Illegal reprinting of work by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
inv.no. 5075-14260, 17 November 1762, deed no. 140
Amsterdam was a European center for book printing in the 17th and 18th centuries. French books were printed in great numbers. What was banned in France appeared in Amsterdam. In those books new ideas were exposed which, in the end, would lead to drastic changes in France. Descartes, Pascal, Bayle, Voltaire, Diderot, de Montesquieu and Rousseau all published their work in Amsterdam first.
Marc Michel Reij, a descendant of the Huguenots who had fled to Geneva, established himself in Amsterdam in 1746 as a book dealer and printer on the Kalverstraat. He became famous thanks for his first publications of the work of Jean Jacques Rousseau in the 1760s. He also befriended Rousseau who was a witness at the baptism of one of his children.
On 17 November 1762, Reij testified, with two other witnesses, before notary Hendrik Daniël van Hoorn. On the statement was written “for the chief officer”, which meant that legal action was going to follow. The gentlemen stated that on 4 November, between 2.30 and 3.00pm, they had purchased three books by Rousseau from book dealer Johan Hendrik Schneider on the Kalverstraat: ‘Du Contract Social’, ‘La nouvelle Héloïse’ and the ‘Oeuvres Diverses’.
On the title pages it is indicated that these books were printed by Marc Michel Reij. However, this is not so. They are illegal prints/copies. Reij subsequently showed the entitlement he had obtained from the State of Holland and West Friesland to publish two of the three books.
In those days, if you wished to begin a lawsuit in the Netherlands, you would usually have to testify before a notary about the offense in question. Whether or not this particular testimony led to a case against Schneider is not known.