This article analyses the censorship and patronage of De Boekzaal van Europe, the first learned periodical in the Dutch language. Printed in Rotterdam between 1692 and 1701, Pieter Rabus (1660–1702), the editor of this journal, attempted to convey heterodox ideas and perspectives to his audience. The orthodox Reformed authorities of Rotterdam perceived the dissemination of novel ideas to a lay public as a threat and consequently attempted to censor and suppress the journal. In the 1690s, the censorship attempts of Rotterdam’s consistory usually succeeded, but failed in the case of the Boekzaal, about which they had objected the most frequently to the civic government.
There is considerable academic literature on censorship and clandestine printing, but studies on patronage and book dedications in the early modern Dutch book printing industry are scarce. Therefore, this article aims to provide a clear case of how patronage could be effectively utilised to escape censorship. By devising an influential network and a successful editorial strategy, Rabus was able to manoeuvre around the edges of tolerated public discourse. Ever since his first publication, a celebratory poem on the Peace of Nijmegen in 1678, Rabus had sought the support of the most influential regents of Rotterdam. In 1698, when his journal was faced with the most severe threat of cancellation, Rabus carefully crafted the Boekzaal into a journal tailored to the Rotterdammers in seats of power. Rather than changing his controversial ideas on superstition, and thereby forfeiting his intellectual integrity to the Reformed authorities, Rabus dedicated his new editions to the burgomasters and city secretaries of Rotterdam and wrote personalised book reviews for their tastes. Thus, Rabus captured the benevolence of the city magistrates, and the ecclesiastical censorship of his journal was lifted.