sur bois dans le texte, coloriées à la main, Mireur de la rédemption de humain lignage (feuillet), Lyon, Mathieu Husz, 1478."

"Movable-type printing, invented in Strasbourg and the Rhineland around 1450 by Johann Gutenberg and his associates, spread rapidly throughout Europe...The first printed document in France was produced in Paris in 1470, and three years later Barthélemy Buyer (1439-83), a wealthy Lyon merchant, introduced printing in the city...his print shop, located at 8 rue Chavanne, was entrusted to Guillaume Le Roy..."

* The establishment of printing and allied trades

"By 1495, Lyon had become the third most important centre of printing in Europe, after Venice and Paris... In 1495 alone, ninety-five titles were printed in Lyon; this compares with 181 in Paris. It is estimated that about a thousand titles were published in the 15th century by the forty-five known printers in Lyon... Since there was neither a university nor a parliament in Lyon, printers such as Barthélemy Buyer concentrated on works for a wide readership, particularly in the vernacular (French): religious texts, commercial handbooks tales of chivalry, educational treatises, translations of medical and legal texts..."

* The earliest printing houses in Lyon

Image [perhaps the most 'beautiful" printing-press you'll ever see, a modern reproduction built entirely in heavy wood & on-exhibit at the Musée]: "Presse typographique semblable à celle utilisée au 15è siècle. Cette reconstitution a été réalisée en 1958 par la Charpenterie Franc-Lyonnaise. Elle est inspirée de la presse parue dans La grant danse macabre, Lyon, 1499."

"... a certain social and business circle of people with a common interest in printing: printers themselves, craftsmen, authors, translators, proof-readers, engravers, paper-merchants, type founders, colourists, ink-merchants, book-binders, painters, illustrators... most printing houses were located between the bridge over the Rhône and that over the Saône... there was a concentration in the streets around the rue Mercière: Tupin, Bellecordière, Ferrandière, Notre-Dame-de-Confort, Saint-Domingue... at the demand of the police, the better to observe the various trades; printing was especially closely watched because of the risk that it would be used to spread ideas which were considered dangerous, heretical, even seditious and liable to destabilise the civic or religious powers-that-be. Around a hundred printing houses are recorded in this district in the 16th century..."

* Organisation

Image: "De forti dulcedo, marque typographique employée par la Compagnie des libraires de Lyon, 1581."

"The head of the hierarchy was, as a rule, the bookseller (like Barthélemy Buyer), who combined the roles of trader and primary investor, and took responsibility for the distribution of production. Management of the print shop would be in the hands of a master-printer... But some master-printers set up in business on their own...there were two categories of craftsmen, press-men and compositors... At the bottom of the ladder were the apprentices and 'alloués'... They were exploited... The community of print-workers was all the more closely knit because its members were mostly immigrants from all over Europe and their colleagues were the only family they had."

* The earliest strikes

"It is not surprising that the earliest 'industrial actions' occurred, at around this time, in the printing industry. In the 15th century such activity was in its infancy and lay outside the structure of the guild. Grouping of trades into guilds had begun in the Middle Ages, so that workers' claims had the backing of professional bodies with statutes and rules. In line with this tradition, master-printers in Lyon formed a fraternity whose official objectives were religious: maintenance of a chapel in St. Vizier, paying for masses, and so on. The journeymen, on the other hand, had different interests from those of their employers, and tended to form their own associations..."

"The Compagnie des Griffins, which operated in Lyon, was a secular, secret association whose members had to pay a subscription and were subject to strict rules, including rights of initiation and an oath of allegiance. The aims of this association were to ensure that wages were equitable, that dishonest practices in print shops were forbidden, and that the overall regulation of the industry was respected... One of the earliest recorded strikes in France took place in Lyon and in Paris in 1539 and was called by journeymen printers. It broke out at a time economic stagnation, outbreaks of plague, hunger riots, a widening gap between rich and poor, and the spread of Reformation ideas. Between 300 and 500 print-workers took part in Lyon..."

* Humanism in Lyon

Image: "Livre composé en caractères romains et en petite italique, Jamblichus, De mysteriis Aegyptorum, Chaldaeorum, Assyriorum, imp. par Jean De Tournes, Lyon, 1570."

