Tag Archives: book market

Three Generations of Book Sales

Snippet from the auction catalogue of Henrik Albert Schultens (1794)

Friday n° 31, May 16th, 2019

In last week’s post I addressed the inaugural lectures delivered by three generations of the Schultens family, Albert Schultens (1686-1750), Jan Jacob Schultens (1716-1778), and Henrik Schultens Albert (1749-1793). As interesting as their family practices in delivering academic speeches, if not more, is another part of their paper legacy although it makes for even more tedious reading, and that is their auction catalogues.

As was common practice, after the death of a scholar the library of the deceased usually went on sale at least partly. Those books the heirs could not put to their own uses were sold, the sale’s proceedings most often being used to support the widows. If the family had a scholarly tradition, the books could also be partly or in full passed on to the next generation(s) who might have an interest in or use for them. In the Schulten’s case, there are auction catalogues available for the libraries of all three family members mentioned above[1] which presents a rare case of completeness in an 18th century context. Moreover there is a fourth additional catalogue,[2] as the library of Albert Hendrik Schultens was bought en bloc by Johann Henrik van der Palm () at the original auction and resold after Palm’s death, making the four catalogues cover almost one century, from 1750 to 1841. So let’s have a look at how they compare to each other and how they fit in with my overall interest in how scholars got forgotten. Only Palm’s catalogue will be left out today, as Palm was not a Schulten’s family member (but this does of course not mean it will not be considered later on!).

Book sales in figures

A cautionary note beforehand: The books listed in an auction catalogue under a scholar’s name may not be taken to have belonged to or have constituted the full library of the deceased at face value. For on the one hand the auctioneer might slip leftovers from his other auctions into the catalogue unmentioned, hoping to finally sell them off, especially if the scholar’s name was likely to attract many customers to an auction, so that there might be more in it than the original library contents. On the other hand, the heirs or the deceased might already have given away books to persons or institutions before the auction, or selected them for their own keeping, which would prevent them from appear in the catalogue, so that there might be less in it than the original library contents. While it is not possible to trace ownership of a particular book to a particular scholar this way directly and definitely, it gives a good indication of the likely overall composition of his library and offers some reason to claim or postulate that he had a copy of a listed title, which then should – if possible – be backed up by other evidence or reasoning.

But now to the catalogues. First of all, let’s have a sober and boring comparison of their main characteristics – how many titles do they feature, and how are these distributed among formats?

Albert Schultens 1750 Jan Jacob Schultens 1780 Henrik Albert Schultens 1794
Folio 413 Folio 1.130 [M: 8] Folio 287
Quarto 865 Quarto 3.859 [M: 37] Quarto 1.012
Octavo 862 Octavo 7.022 [M: 72] Octavo & smaller 1.719
Duodecimo 196    
Unspecified 8    
  Manuscripts [117] Manuscripts 62
Total 2.344 Total 12.011 Total 3.080

Overall, these are quite comparable figures. That the auction catalogue of Albert Schultens contains the smallest number of titles is easily explained by only a part of Schultens’s library being auctioned off. His son, Jan Jacob Schultens, would have inherited the rest, which also partly explains why the total figures in his catalogue are so high compared to the others. Closer scrutiny of Jan Jacob Schultens’s library’s auction catalogue would help to estimate a rough figure of the overall size of Albert Schultens’s library, but this I have not done yet. Henrik Albert Schultens does seem to have owned fewer books as his father and grandfather, but still had a well-stocked library at his disposal. His auction catalogue also does reveal that there had been a substantial carryover between his father’s books and those in his library, so that the 12.000 items of Jan Jacob Schultens’s library still underestimate the total size of his collection. And while I’m talking of underestimating, please don’t equate the number of catalogue items with the actual number of books on the shelves, which was much higher. A title might come in several volumes which would all be offered as one item to buyers, especially if it was a journal, in which case a single title might stand in for dozens of annual volumes. Those people owned many books, and they had to. Public and institutional library systems were quite underdeveloped compared to today, and interlibrary loans and online available digitized copies where not there yet.

