1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 10

1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 10

Chapter 4

Magdeburg, central Germany
Capital of the United States of Europe

“Thank you, Jenny,” said Rebecca Abrabanel, as she passed her daughter Kathleen over to the young governess and housekeeper. The child was barely one year old, so the transfer did not disrupt her sleep in the least. She was quite accustomed to the care of Jenny Hayes, anyway, since she spent more time with her than she did with her mother. Rebecca had adopted some of the attitudes of the Americans, but when it came to child-care she was still firmly a woman of the seventeenth century. If you had the money to do so — which she now certainly did — you hired nannies to take care of the tedious portions of child-raising. Which, at Kathleen’s age, was most of them.

About the only concession that Rebecca made to up-time custom was that she still breast-fed the girl herself, instead of employing a wet nurse. But she did that mostly because continuing to lactate was the most effective birth control measure available to her, other than keeping track of her monthly cycle or using condoms. Neither she nor her husband Michael wanted to be bothered with that miserable rhythm business. As for the condoms which had been introduced into the market some months earlier, Michael didn’t like them and she didn’t trust them.

Rebecca enjoyed her children and planned to have at least two more. But she also enjoyed her political career and had no desire to see it crushed flat under the pressure of child-raising.

Being well-to-do helped a great deal in that regard. While Rebecca and Michael were not what anyone would call wealthy, they enjoyed a much larger than average income because of his salary as a major general. And if she finished her book on schedule, the income that derived from its sales might very well double or even triple their income.

Rebecca had been born a Sephardic Jew, and still maintained most of her religion’s customs and rituals. When it came to theological matters, though, she tended to share her father’s attitudes. Balthazar Abrabanel was not exactly what the up-timers meant by the term “free-thinker,” but he came awfully close. He still considered himself a Jew even in doctrinal terms, but there were plenty of rabbis who would dispute that claim. The rabbinate of Amsterdam, which was notoriously harsh and reactionary, had even gone so far as to declare him a heretic.

On the other hand, Prague’s rabbis — who had considerably more prestige than those of the Dutch city — maintained friendly relations with him. They did so partly, of course, for political reasons. Balthazar’s brother Uriel was the spymaster for Morris Roth, who was by far the wealthiest Jew in Prague and was also one of Wallenstein’s closest advisers thanks to his leading role in repelling Holk’s attack on Prague two years earlier.

Whatever her doctrinal doubts and questions, however, on one matter Rebecca was a staunch monotheist. Nannies had been sent down to earth directly by the hand of God.

After Jenny left the vestibule with Kathleen, Rebecca turned and went to the door leading to the room on the second floor of the town house that she used for her political meetings. It was a very large room, in keeping with the town house itself. The three-story building wasn’t quite what one could call a “mansion,” but it came close.

That was a good thing, too, given that the building also served the Fourth of July Party as its informal national headquarters.

As usual when a meeting was in progress, she could hear Constantin Ableidinger’s booming voice before she even opened the door.

“– think we can make such an assumption. As much as I dislike the prime minister’s reactionary political views, he’s just not the sort of human material out of which ruthless counter-revolutionaries are made.”

By the time he finished, Rebecca had passed through the door and closed it behind her. She headed toward her seat at the head of the table. Series of tables, rather.

“No, Wilhelm is not such a man,” she said. “As a human being, he’s actually quite a decent fellow. But Wilhelm is no longer running the show. Axel Oxenstierna is.”

She pulled out her chair and sat down. There had been a time when there had been only four tables in this very large room, arranged in a shallow “U” which allowed everyone to see out the windows. That was no longer true. There were simply too many important leaders of the Fourth of July Party who needed to be present at this meeting. So, there were now eight tables in the room, lined up two abreast and four wide. In effect, a single huge meeting table had been created, measuring about ten feet by thirty feet.

Rebecca’s position at one end of the arrangement, facing down the double row of tables, gave her a good view of everyone present. It was also a subtle indication of her position in the party. Officially, she was simply one of the members of the USE parliament elected from Magdeburg province. Unofficially, especially in the absence of her husband Mike Stearns, she was one of the FoJP’s most prominent and influential leaders.

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30 Responses to 1636: The Saxon Uprising — Snippet 10

  1. Willem Meijer says:

    Income from a book? In an age without copyright? Any printer who has a copy of her book and thinks he can make money will print a perfectly legitimate pirate edition. Even if the USE has found time to pass a law on copyright, anyone outside the USE will still be free to reprint it. The printers in Leiden, Haarlem and Amsterdam will flood the market with reprints and (bad) translations).

  2. Well, they just have to saturate the market with their initial print run then, don’t they? :)

    Besides, if she uses certain printing methods that are used only by a limited number of printers in Magdeburg(advanced color printing in illustrations and maps for example), it would limit the number of people who can faithfully copy her book.

