Uncovering Spinoza’s Printers by Means of Bibliographical Research

in Quaerendo
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This paper concerns the identification of the hitherto unknown printers of the works of Benedictus de Spinoza (1632-77). For centuries the identity of these printers has remained a mystery. The publisher Jan Rieuwertsz, or the printer Christoffel Cunradus, were often mistakenly mentioned as printer of the works of the seventeenth-century Dutch philosopher. These assumptions are incorrect. Despite several studies published in the last decades, the true identity of the printer was still unknown.

In this paper we will describe how we were able to identify Spinoza’s anonymous printers by means of analytical bibliography. The identity of printers can be established by their usage of unique printing types, initials and ornaments. By comparing printing materials of known printers to unidentified samples, anonymous works can be ascribed to a certain printer. In seventeenth-century books a decorated initial is often used to start the text. This initial belongs to a certain printer and by comparing different prints of similar initials in detail, small differences may be found. These differences can be caused by damages of the initial concerned, such as small cracks. If these differences are consistent over different prints, one can ascribe certain works to the same printer.

By such research the Amsterdam-based printers Daniel Bakkamude and Herman Aeltsz can be identified as the printers of the two earliest published works of Spinoza. His most famous works, Tractatus Theologico-politicus and Opera Posthuma (including the Ethica), were printed by another Amsterdam-based printer: Israël de Paull (1632-80).

Uncovering Spinoza’s Printers by Means of Bibliographical Research

in Quaerendo



  • 2

    Up to and including those of the year 1677pending our research of other (later) (re)prints of Spinoza’s works.

  • 5

    Vervliet op. cit. (n. 3) p. 4.

  • 7

    Dijstelberge op. cit. (n. 6) pp. 15-16.

  • 8

    Ibid. pp. 15-16.

  • 12

    J. Gerritsen‘Vondel and the new bibliography. Notes towards a new edition of “Unger” ’Hellinga Festschrift / Feestbundel / Mélanges. Forty-three studies in bibliography presented to Prof. Dr. Wytze Hellinga on the occasion of his retirement from the Chair of Neophilology in the University of Amsterdam at the end of the year 1978ed. A.R.A. Croiset van Uchelen (Amsterdam 1980) p. 208.

  • 14

    J. Gerritsen art. cit. (n. 13 1987) p. x.

  • 15

    Ibid. p. x. The differences in the design are more pronounced in wooden letters than in initials that are cast in metal.

  • 16

    P.G. Hoftijzer‘Zo vergaat de roem. Het einde van de Officina Hackiana’Van pen tot laser. 31 opstellen over boek en schrift aangeboden aan Ernst Braches bij zijn afscheid als hoogleraar aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam in oktober van het jaar 1995eds. A.R.A. Croiset van Uchelen & H. van Goinga (Amsterdam 1996) pp. 157-70.

  • 22

    Bamberger art. cit. (n. 1) p. 9.

  • 26

    Colerus op. cit. (n. 25) p. 28. The translation in J. Colerus The life of Benedictus de Spinosa. Done out of French (London D.L. 1706) pp. 55-6 as it happens not quite accurate reads as follows: ‘If we believe the Title Page of that book it was printed at Hamburg by Henry Conrad. But it is certain that the Magistrates and the Reverend Ministers of Hamburg had never permitted that so many impious things shou’d have been printed and publickly sold at their city. There is no doubt but that Book was Printed at Amsterdam by Christopher Conrad. Being sent for to Amsterdam in 1679 for some Business Conrad himself brought me some Copies of that Treatise and presented me with them not knowing that it was a very pernicious Book.’

  • 28

    Bamberger art. cit. (n. 1) p. 12.

  • 30

    Bamberger art. cit. (n. 1) p. 10.

  • 32

    Gerritsen op. cit. (n. 17) p. 251.

  • 33

    Ibid. pp. 256-7.

  • 34

    Ibid. p. 256.

  • 35

    Ibid. p. 256 note 5.

  • 36

    Ibid. op. cit. (n. 17) p. 257.

  • 37

    Gerritsen op. cit. (n. 17) pp. 257-8.

  • 48

    Gerritsen op. cit. (n. 17) p. 257.

  • 52

    Van Eeghen op. cit. (n. 40) pp. 142-3; cf. also her De Amsterdamse boekhandel 1680-1725 vol. V2 (Amsterdam 1978) p. 381.

  • 54

    Van Eeghen op. cit. (n. 40) p. 143.

  • 56

    Van Eeghen op. cit. (n. 40) pp. 142-3.

  • 59

    Gerritsen op. cit. (n. 17) p. 251.

  • 60

    Paul Dijstelberge‘Einde van een speurtocht, begin van een onderzoek’De Boekenwereld29-4 (2013) pp. 91-2.

  • 62

    Gerritsen op. cit. (n. 17) pp. 256-7.

  • 63

    Ibid. p. 257 note 6.

  • 67

    Ibid. p. 141.

  • 68

    Ibid. p. 139.

  • 69

    Nadler op. cit. (n. 24) p. 155.

  • 71

    Nadler op. cit. (n. 24) p. 155.

  • 73

    Colerus op. cit. (n. 25) pp. 150-1.


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