Tag Archives: Manuscripts

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”.

Ghost Edges and References

Snippet from the Acta Eruditorum, June 1711 issue, p. 269.

Friday n° 29, April 25th, 2019

If being remembered or forgotten is a function of reference frequency, of circulating information, an obvious conclusion seems to be that if you want to be remembered, you yourself should start circulating information lest you get forgotten. In scholarly contexts, this basically means spreading the word about what one is doing or has produced. This might in turn trigger references to you and your publications, discoveries, theories or other achievements which in turn might provide starting points for other references. Self-advertisement, for this and other, more directly visible reasons, has been and is part and parcel of academic communication. In network analysis, the reasons why such attempts at self-promotion were successful or not is often explained or even predicted by the structural features of the individual’s networks.

Shadowy networks

But what about the networks we are only partially able to reconstruct because of source loss? In some cases, I know that there were connections but can’t say much more about depth and nature of these connections because the source documents necessary to judge this have been lost. Any network reconstructed under such circumstances will be distorted, because the parts of it traces of which have survived as documents will be privileged over those parts where this is not the case. So what to do with the parts of the network which can only be traced as shadows, as ghosts of nodes and edges that once were?

Self-advertisement, done successfully

Let me start with a small piece of circumstantial evidence with throws one such ghost edge in my network of letters into sharper relief. In June 1711, the Acta Eruditorum published a small piece of seven pages titled “On the manuscript commentary of Blessed Jerome which exists in the library of Marcus Meibom in Amsterdam”.[1] Most of the text was composed of excerpts from the manuscript in question, but ahead of this the editorial board of the Acta Eruditorum lost a few words on how they got the paper in form of a short introduction:

“Lately the illustrious Adriaan Reland whom we already have given honourable mention in these Acta more than once has sent us some excerpts from a manuscript commentary on Job by [St.] Jerome, whishing them to be included in our Acta with the intention that scholars may by this specimen pass judgment on whether it is a genuine work by Jerome or not.”[2]  

[Mencke]: De b[eati] Hieronymi commentario m[anu]s[cri]pto in Jobum, AE 30, June 1711, p. 269.

This passage now not only fits in quite well with my overall framework of references and their valorisation in scholarly circles. It also explicitly states what I – based on studies such as that of Huub Laeven on the networks of Otto Mencke (1644–1707) and his son Johann Burchard Mencke (1674–1732), the successive editors of the Acta Eruditorum[3] – already had suspected: that either Mencke sr. or jr., or both, were in direct correspondence with Reland. Until now I just had no tangible evidence for such a connection, as the letters of all parties involved, Otto Mencke, Johann Burchard Mencke, and Adriaan Reland, have only fragmentarily survived. The letter concerning the codex containing the work in question here, the commentary on the Old Testament book of Job supposedly written by St. Jerome, the church father, does not exist anymore (at least not to my knowledge). But the easiest way to account for the passage just quoted is to assume that it indeed did exist.

Ghost edges

As glad as I am to finally have made sure that this particular ghost edge really existed, I am nevertheless aware that the basic problem context underlying this discovery has just become a bit more serious at the same time.

For on the one hand some of his surviving letters already point to Reland being a conscious and very active self-promoter who had a keen eye and good hand in picking opportunities to distribute his publications, and to this another distribution channel – that of the Acta Eruditorum – has just been added now. As there are quite a few “honourable mentions” of Reland by the Acta Eruditorum, like Johann Burchard Mencke wrote (or let write: as leading editor he has to be held responsible for anonymous texts in his journal), this prompts the question of how they were caused in the first place. As there are at least two letters by Reland to Jean-Paul Bignon (1662–1743), editor of the Journal des Savants in Paris, which deal with Reland sending Bignon his publications for distributing them amongst his French connections including review copies,[4] there is no reason to assume that something similar might not have taken place in his correspondence with the leading German scholarly journal as well as with its French model. This might seem to be supported by the rising reference frequency in the Acta Eruditorum concerning Reland between 1701 and 1711:

(Only the text pieces containing references to Reland are counted, not the total of references.)

The upward trend visible here might be taken as just the depiction of a young scholar’s rise of fame while making his way through academia. Reland had been awarded his first professorial post in Harderwijk in 1698/99, only to move to a more prestigious chair at Utrecht in 1700/01, publishing continuously. Or it might be an illustration of a correspondence successfully feeding the editorial board at Leipzig with relevant news and thus ensuring continuous reference to oneself. As I cannot say much more about the ghost edge than that it existed, but not for how long and how intensively it was used, the question has to remain open for now.

And on the other hand, the fragmentary state of the Reland correspondence has by now turned up quite a handful of such connections where there are either indications of direct correspondence and no surviving letters or one or two letters surviving, indicative of a communication channel which must originally have accommodated many letters more. As I already pointed out in one of my earlier posts, the correspondence between Mathurin Veyssière de la Croze (1661–1739) and Reland is only documented by three letters, all of which are no longer extant in the original. Given the close intersection of research interests between the two of them it is highly unlikely that there were not much more originally; but how could this be translated into a meaningful part of a network? The same is true for Johann Baptist Ott (1661–1744) the communication between whom and Reland is only evidenced by one printed letter in Reland’s second treatise on the Samaritan coins, as I pointed out here. It is also true for Marcus Meibom (1630–1711), the scholar whose manuscript was the reason for the note in the Acta Eruditorum which caused me to write this post in the first place. It is even true for another of my protagonists, Johannes Braun, as there are a few letters between him and Reland still extant but the bulk of Braun’s correspondence is also lost. This is by far no complete list, but I am determined to draw one up as far as this will be possible.  