Family library traditions

This also explains why the passing on of books between generations was important for scholars. When your private library constituted the main resource of literature you would be able to put to use in your research, the passing on of books constituted a direct transfer of scholarly capabilities, especially in cases of original research notes, manuscripts, and annotated volumes. There is one thing to be kept in mind, though, when thinking of such transfers, and that is their timing. It would be wrong to assume that these transfers would only take place in form of bequests, because this would have been a solution quite impractical for the purposes of furthering family member’s careers. A son could hardly only start his own career at his father’s death because of waiting to inherit the paternal library. As soon as a scholar’s children would start out scholarly careers, they would need their own libraries, and would ideally built them up and collect books over the whole course of their lives. Especially when family members worked in the same scientific fields – as all three Schultens’s did, being Philologists concerned with ‘Oriental languages’ and theology – this would lead to parallel developments in the individual collections, which would end up in a lot of doublings and functional redundancies after an actual inheritance if the decedent just passed on everything. So it made good sense to sell off what was not needed anymore and only keep what would really enhance your scientific resource base once death bereaved you of a relative. And that is precisely what the Schultens’s did over three generations upon closer inspections of the auction catalogues they left behind.

Passing on and discarding

So what did the Schultens’s pass on, and what not? And how does this relate to my four protagonists and the processes in which they got structurally forgotten? Interestingly, both questions can be preliminarily answered by the same approach, and that is, having a look at works by my protagonists in those catalogues. Beginning with Albert Schultens’s library, it is readily apparent that no manuscripts went on sale, neither by him nor by others. Moreover, quite a few works by Adriaan Reland ended up in the sales pile.[3] This might now either indicate that they were of no use for his son Jan Jacob Schultens and thus discarded from the family libraries, or that he owned them already and they were sold as duplicates. Usually this is as far as interpretation of auction catalogues can be taken because nothing much is known about the inheritor, but in this case it is, and as I will explain shortly, this leads me to conclude that here Reland’s works were indeed sold off to avoid duplications. But first of all let’s finish with Albert Schultens. What about works by my other three protagonists? Thomas Gale can be easily dealt with as there are no books by him in Schultens’s auction catalogue; what this means I’ll speculate on later on. There were, however, one book by Eusèbe Renaudot[4] and two books by Johannes Braun.[5] These were the staples, so to say, Renaudot represented by his “Liturgiarum Orientalium collection” and Braun by his “Doctrina foederum” and his “Selecta Sacra”. But as Schultens had been a pupil of Braun at Groningen before moving on to Reland’s direction at Utrecht, one might think that there should be more of Braun’s works on the list. At first appearance, this seems to confirm what I already presumed in an earlier post about Schultens’s closer scholarly relation to Reland than to Braun. But before leaping to conclusions let’s first have a look at the other two Schultens’s libraries.

The library of Jan Jacob Schultens was, at least if judged by the catalogue’s title page, sold in its entirety – with over 12.000 items on the list this seems quite likely. A comparison to the auction catalogue of his father’s books now reveals some interesting details. While a substantial amount of manuscripts was sold, none were by his or his father’s hand. And judging by the number of Reland titles listed I now feel entitled to assume that those five titles sold in the auction of his father’s books were just double – now there were no less than 19 items by Reland himself plus two to which he significantly contributed on the list.[6] This is not only an impressive list in itself but it moreover again points to Jan Jacob Schultens taking over literature most likely acquired originally by his father. Listed as Octavo items n° 1287 and 1288 are two very early treatises published by Reland in 1696, “de Symbolo Mohammedico Non est Deus nisi unus, pro S. S. Trinitate” and “de consensu Mohammedanismi & Judaismi”. As these were student’s theses – Reland had been only twenty years old at the time and had not yet finished his studies – which would have only been printed in very small runs and only have had experienced limited circulation, they would likely have been hard to get by in Jan Jacob’s time. The best explanation for these treatises ending up between his books thus is that he got them from his father, who himself might have directly got them from the author.