  3. Louis says:

    @1 I would like to point out that the CoC’s might have something to say about said Pirate editions. Several of the books in the series have claimed that printers are the most radical artisans in europe suggesting said COC’s might be have a good degree of influence. Not that Rebbecca herself does not have influence of her own

  4. Blackmoore says:

    @1 didn’t you read the snippets for Eastern front? as long as it’s inside the USE she’s protected. in theory… we’ll see. it will be an interesting leap from Eric’s (and Baen’s) stand on ebooks, and how it plays in fiction.

  5. laclongquan says:


    The matter of copyright is the same as the matter of tax: the willing and concious effort of taxpayers/users count a great deal.

    And who gonna stiff Rebecca Stearns y Abrabanel, one important leader of the Fourth of July Party, hugely influenced even with certain CoC faction? The printers, who is one of the pillar of CoC? Hardly.

    It’s not just a matter of business, it’s of principle.

  6. Robert Krawitz says:

    The other question is, would she *really* mind that much if the book got “pirated”? The purpose of the book, if I recall, is to drive a political movement; it’s not some light entertainment. So samizdat copies might not make her any money, but it certainly would help spread the word.

  7. Robert H. Woodman says:

    From the snippet:

    About the only concession that Rebecca made to up-time custom was that she still breast-fed the girl herself, instead of employing a wet nurse. But she did that mostly because continuing to lactate was the most effective birth control measure available to her, other than keeping track of her monthly cycle or using condoms. Neither she nor her husband Michael wanted to be bothered with that miserable rhythm business. As for the condoms which had been introduced into the market some months earlier, Michael didn’t like them and she didn’t trust them.


    First, I’m really surprised that there was no stir at all from the Catholic Church on this one. The Catholic Church has, so far as I know, never opposed natural methods of birth control, but have always opposed artificial methods, which includes condoms. Condoms were available in the 1600’s, but they were condemned by the Church early on, probably before RoF. Second, how are they making condoms down-time? Latex, polyurethane, and polyisoprene require some knowledge of chemistry and some machinery to mass produce. Sheep gut or Lamb gut condoms don’t require chemical knowledge, but to be profitable, you still need to be able to mass produce by machine. There is also the question of what, if any, QC analysis is performed on these condoms.

    Any comments/thoughts on this?

  8. ronzo says:

    With David Bartley, as a close advisor, Theres little chance of Mike and Becky being and thing short of very well heeled. Mike Had a home in grantville which is now worth as much as a palace with its modern plumbing, electricity, and heating. David probably suggested that he mortage it and invest the money like he suggested to several people at the party toward the end of OTHER PEOPLES MONEY. Mike also has the inside track on most of the research and development and industrialization coming out of Grantville/madgeburg so he knows where to invest. As for pirate copies of Becky’s book I think the COC will definitely frown upon that.

  9. Ed Schoenfeld says:

    @7 I would expect the Church vs. birth control issues to be detailed in a Gazette story, or in one of the Italy books, rather than in this one.

    Re copyright and piracy: She would still get paid for *some* of the books sold, or perjhaps for contracts with printers to make ‘authorized and complete’ versions. The question is how much the printers who pay her will find it feasible to enforce copyright in local jurisdictions. And yes, the CoC will have something to say about that, too.

    As usual, Eric is showing a little about how these issues get worked out in practice, after the high sounding legislation is passed.

  10. dave o says:

    It’s hard for me to see how Catholic opposition to birth control would affect Mike and Becky.

    Borja might want to make an issue of it, but the real pope has other concerns just now. For that matter, so does Borja.

    The last snippet told us that Mike was committed to the rule of law. I wonder whether Becky and even more, the CoC is? If Kristina goes to Magdeburg, which I think is probable, she and her regent would provide them all the cover they need. But if she doesn’t, I suspect that some of the CoC more radicals will treat the law as expressed by Ox’s supporters as it deserves.

    Of course, Ox’s supporters are in no way committed to him, they just hate the CoC and the 4th of July party. He may find himself trying to herd cats pretty soon.

  11. kwinn says:

    @7, There is a Gazette story about someone in France purchasing one or more blocks of latex and experimenting with sulfur to vulcanize it and make balloons. Another character sees the balloons as being useful as condoms.

    I am not an expert on the chemistry aspects of producing latex items, but the mechanics of producing latex gloves, balloons, and condoms are as simple as dipping a form in liquid latex (one or more times depending on desired thickness) and a curing agent.

  12. TimC says:

    Ouch. I hope someone else supplies the ‘form’ to be dipped.

  13. robert says:

    @7 Best you substitute Lutheran Church for Catholic Church because the USE is a predominantly Lutheran society–or is the attempt of the equivalent of the religious right in parliament to force a state religion an even weirder ploy than it appears to be. dave o @10 has the right of it regarding the fractured Catholic Church.

