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  • 04 janvier 2017 - 08:15
  • Joël Burri 3346 signes
Médias

L’imprimerie, une économie majeure pour Genève

Série «L’imprimerie et la Réforme»

Un atelier d'imprimeurs, gravure de Jost Amman, 1568, via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Printer_in_1568-ce.pngJean Calvin n’a pas seulement permis un essor culturel à Genève, mais aussi le développement d’une industrie florissante: l’imprimerie.

Gravure: Jost Amman, 1568

Par Joël Burri

Au milieu du XVIe siècle, Neuchâtel, Lausanne ou Genève accueillent de nombreux imprimeurs acquis aux idées de la Réforme venus de France ou d’Italie. Genève en particulier acquiert en quelques années une renommée européenne et mondiale. Avant 1540, pas plus de cinq livres étaient publiés chaque année au bout du lac. En 1544, c’est 20 titres qui y ont été imprimés et en 1561 on atteint les 75.

Pourquoi a-t-on assisté à Genève, plus que dans les autres villes passées à la réforme à un pareil boom de l’impression? «Pour moi, la réponse tient en deux mots», affirme Martin Grandjean, professeur d’histoire à la faculté autonome de théologie de l’Université de Genève. «Jean, Calvin! La langue du réformateur a véritablement façonné la langue française. A Côté des écrits de Calvin, les écrits de Farel passent pour de l’embrouillamini», explique l’historien. La présence du réformateur a donc attiré dans la cité, des virtuoses de l’impression tels que Robert Estienne.

Contourner la censure

La censure existe aussi à Genève. «Tous les ouvrages y compris ceux de Calvin sont soumis aux autorités avant de pouvoir être vendus», rappelle Michel Grandjean. «En 1562, par exemple, un libraire a été lourdement amendé pour avoir diffusé des ouvrages de Sébastien Castellion», ancien élève de Calvin qui par la suite critiquera lourdement le réformateur notamment en raison de son soutien à la mise à mort de Servet.

«Très vite, les livres imprimés à Genève sont bannis du royaume de France. Mais les imprimeurs genevois savent comment diffuser leur production. Beaucoup de livres sont produits sans mention du lieu d’impression, ou avec un faux lieu d’impression. Certains ouvrages ont été imprimés avec une mention signifiant imprimé à Cologny. Mais comme c’était en latin, les agents pensaient qu’il s’agissait de Cologne, une ville parfaitement catholique.»

Une économie florissante

A Genève, de nombreuses bibles, des psautiers et des écrits théologiques sont imprimés en nombres. «On comptera plus de 200 imprimeurs actifs dans une ville, qui avec les réfugiés devaient avoisiner les 20’000 habitants à l’époque. 1% de la population était donc active dans cette activité», calcule Michel Grandjean. «Rapportée à la seule population adulte masculine on doit approcher les 5%!» Avec 34 presses, l’imprimerie est donc à cette époque l’une des trois grandes industries de la ville, avec le textile et l’orfèvrerie. «L’horlogerie n’en est alors qu’à ses balbutiements», précise Michel Grandjean.

Près de deux tiers de la production genevoise est en langue française. Il y a aussi des textes en allemand, anglais, Italiens. Mais la plupart des textes du tiers restant sont en grec ou en hébreu. «Il y avait une volonté d’enseigner ces langues bibliques», explique Michel Grandjean.

Michel Grandjean ajoute: «Le chercheur Jean-François Gilmont, à qui l’on doit beaucoup dans la connaissance de l’imprimerie de cette époque, et qui a notamment publié une bibliographie de la production imprimée aux XV et XVIe siècles à Genève Lausanne et Neuchâtel a une formule que j’aime beaucoup. Il rappelle que si la réforme est fille de l’imprimerie, selon un propos de table attribué à Luther; l’impression est aussi fille de la Réforme. En effet, la multitude des textes que les réformateurs ont fait imprimer a participé à l’essort de cette technique.» 

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