Now looking to my other protagonists the emerging picture is quite similar. There are five works by Johannes Braun listed plus one directly referring to him,[7] and from these five it becomes clear that those which were sold in the auction of Albert Schultens’s library – “Doctrina foederum” and “Selecta Sacra” – had duplicates in Jan Jacob Schultens’s library already. It still points to the family being much more concerned with Reland than with Braun. Although, to be fair, I have to point out that Braun had published considerably less than Reland had, so that a larger share of his total oeuvre was found in Jan Jacob Schultens’s library nevertheless.

For Thomas Gale, Jan Jacob’s auction catalogue marks the only point in which he appears in the Schultens’s bibliographical records considered here. Four of his works are to be found dispersed over four categories,[8] but offer no indication whether they had been procured by Albert Schultens or by his son. And Eusèbe Renaudot comes in last of the four, with two works on the list,[9] revealing the “Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio” copy of Albert Schultens to have been a duplicate also.

Manuscripts and family

Now turning to the last of the three professors Schultens, Henrik Albert Schultens, and the auction catalogue of his library from the year 1794, in which it does not become entirely clear if it really encompassed all of his books. It does not give any other indication, so I’ll assume it to be the case until corrected by better evidence. The catalogue is digitized in two versions, one heavily annotated (digitally available by the KB The Hague) and one without any manual entries (by Harvard University via Hathi Trust). Both however share the same printed text. This text now testifies to a number of interesting things, given the fact that at least 12.000 volumes of Schultens’s books had been sold only fourteen years earlier.

The first of this is the still quite high number of Reland volumes, including – among others – the two early treatises, which by this time were almost a century old.[10] In total, his library still contained 15 titles by Adriaan Reland, and five of these are especially interesting because they in turn contained manuscript annotations by his father or grandfather, in some cases even of both.[11]  Moreover Henrik Albert Schultens’s collection contained seven manuscript volumes on Reland’s text by different authors.[12] It contained not a volume by Gale or Renaudot, though, and only one by Braun.[13]

What does this say about family, scholarship, and forgetting?

The Schultens’s family of scholars obviously followed a strategy of keeping a certain strand of books in the possession of the family members for three generations and half a century, regardless of which other books they sold on the way. These were those volumes which were deemed necessary for their own research, which mainly centred on Arabic philology, and this obviously was the case with Reland’s works, and most of all with those into which former generations of the family had inserted notes. Yet Reland was not the only scholar treated this way; the works of Thomas Erpenius () were treated quite the same, perhaps even more heavily annotated. While the professors Schultens owned volumes by Renaudot, Gale, and Braun, they discarded them on their way through the academic system(s) of their time(s), something which they did not do with those of Reland, although their founding father Albert Schultens had been a pupil of both Reland and Braun. In this family, three of my four protagonists were structurally forgotten as the 18th century ended, but one was still cherished and remembered. Now the next task is figuring out why.


[1] 1) Anon.: Pars Bibliothecae Schultensianae, Continens libros nitidissime compactos in quibus excellunt biblia, patres graeci et latini, commentatores, theologi, philologi, hebraei, orientales, auctores gr. et lat. antiquarii, numismatici, historici, litteratores, aliique miscellanei, livres francois [sic], en nederduitsche boeken. Quos collegit vir clarissimus Albertus Schultens […]. Accedunt Appendices duae […] quos A. v. D. emit ex bibliotheca Thomsiana non solvit, & secundum conditionem venduntur. Quorum Auctio fiet in Officina Luchtmanniana. Ad diem Lunae 19. Octobris & seqq. diebus 1750, Leiden: Luchtmans 1750.

2) Anon: Bibliotheca Schultensiana, sive catalogus librorum quos collegit vir clarissimus Johannes Jacobus Schultensius, Th. Doct., Theologie et linguarum orientalium professor in academia Batava, collegii theologici regens primarius, et interpres manuscriptorum legati Warneriani. Qui publica auctione vendentur per Henricum Mostert, Die Lunae 18. Septembris & seqq. 1780, Leiden: Mostert 1780.

3) Catalogus Bibliothecae, quam relinquit Henricus Albertus Schultens, A. M. Ling. O.O. et Antt. Jud., in Academia Batava, professor ordinarius; et legati Warneriani interpres. Cujus publica fiet distractio in aedibus Defuncti, ad diem 27. Mensis Octobris & seqq. Anni 1794, Leiden: Honkoop 1794.  

