Iver Tangen Stensrud - Topographies of print in nineteenth-century Christiania

From the early nineteenth century, a national public sphere was beginning to develop in Norway. One of the most important features in this development was the proliferation of printed books, newspapers and periodicals. From the 1830s, printers’ shops, publishers, bookstores and libraries were increasingly becoming an important part of the political and cultural life the Norwegian capital as well as becoming a prominent feature of the physical appearance of the city.

I argue that considering the specific places where print was sold and produced and their place in the urban topography provides us with a tangible understanding of the development of the public sphere in the nineteenth century. The public sphere often thought of as an abstract entity that suddenly appears sometime in the late-eighteenth or early nineteenth century. My aim is to place this public sphere back into its specific urban contexts, by producing a topography of print for nineteenth-century Christiania. Where were printers, publishers and booksellers located in relation to political, cultural, and economic institutions? Which parts of the city produced what kinds of print? Can we find relations with developments in the city and the location of printers, booksellers and publishers, and what did these places actually look like?

Using tax reports and address books, I map printers and booksellers in the city from the 1830s to about 1870. To get a sense of the places where print was produced and sold, I use what is available. Scattered accounts and histories of printers and booksellers, in addition to diary accounts, letters and travelogues can provide us not only with a more tangible understanding of the development of an urban public sphere, but also new ways of seeing urban life in nineteenth-century Christiania.