The Elsevier dynasty of printers existed more than 130 years and came to the forefront of European book-printing in the XVII century. Its founder was Lodewijk Elsevier (1546–1617) from Leuven who had studied printing art at famous Christophe Platin in Antwerp. After Lodewijk Elsevier’s death in 1617 the family business was continued by his descendants from whom the most celebrated are: Bonaventura Elsevier (1583–1652), Isaac Elsevier (1596–1651) and Lodewijk Elsevier Jr. (1604–1670). The last of the Elseviers died in 1712 whereupon their firm ceased to exist. They worked in Leiden and Amsterdam and had representative offices in many other European towns.
The Elseviers’ editions are notable for high-quality polygraphy, clear and beautiful type and simple and exquisite design. The Elseviers’ great service is that they distributed high-quality and comparatively inexpensive books. Also, they revolutionized book manufacture having introduced small formats: 1/12, 1/16, 1/24 of printer’s sheet. Format 1/12 which looks oblong is especially interesting. The series “Republic” (1/24 of printer’s sheet), consisting of almost 40 popular guide-books, is the example of the smallest books whose size makes 8.8 X 4.4 cm only.
The Elseviers’ target audience were qualified readers – representatives of the European “scientists’ republic”, therefore they carefully selected books for publication and involved in their work the best scientists of the time. There are editions of the ancients, scientific works (Galileo Galilei, R. Descartes, B. Pascal, J. Locke and others), fiction (Moliere, F. Rabelais, G. Boccaccio and others) and manuals among the Elsevier Books. Scientists and writers of the time considered it an honor to be published at the Elseviers’ publishing house. The Elsevier family founded a printing house at the Leiden University and published 3 000 theses at least.
The Elseviers’ editions are the epoch in the history of the art of a book. There is a specific kind of books that are easily distinguishable from other editions. Due to numerous innovations and improvements, the Elseviers managed to create the high standard of printing art. The Elseviers’ publishing house played a crucial role in the history of book manufacture and paved the way to the further development of the printing art of the European Renaissance.
The old-printed Elsevier Books from the collections of the National Library of Belarus are on display.