[2] Catalogus librorum ac manuscriptorum bibliothecae Schultensianae, qua, dum in vivis erat, usus est Joh. Henr. van der Palm, Lit. orient., Antiqq. Hebr. et Oratiae sacrae in Acad Lugd. Bat. prof. ordin. etc. Accedit ejusdem viri clarissimi appendix librorum ac manuscriptorum similis argumenti. Quorum omnium publica fiet auctio, Lugduni Batavorum, in aedibus defuncti. Die 20, sqq. m. Aprilis A. MDCCCXLI. Per S. et J. Luchtmans, Academiae Typographos, et D. du Mortier et filium. Libri, in aedibus Defuncti, diebus 16 et 17 Aprilis, ab hora 10 matutinâ ad 3 pomeridianum, cuivis inspiciendi patebunt, Leiden: Luchtmans/du Mortier 1841.

[3] Anon.: Pars Bibliothecae Schultensianae, Leiden 1750, p. 22: « 223 H. Relandi Palaestina ex monumentibus veteribus illustrata, Ultr. 1714. 2 tom. 1 vol. », filed under « Philologi, Hebraei aliique Orientales in Quarto » ; p. 47:  « 113 H. Reland de Spoliis Templi Hierosolymitani in arcu Titiano, Ultr. 1716. 114 — Antiquitates Judaicae edente J. E. Ravio, Herb. 1741. 115 — Dissertationes Miscellaneae, Ultr. 1706. 2 tom. 1 v. 116 — Dissertationes Miscellaneae, ibid 1708. pars 3. », all filed under « Philologi Hebraei aliique Orientales in Octavo”;

[4] Anon.: Pars Bibliothecae Schultensianae, Leiden 1750, p. 26: “336 E. Renaudotii Collectio Liturgiarum Orientalium, Paris. 1716. 2 vol. more gallico”, filed under “Philologi, Hebraei aliique Orientales in Quarto”.

[5] Anon.: Pars Bibliothecae Schultensianae, Leiden 1750, p. 19: « 131 J. Braunii Doctrina Foederum, Amst. 1688. 132 — Selecta sacra, ibid 1700“, filed under “Biblia, Patres, Comment. aliiq. Theol. in Quarto”.

