An important fixture in the European marketplace, the Remondini publishing firm produced prints and books on a massive scale, marketing these paper commodities not only across Europe but even in the American colonies and parts of Asia. The firm began operating in 1657 from Bassano, a small town under Venetian rule. The Remondini were granted certain protections by the Venetian State, safeguarding their production from competitors in northern Italy.
The Remondini both benefited from and helped shape a growing, increasingly literate, audience for printed materials. Starting in 1751, they even began producing catalogues of their stock, offerings dominated by religious, popular, landscape, decorative, and historical prints—typically copied from other artists’ work. By the 1770s, the firm employed close to 1,000 people and was able to print an expansive array of pictures and books. Unlike firms that made high-quality prints for a small, wealthy audience, the Remondini utilized a business strategy of cheap production aimed at a large, middling audience. To reach this audience, the firm employed traveling salesmen—agents who sold prints directly to customers, and in the process, gained an understanding of the tastes and preferences of their clientele—valuable information for the firm. Similarly, the firm appreciated input from their non-local agents and booksellers, who were aware of the interests of their customers.
The Remondini network was expansive—salesmen aimed to reach small villages throughout Europe, while some voyaged as far as Asia and the Americas. By the mid-1850s, however, the Remondini struggled to stay in business. The demise of the Venetian Republic, half a century earlier, had brought about major political and societal shifts, and the firm eventually lost touch with the tastes of the changing middle class. Additionally, international printing firms provided stiff competition in an increasingly globalized marketplace. The firm closed its doors in 1861.
As Anton W. A. Boschloo stresses, research on the Remondini prints is challenging, in that the types of prints the firm produced were typically inexpensive reproductions printed on low-quality paper—images for the masses, and therefore, pieces that historically, have not been prized or preserved for further study. Nevertheless, we can learn a great deal about eighteenth-century print culture by studying what does survive; understanding the source material, as well as its production, distribution, and use.
Literature: Anton W. A. Boschloo, The Prints of the Remondinis: An Attempt to Reconstruct an Eighteenth-Century World of Pictures, translated by C. M. H. Harrison (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1998), esp. pp. 1–13. For the dissemination of the prints, see especially Alberto Milano. “‘Selling Prints for the Remondini’: Italian Pedlars Travelling through Europe during the Eighteenth Century,” in Not Dead Things: The Dissemination of Popular Print in England and Wales, Italy, and the Low Countries, 1500–1820, ed. by Roeland Harms, Joad Raymond, and Jeroen Salman (Leiden: Brill, 2013), pp. 75–96.