Almanacs, Journals, Privileges? An Essay on the Backbone of the Printing Business Culture in Bohemia in 18th-Century Bohemia

Pages 16–24
DOI 10.2478/amnpsc-2018-0003
Keywords newspaper – almanac – 18th century – Bohemia – book culture
Type of Article Peer-reviewed
Acta Musei Nationalis Pragae – Historia litterarum | 2018/63/3-4

Based on two intertwined case studies, this essay shows the economic importance of almanacs for Bohemian printing houses under the reign of Maria Theresa (1740–1780). The first case study focuses on the printing house of Sophie Rosenmüller (Kirchner-Klauser) in Prague, which during the 18th century published the only two newspapers in Bohemia, one in German and one in Czech. After her husband’s death (1745), Sophie Rosenmüller asked the Viennese administration for the permission to close the loss-making Cžeský postylion neboližto NOWJNY Cžeské [Bohemian Postilion or Czech Newspaper], which never had more than twelve subscribers per year. But Empress Maria Theresa insisted on the existence of the Czech newspaper. As compensation, she granted Sophie Rosenmüller privileges to publish highly profitable almanacs. In 1771, the empress finally agreed to suspending the paper. The second study deals with the severe impact of Maria Theresa’s religious reforms on provincial printing houses, like the one of Ignaz Hilgartner in the South Bohemian town of Jindřichův Hradec. Thoroughly discussed short-term issues included the reduction of the number of holidays and the fact that they were no longer to be printed in red in almanacs; more severe problems involved the loss of important clients, caused by the disbanding of some secular religious fraternities and foremost the Jesuits, and the end of some important genres, e.g. school dramas with their printed synopsis; the biggest problem was caused by the societalisation of the school system and the printing of textbooks. Due to the lack of a secular literary market (universities, enlightened clientele) in South Bohemia, Hilgartner saw only two possibilities to compensate for these losses: either to move his office to Prague or to assume the privileges of Sophie Rosenmüller (and especially her best-selling almanacs) after her death in 1780. Nevertheless, both possibilities were denied to him.

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