[6] Anon: Bibliotheca Schultensiana, Leiden 1780: S. 50 [.] “98 H.R. (H.Relandi) Elenchus philologicus, quo praecipus, quae circa textum & versiones S. S. disputari solent, breviter indicantur, L. B. 1755”, filed under “Isagogici, Hermeneutici, Critici, in Octavo”; p. 81: “782 H. Relandi Dissertationes miscellaneae, 3 tom. 2 vol., Traj. 1706”, and p. 82:  “790 Parerga Sacra seu Interpretatio quorundam textuum N. T. (cum praef. Hadr. Relandi), Traj. 1708”, both filed under “Diss. & Obs. Variae ad Phil. & Exeg. Sac., in Octavo”; p. 132: « 1287 Adr. Reland de Symbolo Mohammedico Non est Deus nisi unus, pro S. S. Trinitate, Traj. 1696. 1288 — de consensu Mohammedanismi & Judaismi, ibid 1696“, filed under „Theol. Gent. Mohamm. & Jud. in Quarto » ; p. 205 : “1876 Ad. Relandus de Religione Mohammedica, Ultr. 1735 l.g. 1877 La Religion des Mahometans tire du Latin de M. Reland, a la Haye 1721. 1878 Adr. Reland van den Godsdienst der Mahometaanen/ Utr. 1718 », filed under « Theologiae Mohammedicae fontes, Vindices, Oppugnatores”; p. 269 : « 1788 H. Relandi Palaestina ex Monumentis veteribus illustrata, Ultr. 1714 2 vol. », p. 273 : « 1862 Hadr. Relandi Antiquitates Sacrae, Traj. 1741 », and p. 275: “1901 Joh. Conr. Hottingerus de Decimis Judaeorum cum Hadr. Relandi Epistola ad Auctorem, L. Bat. 1713”, all three filed under “Historia & Antiquitates Judaicae, in Quarto”; p. 281: “3214 Hadr. Relandi Antiquitates Sacrae Veterum Hebraeorum, Traj. ad Rh. 1708”, p. 283: “3252 Hadr. Relandus de Spoliis Templi Hierosolymitani cura Hrn. Aug. Schulze, Traj ad Rh. 1775 c.f.”, p. 284: “3279 Adr. Relandus de Nummis Veterum Hebraeorum, Traj. ad Rh. 1709. – Idem de Spoliis Templi Hierosolymitani, ibid. 1716. 3280 — Lettre au Comte de Kniphuisen », all five filed under « Historia & Antiquitates Judaicae, in Octavo”; p. 312: „3361 Had. Relandi Oratio de Galli cantu Hierosolymis audito, Roter. 1709“, filed under „Vita Christi & Apostolorum, & Hist. Eccles. Recentior » ; p. 396: “4368 P. & Hadr. Relandi Fasti Consulares, Traj. Batav. 1715, l.g.”, filed under: “Antiquarii & Numismatici, in Octavo”; p. 449: “4977 Hadr. Relandi Galatea, Traj. ad. Rh. 1710 – Paraphrases Horatianae elegiaco carmine, Amst. 1715. -Odae quaefam Horatianae in aliud carminis genus conversae, ibid. 1714. – Sam. Munckeri Artis Poëticae Periculum, Goud. 1688. – Rymproeve in allerhaande styl en stoffe/ gedaan door Sam. Muncherus/ ibid. 1688. I. ii.” bound together in one volume, filed under “Poëtae Recentiores”; p. 470: “5342 Borhaneddini Enchiridion Studiosi Ar. & Lat. ed. ab H. Relando, Ultr. 1709. », filed under « Paroemiogr., Mythogr., Embl. Satyr. &c., in Octavo » ;  p. 487 : « 3143 Epicteti Manuale & Sententiae ut & Cebetis Tabula Gr. & Lat. cura Hadr. Relandi, Traj. Bat. 1711 l. b. », filed under « Philosophi Veteres & Recentiores, in Quarto » ; p. 531 : « 3549 Adr. Relandi Oratio pro Lingua Persica, & Cognatis Literis Orientalibus, Traj. 1701. l. b. », filed under « Gramm. & Lexicogr. Ling. Orient., in Quarto » ; p. 553 : « 6265 Hadr. Relandi Analecta Rabbinica, Ultr. 1723. l. b. », filed under « Gramm. & Lexicogr. Ling. Orient., in Octavo”.

[7] Anon: Bibliotheca Schultensiana, Leiden 1780: p. 43: “540 J. Braunius in Ep. ad Hebraeos, Amst. 1750”, filed under “Commentatores in Quarto”; p. 46: “605 J. Braunii selecta sacra, Amst. 1700”, filed under “Diss. & Variae Observ. ad Phil. & Exeg. Sac., in Quarto”; p. 64: “413 Dan. Flud a Giffen Epistola as Jo. Braunium de Loco Ezech. VIII. 14., Amst. 1686”, filed under “Commentatores in Octavo”; p. 114: “949 Jo. Braunii Doctrina Foederum, Amst. 1688”, filed under “Integra Systemata Doctrina Theologicae, in Quarto”; p. 374: “1888 Jo. Braunius de Vestitu Sacerdotum Hebraeorum, Amst. 1680 l. b. cum fig.“, filed under „Historia & Antiquitates Judaicae, in Quarto”; p. 586: “3750 Jo. Braunii Doctrina Foederum, Amst. 1691 (cum charta pura & notis MSS.)”, filed under “Libri Omissi, in Quarto”.