    I wonder if Mike isn’t wishing that he had Harry Lefferts handy at this point.

  14. Summertime says:

    OK, Rebecca and the Council are settling in for a conference. Now maybe we can get a line on WHAT Oxenstierna and the Royalists are doing, WHERE Princess Christina and Ulrik have fetched up, and WHEN the story will proceed beyond funny money and handy nannies.

  15. Dan says:

    Copyright issues will not be too much of a problem in this case. Most likely the CoC will get early copies of the book that they can then publish and sell for her (most if not all CoC locations have a press). Then of course the issue of copyright comes down to the local CoC saying “we are printing and selling it, you are not”. Most printers are not going to try to print and sell it at that point. First of all, they will have lost the first sales (the biggest money makers) because the CoC got it out first. Secondly, they would then have to spend the time and effort to set it up for printing into a market where demand is already being satisfied. Thirdly, the local CoC would then come by to help them transfer Rebecca’s share of the profits to her. Local printers will probably not want to take on the CoC in this manner.

  16. robert says:

    @14 The problem is that the snippets are very short. More like snippetlets. That’s because the publication date is so far in the future and because they are removing all the snerks on The Eastern Front. So it seems like we are not really getting anywhere…and we mostly aren’t!

  17. Robert H. Woodman says:

    @13 – robert

    If I remember my church history correctly, up until the early 1900’s, the Lutheran Church and the Anglican Church were both as committed as the Catholic Church in opposition to artificial means of birth control. In fact, even today, some branches of the Lutheran Church oppose all forms of birth control. You are correct that the USE is predominantly Lutheran, but it is not exclusively so, and religious expression is quite diverse in SoTF. Still, why no opposition from the Lutherans?

  18. Mike says:

    Re: copyright and piracy on Rebecca’s book – as stated above, the printers themselves and the CoC should be supressing sales of pirated copies within the USE. Don’t forget, many of them will likely be purchasing the book themselves. That in and of itself might be enough copies to make the book profitable.

  19. laclongquan says:

    That is because nowadays your churches no longer a political AND administration machine. They worry themselves about religious matters, mostly.

    But in this 1630s era, the churches still hold large tracts of lands, properties, and involved themselves in secular matter very closely. As such they are distracted by other matters, like wars, famines, plagues, rebuilding this burnt-to-the-ground town, etc… We dont even mention heavy subjects such as the chunks of knowledge brought back from future by way of Grantville’s Ring of Fire, which guarantee to make generations of religious busy thinking.

    Compared to that, some little devices to make sure that STDs doesnt jump from one to another is small potatoes. And believe you me, the main users of condoms want to prevent STD more than bastardy.

    Rebecca’s case is very much an exception to the rules.

  20. kwinn says:

    @ 12, nowadays the forms are usually made from metal, plastic, ceramic, or glass. In the GG story I believe the form was iron but I could be wrong. For that time period I would expect glass, ceramic, or metal would be preferred. All it requires is a smooth non stick surface so even waxed wood could be used.

  21. anonymous says:

    @3 & @17: I disagree. I think that if the issue were actually looked at, the printers and the CoCs would be against copyright, at least so soon.

    First, you’re both forgetting that in the 17th century, the pirates are fellow printers. It’s not as though there’s an Internet up and running yet. Copyright in that era was a combination of state censorship and guild monopolies; Nothing could be printed unless the state permitted it and who had the right to print it was determined by a printing cartel, so as to avoid competition for the same book. Authors didn’t have any rights at all. The printers liked it this way just fine, and in OTL strongly opposed giving authors rights until they could figure out how to take over the system, which is why modern-day copyrights, while ostensibly granted to authors, are in practice controlled by the publishing industry (e.g. the RIAA and the Big Four in music). I don’t think that the printers across all of the USE could be convinced to radically alter their business practices within the span of a couple of years. Look at how ornery every other guild seems to be depicted as being.

    Second, the CoCs are pretty certainly big fans of freedom of the press — a freedom which includes the right to copy what others have written. Copyright represents censorship. While it seems innocuous to us, it is nevertheless a right of a private person to use the power of the state to censor someone merely because they’ve engaged in copying, which was pretty much standard practice around the world until this law appeared out of nowhere in the most recent book. I suspect that the CoCs would still be in a ‘honeymoon’ period with free speech, and would vigorously oppose any sort of restrictions on it whatsoever. Call it a camel’s nose, if you like. Eventually, they’ll probably come around, but again, I don’t understand how they’d turn on a dime like this.

    And of course, the same passage in the last book mentioned a patent system — something which is clearly logistically impossible given pretty much everything mentioned about industrialization efforts post RoF. (Yes, patent laws predate 17th century, but OTL never had to contend with time travel) Personally, I’ve enjoyed the books, but as a lawyer who works in this field, and is interested in the history of it, it’s this which I can’t suspend my disbelief in.

