A Brill Calendar: June 8
Few early appointments at Leyden University were as crucial as the one that came into force on June 8 1577.
This was for a new function, ‘Typographus, bouckverkoper ende drucker generael’; ‘Typographer, Bookseller and Printer General’.
Jan van Hout, Secretary to both the city and the Board of Curators of this new municipal institute, (founded on February 8 1575), was a humanist aware of the political potential of Gutenberg’s 'Black Art' to disseminate information and knowledge. Hout may have been instrumental in choosing Willem Silvius, an experienced Antwerp printer for this post. The assignment carried grave responsibilities; for Silvius’s job as a craftsman wasn’t restricted to the University proper. The post made him Printer to the States of Holland as well; the County’s representative body politic. The ‘auctor intellectualis’ of the Academy – William, Prince of Orange – saw the university as a physical means of giving a nascent Republic of separate, self-conscious Provinces an indispensable knowledge centre for his political struggle.
The ties between Leyden and the Rebellion are clearly expressed on the printed title-page of the ‘Apologie ofte Verantwoordinghe van den Prince van Orangiën’ (1581), vindicating Orange’s position, after being outlawed by Phillip II, King of Spain the previous year. The pamphlet came from the Silvius Press, admittedly not controlled by Willem anymore, but by his son Carel, who followed in his father’s steps in 1580 as Printer to the Academy. In the history of that office it is seldom that one of its products was so eagerly read by all & sundry all over Europe and translated in a stream of editions, most of them pirated. The terms ‘Public Relations’ and ‘Propaganda’ are much younger than activities and realities underlying them.