Image: "Pages composées en italique petit corps. Tavela di tutte le rime de i sonnetti e canzoni del Petrarca, Pétrarque, imp. par Guillaume Rouillé, Lyon 1574."

"At the time of the Renaissance original manuscripts from Antiquity were very rare, and most surviving texts were copies held in monasteries. In order to reproduce ancient texts as accurately as possible, the humanists embarked upon a major task of research, publication, and comparison between versions. The finalized and corrected texts were then published both in the original Latin or Greek and in vernacular languages -- French, English, Italian and so on -- to make them accessible to a wide and non-erudite public... Typography also underwent a significant transformation... a Lyon school of poetry developed, strongly influenced by Italy and notably by the style of Petrarch (1304-74)..."


** The Printers

* Gryphe, the humanist printer

* The ill-fated Dolet

* Printing at a time of religious strife

* The de Tournes dynasty

* At the sign of the Ècu de Venise

* The Cardons and the Counter-Reformation

* Underground Printing in Lyon

"Regulation of the printing and bookselling trades was put in place in stages from the late 16th century. To achieve tighter control over printed material, a printer-bookseller was obliged to request a 'privilège' from the authorities for each work which he wished to print and sell; a legend indicating royal permission had to appear at the bottom of the title page. The privilège guaranteed the exclusive right to market a book for a given period. At the time of Louis XIV, the State favored the printers of Paris, to the disadvantage not only of the trade elsewhere in France, but also of authors... a number of printers in Lyon took up clandestine production of counterfeit copies and of works forbidden by the authorities... The texts included those of 18th c. philosophers (Voltaire, Montesquieu, Rousseau) as well as political, heretical, pornographic and licentious pamphlets and other documents... Prohibited works, having been printed on secret presses often in the rue Mercière, were then hidden in cells and cellars of the convents in the neighborhood (Cordeliers, Jacobins), the police being generally reluctant to search and invade the sanctity of such places..."

* Printing for The Establishment

"Delaroche aimed at the market of official documents (bulletins, memoranda, administrative paperwork of all kinds), thanks to which he became a nobleman and made his fortune..."


** Also in Lyon in the Classical Period

"We invite you now to take a tour of the city as it was between the 16th and 18th centuries, beginning at the south end, in Place Bellecour..."

* Place Bellecour

* Hôtel de l'Europe

* Thomas Blanchet

* Le clocher de l'ancien hôpital de la Charité

* L'Hôtel Dieu



** The Museum of Printing and Graphic Communication

* An enlarged collection

"Created by the master-printer Maurice Audin (1895-1975), son of the learned printer-publisher Marius Audin (1872-1951) and brother of Amable, the founder of the Lyon Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Printing opened in 1964 in the former Hotel de la Couronne, a Renaissance building which was Lyon's first city hall between 1604 and 1655... Today the Museum is recognised nationally and internationally in the world of graphic arts... The Museum celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014 with a major renovation of the permanent collection and a new name, Museum of Printing and Graphic Communication, reflecting its involvement in the world of today. In the fifty years of the Museum's existence the graphic industries have undergone rapid change from traditional techniques to those of the digital age. The Museum's collections reflect this evolution and have been greatly enlarged..."

* The invention of letterpress printing by Gutenberg (1450-1500)

* Printing and the Renaissance (1500-1600)

* Reformation and Counter-Reformation

Image: "Le Placard contre la Messe, imp. par Pierre De Vingle, Lyon, 1534."

* Prints

* Printing under the Ancient Régime

Image: "Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, Diderot & d'Alembert, Paris, 1757."

* The Industrial Revolution

Image: "Maquette d'une presse à cylindre Voirin (1811)."

* The new Document Economy

* Photography and printing in color: images for all

"The 19th c. is the century of the image. From a technical point of view it was a period of intense experimentation. Lithography, developed in the early years of the century, found innumerable applications... The invention of photography also had a profound impact on printing..."

* The graphic revolution

* The golden age of the newspaper

* The Information Society

"During the second half of the 20th century graphic communication underwent a radical change, as three previously separate areas of economic activity -- printing, the production of administrative documents, and information technology -- came together..."