[8] Anon: Bibliotheca Schultensiana, Leiden 1780: p. 354: “2278 Antonini Iter Britanniarum, curante Thom. Gale, Lond. 1709. l. b.”, filed under “Chronologi, Geographi, & Historiae Universae Scriptores Recentiores”; p. 407: “4486 Rhetores Graeci Selecti Gr. & Lat. cura Th. Gale, Oxon. 1676, l. b.”, filed under “Oratores Veteres Gr. & Lat., in Octavo”; p. 441: “4811 Historiae Poëticae Scriptores Antiqui Graeci gr. & lat. cura Thom. Gale, Paris. 1575 [sic,=1675] l. b.”, filed under “Poëtae Vet. Graeci, Latini & Orientales, in Octavo”; p. 484: “935 Jamblichus de Mysteriis Gr. & Lat. cura Thom. Gale, Oxon. 1678. l. b.”, filed under “Philosophi Veteres & Recentiores, in Folio”.

[9] Anon: Bibliotheca Schultensiana, Leiden 1780: p. 308 : « 2228 Eus. Renaudotii Liturgiarum Orientalium Collectio, Paris, 1716. l. g.“, and p. 309: “2238 Euseb. Renaudotii Historia Patriarcharum Alexandrinorum Jacobitarum, Paris. 1713. l. a.”, both filed under “Historia Ecclesiae Orientalis ».

[10] Catalogus Bibliothecae, quam relinquit Henricus Albertus Schultens, Leiden 1794: p. 54: « 300 A. Reland de Consensu Mohammedanismi & Judaismi, Ultr. 1696. 301 — de Symbolo Mohammedico: Non est Deus nisi Unus, ibid. 1696. », both filed under « Theol. Moh. Jud. rec. fontes, &c. in Quarto ».

[11] Catalogus Bibliothecae, quam relinquit Henricus Albertus Schultens, Leiden 1794: p. 20: « 153 H. R. (Relandi) Elenchus Philologicus, quo praecipua, quae circa textum & versiones SS. disputari solent, breviter indicantur, L. B. 1755 (cum notis MSS J.J.S) 154 Idem libellus. Accedunt S. R. (Ravii) Positiones Philologicae controversae, in usum Disputationis privatae, Ultr. 1753 » both filed unter « Isagogici, Critici, Hermeneutici in Octavo »; p. 36: 275 H. Relandi Oratio de galli cantu Hierosolymis audito, Roter. 1709, filed under « Commentatores, in Octavo »; p. 41: « 318 H. Relandi Dissertationes Miscellaneae, Ultr. 1706 3 voll. », filed under « Variae Obs. ad. Phil. & Exeg. Sacr., in Octavo » ; p. 54, « 300 A. Reland de Consensu Mohammedanismi & Judaismi, Ultr. 1696. 301 — de Symbolo Mohammedico: Non est Deus nisi Unus, ibid. 1696 » (see note 10); p. 56: « 454 H. Relandus de Mohammedica, Ultr. 1717. (Nonnulla adscripsit J. J. S.) », filed under « Theol. Moh. Jud. rec. fontes, &c. in Quarto” ; p. 70: “579 Borhaneddini Enchiridion studiosi, Arab. & Lat., cura H. Relandi, Traj. 1709 (cum notis Mss A. S.) 580 Idem liber, (cum emendationibus Mss. H. A. S.) Accedis Relandi liber de Spoliis templi Hierosolymitani, ibid. 1716. cum fig. », both filed under « Philosophi veteres & recentiores, in Octavo”; p. 86 :  « 529 Adr. Relandi Oratio pro Lingua Persica, & Cognatis Literis Orientalibus, Traj. 1701. l. b. », filed under « Gramm. & Lexicogr. Ling. Orient., in Quarto»; p. 92: « 758 Hadr. Relandi Analecta Rabbinica, Ultr. 1723. l. b. », field under “Gramm. & Lexicogr. Ling. Orient., in Quarto »; p. 159:  “836 Hadr. Relandi Antiquitates Sacrae Veterum Hebraeorum, Ultr. 1741. (cum notis Mss. J. J. S.)”, p. 162: “1487 H. Relandi Antiquitates Sacrae, cum notis J. E. Ravii, Herborn. 1743”, , filed under “Antiquarii, in Quarto”; p. 168: “1557 Adr. Relandi Dissertatio de Marmoribus Arabicis Puteolanis, & Nummo Arab. Constantini Pogonati, Amst. 1704. Lettre de M. Reland a M. le Comte de Kniphuisen, sur une piece d’or trouvée dans ses terres, Utr. 1713. avec fig. 1558 — de Inscriptione Nummorum quorundam Samaritanorum, Amst. 1702, 2 tomi 1 vol. », both filed under « Numism., Inscript., Marm., &c. in Octavo. »

