Invisible women: Yolande Bonhomme, 16th-century publisher

Francesca Galligan, Bodleian Rare Books

There were many women printing in the 16th century. But for a variety of reasons, it can be hard to find their work in library catalogues.

Yolande Bonhomme is a good example of this.

She came from a printing family: her father Pasquier Bonhomme was a celebrated Parisian printer, and her husband Thielmann Kerver also ran a printing business in Paris. Bonhomme took over Kerver’s business when he died in 1522, as was permitted by the Guild system in 16th-century Paris. Reports of her output vary, from 200 editions (Beatrice Beech, based on Renouard) to 136 (Axel Erdmann), before her own death in 1557.

While Kerver printed widely, with various editions of classical authors, Bonhomme focused on liturgical and devotional books.

She continued to use her husband’s device on the title-pages and at the colophons of her books, referring to herself most often simply as “vidua” – the widow – of Thielmann Kerver.

Because she does not usually name herself, it is her husband’s name that is sometimes picked out in library catalogues, and Bonhomme is found only with a bit more work.  The Bodleian’s online catalogue SOLO gives this entry for the book below:

Hore deipare virginis marie secūdū vsum Romanū.
Hours
1523 | Par. T. Keruer | (8⁰)

Bodleian Vet. E1 f.205
Bodleian Vet. E1 f.205

 

Additional reading: Beatrice Beech, ‘Yolande Bonhomme: a Renaissance printer’, Medieval prosopography 6.2, 1985; Axel Erdmann, My gracious silence: women in the mirror of 16th century printing in Western Europe, 1999.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.