Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Never a time machine when you need one....

 Amsterdam in the seventeenth century was a city of bookshops.  There were at the time as many as four hundred establishments dedicated to spreading the printed word.  Under the tolerant eye of the civil authorities, authors from across Europe sent their wares to Holland for publication, and, as a result, Dutch publishers outproduced their continental rivals in several languages.  An important part of the Amsterdam adventure for intellectual visitors as diverse as Leibniz and John Locke, was a visit to one or more of the city's bookshops, where one had the opportunity not just to browse the aisles for contraband literature, but also to sniff out new ideas among the freewheeling bibliophiles, who with the stimulus of coffee and Dutch-made pipes—for smoking had become a national sport— would while the afternoon away discussing novel theories, plotting revolution, and bantering about the latest developments in the republic of letter.

-Matthew Stewart, The Courtier and the Heretic:  Leibniz, Spinoza, and the fate of God in the Modern World

No comments:

Post a Comment