Formore than twenty years now,Dutch historians have been working on the inventory of egodocuments. At present, these inventories cover the period 1500-1914 and contain thousands of texts, varying from autobiographies and memoirs to diaries, travel reports and other forms of life writing. Following the autobiographical practice over longer periods of time, the inventories show that during the nineteenth century a remarkable change occurs.Whereas premodern autobiographers rarely published their lives, in the course of the nineteenth century an increasing number of printed autobiographies were published. Several researchers have noted that the ‘birth’ of the autobiographical genre in the period around 1800 coincided with the publication of autobiographical texts, both old and new ones. Since publishers are business men, it is plausible that they saw a market for these texts. Most studies, however, centre on the contents of autobiographies and pay little attention to the form. But there is an important difference between amanuscript and a book: the publishing autobiographermakes his life public. This study deals with the interaction between the Dutch bookmarket and the public self-presentation of autobiographers during the period 1850-1918. The central presentation of the question is: which people could profile themselves through the bookmarket as the authors of their own lives, and in doing so, which codes did they have to observe? This thesis offers, from a book historical perspective, a concrete interpretation of the historicizing and contextualizing tendency in the research of autobiographies and other forms of life writing. In this approach, themain question is how writers communicate the ‘self’ and how this communication works in different times and cultures.Most researchers, however, remain focused on the text. I, on the other hand, started from the context. Because autobiographical writing in the nineteenth century increasinglymeant publishing, I interpreted that context as the bookmarket.

M.C.R. Grever (Maria)
Erasmus University Rotterdam , Walburg Pers, Zutphen
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

Huisman, M. (2008, November 14). Publieke levens: Autobiografieën op de Nederlandse boekenmarkt 1850-1918. Retrieved from