  22. Summertime says:

    Point of information: This book is THE SAXON UPRISING, so, who is “uprising”? Is it the upper class, who see a chance to be in charge with no opposition, or is it the lower classes, who see a chance to throw off the overbearing upper classes? I know that Saxony is in opposition to GA and the USE, but I assume that is mostly the upper crust. I know that there also rebels in Saxony, but I am not sure they are the ones doing the “uprising”. Can any one set me straight?

  23. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Summertime, my guess is that the Saxon branch of the CoC is going to be calling for a Saxony Republic (within the USE) and a certain hot-headed Swedish general is going to call that an “uprising” and try to put it down.

  24. robert says:

    @22 Oh Drak. Good guess! I agree. The uprising will be wherever Gretchen happens to be. And Where Baner happens to be.

  25. Willem Meijer says:

    @3, 17 and 20

    What was said by @20 about printers is quite true. They were in the printing business to make money, not to spread ideas. The printing cartel describes the London situation, not the one in the Netherlands. There every major town and a lot of middling ones) would have one of more printers/publishers. As long as they did not make the local elite too angry they could publish what they wanted. So: do not publish negatively on local politics, try to stay out of controversial religious dispute and a Dutch printer could print what he liked (as long as he could sell it). If he wanted to publsh something controversial he could use a fake imprint, or gamble upon the fact that it could be quite hard to prove that he was the publisher as long as the evidence (set type, printed sheets) were not on the premises.

    Dutch printers printed a lot of books and pamphlets (in French, English, German or Latin) for foreign markets where censorship was more active, or where printing was more hemmed in by privileges. Sometimes French or Geman printers even faked dutch imprints (‘pulished in Haarlem by Joh. Enschede’) to make their local books more desirable, or to dodge the censors.

    How do you make money as a writer in the 16th, 17th and 18th century?
    1) Find a patron, dedicate the book to him/her. In return you hope for a nice sum of cash in return
    2) Get someone (say the French King, the Estates General, your city gouvernment) to let you publish ‘cum privilegio’. Said worthy will then enforce (well…) that privilege and ensure that you are the only one who may print and/or sell the book. It worked in France (where there were relatively few printers and fairly centralised gouvernment), but it dit not work in the Netherlands. A privilege from say the Etates of Utrecht would have no standing in law in Holland, and local privileges would only work locally.
    3) Let a printer find you, and write for a fee (yes, like the hacks from Grubb-street). He will then run the risk (or take the profit)
    4) Make a deal with a printer, and make the world know that this is the only official and genuine edition. Erasmus worked that way but he was pirated anyhow, the quality of the preferred publshers was one of the reasons clients of taste and means would go for these books. A ripp-off would be cheaper, but would be full of misprints.
    5) Have the book illstrated with pictures that are not easily copied and are essential to the text. Illustrations can be copied, but it takes a lot of time and expense.
    6) Publish the book only after you had gathered a list of subscribers who were willing to pay you (you might even publish their names in the book).
    7) Get a day-job

    The biggest costs in book-production at the time were not the cost of labour (typesetting and printing) but the cost of paper and the capital tied up in the press and the type (you’d break up the type after you printed from it, in order te be able to set the next section of the book if it was a big book, or the next book). A print-run (text only) of a few hundred copies could be profitable, and could be produced in a few weeks (book) or days (pamphlet). Books are heavy and bulky, and were not transported easily. Even if there is a fast postal system it cannot transport bulky goods without an enormous infrastucture that does not exit at this moment. So even if you want an original edition, you must decide: do I want the book NOW and buy a pirate edition or do I want to wait for weeks and pay more? There is no Amazon, no FedEx.

  26. 8) While it limits the print rate a bit, if your handwriting is impressive and courtesy of the dye works you have a unique ink color, sell the autographed edition.

  27. The thing before “while” is an “eight”.

  28. Tweeky says:

    I’m wondering when some printer or printers are going to end up causing a religious shit-storm when they publish Charles Darwin’s books ” On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life” and “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex”. Just wait and watch while the Catholic church and various other protestant organisations go through the ceiling; I wonder how the muslims in the Ottoman empire would react?

  29. Peter says:

    Oh, I’d bet that Eric has plans for that too.

  30. Willem Meijer says:

    @28 Darwin and his contemporaries had 200 years worth of slow change in thought about how the world, how nature worked behind them. Rationalism, the Enlightenment, a far more scientific world vieuw. To most people in the early 17th century Darwin would be a head-case. If you are convinced that God created the world in seven days, why bother even reading the book? It cannot be but uninformed rubbish, probably published by the Jesuits/Protestants/Jews/whoeveyoudislikemost in order to put right-thinking people on the wrong foot. And to be safe: ban the book, and burn the printer.

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