[12] Catalogus Bibliothecae, quam relinquit Henricus Albertus Schultens, Leiden 1794: p. 190: « 52 A. Schultens Dictata ad Relandi antiquitates Hebraicas. 53 — Praelectiones ad Selecta quaedam Philologiae S. capita. 54 — Commentarius ad Relandi Antiquitates Hebraeas. 2 voll. (Autographum Auctoris)“, filed under „Apographa Cod. M. S. S. Orient ab Eur. Facta » ; p. 191: « 55 C. Ikenii Commentarius ad Relandi Antiquitates Hebraeorum, descriptus manu D. Hackmanni. 2 voll. 4°. 56 W. Koolhaas Dictata in C. Ikenii Antiquitates Hebraicas. 4°. 57 D. Millii Dictata in Ikenii Antiquitates Hebraicas. 4°. 58 J. J. Schultensii Dictata ad Relandi Antiquitates Hebraicas. Pars II. 4°“, all filed under „Praelection. Academ., aliique nostrat. libri Mss.“

[13] Catalogus Bibliothecae, quam relinquit Henricus Albertus Schultens, Leiden 1794: p. 37: “216 Jo. Braunii Selecta Sacra, Amst. 1700“, filed under „Variae Obs. ad. Phil. & Exeg. Sacr., in Quarto”.

Second-hand Science

Mears, William, Auction Catalogue (title page snippet) (1723)

 

 

 

 

 

Friday No. 8, November 30th, 2018

The early modern academic book is a used book. Of course new books were printed and put onthe market always and everywhere. But long is art, and life is short, and books frequently outlive their owners. In the 18th century this created a market which lived off second-, third-, fourth, x-th hand books which were sold and resold every so often: when their owners died, or when they were in especially dire need for money; when libraries where confiscated or scattered in war, revolution, or as punishment. And on the whole this market was rather larger than that for new books. The early modern printed book was a commodity made to endure and as such had a very long commercial lifecycle.

This is hardly a new insight, and a lot has already been said about used-book markets and practices (see the Book History and Print Culture Network). Now, apart from a few collectors who bought books just for the sake of collecting, most of these changes of hand of early modern academic books took place for reasons of research and teaching.They were bought because they were needed. Even though they were sold second-or-more-hand, these volumes were still costly items, and the average scholar did not buy them without good reason. So I may assume that if a book changed hands there possibly also was an intellectual reason behind this economic transaction.  

The Second-hand thesis

This means that ideas, notions, names and theories can not only travel openly by citationand quotation but also in a more hidden way along with the books they are contained in. In theory this opens new avenues for my quest to research processes of forgetting within science and learning, for the circulation of an author’s books might provide at least an indicator of his after-death impact.

Four first-hand problems

Practically this poses a whole bunch of new challenges to the project:

  • Figuring out how such indirect clues relate to direct ones and how they can be measured against each other. For it seems intuitively plausible that citing or quoting a scholar directly is stronger evidence of this scholar being structurally remembered than having a scholar’s book somewhere deep down in one’s library.
  • Coming to terms with indirect clues which can be directly referred to an individual person as well as indirect clues which are generic by their very nature. The difference is that of, say, the auction catalogue of a late owner’s library, which allows to ascribe the featured books to this owning individual, and the auction catalogue of the annual grand sale of a bookshop or store which gives no indication of the provenance of the volumes listed.
  • Accounting for the difference between books I know from such sources as the above-mentioned auction catalogues to have been offered for sale and books which I happen to know of being actually sold, and factoring this into the measure of ‘indirectness’ of the clue this gives me about the work in question being in circulation. Now this point mightseem to raise an issue a bit hair-splittingly, but it really poses a serious problem. Normally all that is left of such transactions are the auction catalogues some of which have survived – only a tiny fraction of those thereonce were, but that’s the same as with other sources. The problem is that these catalogues do allow me only to establish that at the time the sale was announced these books had been in the possession of the deceased or were in the possession of the offering entrepreneur. They normally do not allow to make any inference whether the books actually were sold at this event. Sometimes the catalogues carry annotations of certain items being underlined, check marked, or added prices which may point to someone at least being interested in buying them, but these are only very rarely conclusive evidence. So the question is, what happened to the leftovers? Were they sold off at a discount, given away, scrapped, recycled, or kept? For it would it certainly make a difference in estimating the value of an author’s name if the books announced under this name all sold highly after being battled over at the auction, or if they were all taken to the paper mill afterwards. (Which is quite unlikely unless indicated very clearly, to be honest, but to illustrate the possible spread let’s just assume it for the sake of argument).

