Amsterdam as a haven

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch Republic, headed by the city of Amsterdam, was one of the few places in Europe to enjoy a considerable amount of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Scholars from all over Europe sent their manuscripts to the Republic because of that renowned freedom (and because of the quality of the printing).  The French philosophe Jean-Baptiste d’Argens for instance wrote that all of Europe was beholden to the Dutch Republic because the works of great minds could be printed there. The German mystic Jacob Böhme, a philosopher who advocated religious toleration was regarded as a heretic by the pastor of his home town and was banned from publishing for the rest of his life. His works were first printed in Amsterdam – and also translated into Dutch – by the Amsterdam merchant Abraham Willemsz van Beyerland. This ‘wise merchant’ also translated the Corpus Hermeticum, which was no coincidence. The great Czech reformer Jan Amos Comenius regarded Amsterdam as the ideal seat for his College of the Light, an international council of wise men to promote humane qualities in men. It was in Amsterdam that Comenius, who found a patron in the De Geer family, finally published his blueprint for an ideal pansophic society: Via lucis or The Way of the Light. Hermetic, alchemical, mystical and kabbalistic printed  works: many of them bear the name of Amsterdam in the imprint on the title page.