The Publisher of the Book Forged in Hell: The Output of Jan Rieuwertsz Sr., Spinoza’s Intellectual Agent

Nadler-BookForgedInHellThe title of this post is an allusion to Steven Nadler’s A Book Forged in Hell. That 2011 book is about Baruch Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise, a work that scandalized secular and ecclesiastical authorities in the later 17th century — and has influenced philosophers and historians in recent years. The purpose of this post is to share a bibliography compiled by Piet Visser and his students in the 1990s. Piet retired in June 2014 from his professorship at the Mennonite seminary at the Free University in Amsterdam. Before that he was the chief curator of rare books and professor of book history at the University of Amsterdam. It’s in this earlier role that the list that you can find below originated.

Historians of ideas are used to paying attention to philosophers. These people are the famous or forgotten “authors,” the heroes of philosophy. These heroes are certainly important figures, but for their ideas to reach audiences, a team of supporters had to work very hard to spread those ideas in a form that could survive and be circulated. These supporters are intellectual agents worthy of close study in their own right. They include workers in the book trades: translators, printers, binders, publishers, and booksellers.

Spinoza is a good example of the importance of these agents. In 2013 there was an exciting announcement in Spinoza studies. Two MA students in Amsterdam (Trude Dijkstra and Rindert Jagersma) made public their discovery of the printer of Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise. Details and background about the discovery are available in an article listed below. While the Treatise’s printer was a mystery for centuries (Nadler summarizes earlier conjectures on p. 219 and p. 264 n11), its publisher and chief bookseller has been well-known for quite some time. He was the Collegiant-Mennonite Jan Rieuwertsz Sr. (ca. 1616-1687) — not to be confused with his son, who was also a publisher, Jan Rieuwertsz Jr. (ca. 1652-1723). The former was active as a publisher from 1644-1685.

A valuable source for intellectual historians is the list of works any given publisher deemed worthy of production and sale. Profit was certainly a key motivation for most publishers. For some, however, making a point was as important as making money — and sometimes was even important enough to risk ruin. Rieuwertsz is a good example of a philosophically motivated publisher, as is demonstrated by his dangerous, clandestine efforts to coordinate the release of  Spinoza’s Treatise (see Jonathan Israel’s account in Radical Enlightenment).

Besides Spinoza’s Treatise, what else did Jan Rieuwertsz Sr publish? That is a question that Piet Visser answered with the help of his students. Piet has written about his findings in the Quærendo essay listed below. He has agreed to share his working list of short titles of Rieuwertsz’s output. You can find the list by clicking here: PietVisser-JanRieuwertsz-Fondslijst. Many thanks to Piet for his generosity!!!


Piet Visser

Please note that the list certainly needs checking and it might not be complete. Nonetheless, it is an excellent starting point for further research on the intellectual world of Spinoza and his contemporaries.

I had compiled my own rough list several years ago, but I am glad now to be building on the work of Piet’s expert team of book historians. I’m now in the process of checking Piet’s list against the Short Title Catologue of the Netherlands. I plan to make a Zotero file available once I’m done so that others may use the data. You can find my working files at In the coming months I plan to add output lists for other dissenting printers. And I also intend to revisit the question of publishers’ motivations: money versus ideas?



  • Driedger, Michael. “Spinoza and the Boundary Zones of Religious Interaction.” The Conrad Grebel Review 25, no. 3 (2007): 21-28.
  • Gerritsen, Johann. “Printing Spinoza — Some Questions.” In Spinoza to the Letter: Studies in Words, Texts and Books, edited by Fokke Akkerman and Piet Steenbakkers, 251-62. Leiden: Brill, 2006.
  • Harskamp, Jaap, and Paul Dijstelberge. “The Spirit of Spinoza.” Quærendo 43, no. 4 (September 2013): 275-77.
  • Israel, Jonathan I. Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity, 1650-1750. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, esp. ch. 16.
  • Jagersma, Rindert, and Trude Dijkstra. “Uncovering Spinoza’s Printers by Means of Bibliographical Research.” Quærendo 43, no. 4 (September 2013): 278-310.
  • Lane, John A. “The Printing Office of Gerrit Harmansz van Riemsdijck, Israël Abrahamsz de Paull, Abraham Olofsz, Andries Pietersz, Jan Claesz Groenewoudt & Elizabeth Abrahams Wiaer c.1660-1709.” Quærendo 43, no. 4 (September 2013): 311-439.
  • Manusov-Verhage, Clasina G. “Jan Rieuwertsz, marchand libraire et éditeur de Spinoza.” In Spinoza to the Letter: Studies in Words, Texts and Books, edited by Fokke Akkerman and Piet Steenbakkers, 237-50. Leiden: Brill, 2006.
  • Nadler, Steven M. A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011, esp. ch. 10.
  • Visser, Piet. “‘Blasphemous and Pernicious’: The Role of Printers and Booksellers in the Spread of Dissident Religious and Philosophical Ideas in the Netherlands in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century.” Quærendo 26 (1996): 303-26.