    Mears 1723, p. 25

  • And, last but surely not least, how can the data to be drawn from the catalogues be integrated into my co-citation approach to the framing of bygone epistemic communities? For normally these catalogues do not just list some thousand books one after the other but structure their content in a manner accessible to the potential buyers, and that is, by formal criteria on the one hand (format, features, and condition) and by contextual criteria on the other hand, so that a rubric would read “Libri Miscellanei & Juridici, Octavo”[1]or “Theologici in quarto” for instance. But should I then add all other books from that rubric as being co-cited with, say, Johannes Braun’s “Vestitus sacerdotum Hebraeorum” of 1680 which might be found in the latter category?[2] This might seem an obvious choice, but unfortunately it is utterly impracticable because of the sheer number of entries I would have to process then. Should I, then, restrict myself to only recording those works appearing on the same page as, for instance, Adrien Reland’s “De religione mahomedica”, 2nd edition 1717[3] (see picture) as I would do for citations/quotations in a text? This might give a compromised picture because such rubrics tend to have an inner order – some reproducing that of the library’s former owner (which would be a good thing), some ordering the volumes alphabetically to facilitate browsing, or ranked by estimated value or anything else. So a consistent method might give me inconsistent results if I cannot process an amount of data large enough to even out such imbalances statistically.

So what to do now?

Already a while ago I tracked references to my protagonists in those auction cataloguesonline available via Eighteenth Century Collections Online. This provided me with a quite special sample because it is very much Britain-centred, but as the United Kingdom imported vast quantities of second-hand academic books from the continent during the 18th century, this is really not so bad at all. Here are the graphs for the frequencies I was able to establish for Adrien Reland and Johannes Braun through 81 catalogues between 1723 and 1796.

Reland’s books in the ECCO sample

Braun’s books in the ECCO sample

 

This surely looks nice, and it interestingly tells a story completely different (from what I know so far) from that told by the pattern of references to my protagonists in scholarly journals. To put it shortly, as the journal references decline, the mentions in auction catalogues rise. But what does that mean? Does it point to their ideas being in circulation through their circulating books even after they went out of fashion in the rather short-lived business of academic journalism? Or does it rather tell that as the authors went out of fashion in the journals, so did their books, being put on the second-hand market in something like a grand sell-out with a little delay?

This depends much on the answers I find to my four problems posed above, so I guess it’s fair to say that until now, this is still an open question. One hint might be that of the 81 relevant catalogues from between 1723-1796 I found, 56 may be counted as commercial, and 25 as owner-based (and 5 of these really are no sales catalogues but presence library catalogues and should only with care be included in the calculations). So what I have here is a very indirect picture – one that still has to be unravelled.


[1] Mears, William (seller): A catalogue of books in Greek, Latin, English, Italian, and French. Being a collection of trade, […] to be sold on Wednesday the 15th of this instant May, 1723, at W. Mear’s shop, the Lamb without Temple Bar; at Nine of the Clock in the Morning, [London]: n.p., [1723], p. 25.

[2] Johannes Braun: Bigdê kohanîm id est, Vestitus sacerdotum Hebræorum, sive Commentarius amplissimus in Exodi cap. XXVIII, ac XXIX. & Levit. cap. XVI., 2 vols., Leiden: Elzevier, Doude 1680.

[3] Adrien Reland: De religione mohammedica libri duo, 2 vols., 2nd enlarged edition, Utrecht: Broedelet 1717.