* The Lumitype, invented in Lyon

"In the 1940s, Lyon found itself at the heart of an innovation which would drive printing, and indeed graphic technique, in a new direction. The adventure began in 1944 when two French engineers, René Higonnet (1904-1983) and Louis Moyroud (1914-2010) lodged their first patents for a photocomposition machine on behalf of LMT, the company for which they worked at 31 place Bellecour. The machine was the Lumitype, the first 'second generation' photocomposition machine... The system involves a combination of ultra-fast photography and binary calculation... The significance of this machine is that it de-materialises type, a step in a development which broadened during the following years with integration to offset printing, then computerization of composition and eventually desktop publishing. Lead had given way to light..."

* We are all printers now

* The image reigns supreme




So... It's a book worth owning and reading and re-reading, for anyone at all interested in "Early Printing and the Arts of the Book, or the arts of communication in any & all forms, or Lyon, or France, or The New and our perennial transitions to it", as I said, to any of all that, alone or in-combination...

And it makes a very useful guide-book for anyone, interested at all in any of it, who can make a physical visit to Lyon: whistle-stop via TGV from Paris or otherwise -- for the first simply follow the short-walk tour prescribed in the book's "Also in Lyon in the Classical Period" section, above -- for the second stop in for a chocolate somewhere, or visit a bouchon, or go see Bocuse, or ramble a bit down in the spectacular Parc de la Tête d'Or, or hike up to Fourvière or La Croix Rousse and enjoy the even-more-spectacular views of the Alps ranged along the eastern horizon.

Happy Springtime! Lyon is a fascinating place, and French views on "data" and "information" and "communication" contrast with our own and are even more fascinating.


Jack Kessler





And now a Note, this time on Transitions in Media:

On the sad occasion of the death-just-announced of Elizabeth Eisenstein, 1923-2016, a short list of her remarkable and very readable works follows, along with great encouragement to anyone interested in technology and cultural change -- of any sort and in any era -- to read what she wrote, and consider very carefully...

Eisenstein was nothing if not precise and very careful, herself, and yet what she wrote has received many interpretations, which vary greatly -- similarly then we misunderstand, or at least understand differently, much of what we are going through in our own day, with our current transition(s) from print to digital -- we are much in need of rigorous analysis and careful commentary, but so far we get mostly true-believer-chaff plus hysterical-reactions, and increasingly various forms of know-nothing-censorship such as the Print Revolution received too -- hopefully our Digital Revolution will not have to wait 500 years for another Eisenstein to come along, but perhaps that's what's needed for any real understanding of what we're fumbling-along-with now... we'd best proceed slowly with blunt tools like censorship, then...

To truly understand the Transition in Media process -- both in-particular, as it relates to the Renaissance Print Revolution only, and in-general, to the 21st c. Digital Revolution and to any other -- Eisenstein's work, IMO, offers both the best original introduction and a superb review & recapitulation, highly-recommended to any beginning student as well as to anyone who thinks they really know already where our current Transition in Media is headed.

So, highly-recommended reading, all of her work: in the selected-list which follows her major works are indicated in bold -- a few reviews etc. also are included, & there are many more, for the context & the controversies --

-- & n.b. Publisher's blurb to that last, for anyone purveying chaff or hysteria or believing Eisenstein to have been non-controversial or not careful:




FYI France (sm)(tm) e-journal ISSN 1071-5916
      |         FYI France (sm)(tm) is a monthly electronic
      |         journal published since 1992 as a small-scale,
      |         personal experiment, in the creation of large-
      |         scale "information overload", by Jack Kessler.
     / \        Any material written by me which appears in
    -----       FYI France may be copied and used by anyone for
   //   \\      any good purpose, so long as, a) they give me
  ---------     credit and show my email address, and, b) it
 //       \\    isn't going to make them money: if it is going
                to make them money, they must get my permission
in advance, and share some of the money which they get with me. 
Use of material written by others requires their permission. 
FYI France archives are in various places on the Internet, i.e. 
at (PACS-L), 
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        	Copyright 1992- , by Jack Kessler,
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