Venice, for a long time the first editorial production centre in Europe, suffered Roman censorship restrictions with anything but a passive attitude. The negotiations through which the Venetian government accepted Roman censorship practices were long and laborious, marked sometimes by harsh jurisdictional battles. This well-known confrontation can clearly be reconstructed through historiography. But this essay focuses on the types of structures controlling book circulation in Venice, using the city as a case study to analyse the effectiveness and limitations of censorship, ways to bypass it, clandestine practices, and successes and failures of control networks. The picture that emerges is that of a lively underground market, often remaining unintimidated by the Holy Office, a market which – thanks to the sometimes open and sometimes pragmatically hidden governmental support – allowed the city to survive as a centre of cultural consumption, while progressively losing its centrality in the world of production.