Inventing Exoticism: Geography, Globalism, and Europe's Early Modern World

21 Nov 2017

In this beautifully produced book, Benjamin Schmidt’s vision of the early modern global book trade and the Dutch place within it is supported by a wide-ranging knowledge of contemporary print culture, although he modestly disclaims the work’s comprehensiveness. Schmidt’s entry point is the extensive corpus of lavishly illustrated, “coffee table” style geography books that circulated from Dutch publishing houses, where censorship was weak, throughout Europe. The “exotic geography” that Schmidt constructs for us is fueled by this hugely successful publishing machine, the “Dutch juggernaut” (68). When coupled with early Dutch colonialism, it made possible a vast array of visual and textual reworkings of distant social and natural worlds. Historians like Maarten Prak, Margaret Jacob, Julie Berger Hochstrasser, Harold Cook, and Anne Goldgar have explored aspects of this early modern Dutch commodification of knowledge; however, the Dutch book trade has not been so comprehensively treated in relation to globalization.