The Chicken-and-Egg of Loss, Forgetting, and References

The question posed by ghost edges is of course how they relate to forgetting. They are clearly indicative of structural forgetting taking place, but in which way? Their presence could be seen as a natural effect of processes of structural forgetting: As someone fades from structural remembrance, his papers or letters become devalued and thus more likely to be sold off, discarded, or altogether lost. But their presence could also be the cause rather than the effect of becoming forgotten: As the papers and letters of someone become sold off, were discarded, or otherwise lost, materials are removed from the archival record which might have triggered new references had they still been there, which in turn leads to a drop in reference frequency and thus to structural forgetting. This is a new variant of the ages-old chicken-and-egg problem, so I have go to searching for additional factor which might help me figuring out if a particular shadowy part of the network is a ghost edge chicken or a ghost edge egg.


[1] [Johann Burchard Mencke]: De b[eati] Hieronymi commentario m[anu]s[cri]pto in Jobum, qui Amstelodami in Bibliotheca Marci Meibomii exstat, in: Acta Eruditorum 30, June 1711, pp. 269-275.

[2] Ibid, p. 269: „Misit nuper ad nos Vir Cl. Hadrianus Relandus, cujus non semel honorificam in his Actis fecimus mentionem, Excerpta quaedam ex Commentario MS. Hieronymi in Jobum, eaque Actis nostris inseri cupivit eo consilio, ut eruditis hoc e specimine iudicandi copia fieret, sitne is genuinus Hieronymi foetus nec ne.”

[3] Cf. Huub Laeven: Otto Mencke (1644–1707): The Outlines of his Network of Correspondents, in: C. Berkvens-Stevelinck, H. Bots, J. Häseler (eds.): Les grands intermédiaires culturels de la république des lettres. Études de réseaux de correspondances du XVIe au XVIIIe siècles, Paris: Champion 2005, pp. 229–256 ; —: “Dies ist wol ohne Streit die größte unter denen Holländischen Public-Bibliotheken“. Johann Burkhard Mencke’s bezoek aan Leiden in 1698, in: Omslag. Bulletin van de Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden en het Scaliger Instituut 4, 1/2006, pp. 1–3.

[4] UB Leiden BPL 885 – 052 (Rabault-Risseeuw): Adriaan Reland to Jean-Paul Bignon, Utrecht 13 June 1714 (19th century copy), and KB Den Haag 72 D 37, 11 A: Adriaan Reland to Jean-Paul Bignon, 23 June 1714.

For Family, Knowledge, and Country

Philip Sydenham to Thomas Hearne, Brympton St Every, 23 May [1725?] (Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 15, f. 473-474)

Friday N° 24, March 22nd, 2019

I have been writing about the entanglements between lexicographical biographic memoralization and national ideas in my last post and had originally announced going further in this direction only in next week’s post. As I was in Oxford for archival research at the Bodleian library to consult correspondences I had not awaited to find anything in there fitting this thread of investigation of my sources. But sometimes one’s in for a bit of a surprise, and so I might try to connect some of my findings in these letters to the theme of national framings of knowledge.

Last week I already observed that British dictionaries and encyclopaedias where going for the national label early in the 19th century. This of course provokes the question whether this was a new development, coming out of the blue, or something which might be connected to longer-running developments. 

The introductory clipping from Philip Sydenham’s (c.1676-1739) letter to Thomas Hearne (1678-1735) points in the latter direction. In his letter, Sydenham complements Hearne to his edition of the itinerary of John Leland (c.1506-552);[1] the full passage runs:

“I hope y[ou]r publick Services for ye Honor & good of this Nation will receive publick approbation. this will be one m[anu]s[cript] to preserve & recover our old Noble Constitution many very valuable M[anu]s[cript]s deserv ye publick reading & encouragment & I hope y[ou] will proceed. ye more ancient ye more brave & Noble.”[2]

Sydenham thus entangled the antiquarian pursuits of Hearne’s, who was an avid editor of medieval manuscripts besides being librarian to the Bodleian library, with the national “Honor” in two ways, on the one hand by the scholarly value of his results and their potential of contributing to a better “publick” understanding of the nation’s past, and on the other hand by linking this more directly to the conditions for being a nation, to “our old Noble Constitution” to be retrieved this way. While this way of searching the origin and the primordial good laws of a community in the past was entirely in keeping with early modern conceptions of how time and historical research operated, the appeal to “publick approbation […] reading & encouragment” is somewhat more unusual and already seems to point to later developments in constructing national identities on a larger scale.

But Sydenham had more to offer still. In the next paragraph, he directly linked Hearne’s other professional activities, that as a librarian, both to the advancement of learning in general – as was a fairly common topos – and – a less common inflection –, to national honour also:

“I am glad [that] y[ou]r Library (=the Bodleian) is daily improving. it is so much for ye Honor of ye Nation, & interest of Learning.[3]

The three intersecting topoi of interest here, from the perspective of my project, are 1) ‘Fighting Oblivion’, 2) ‘Advancement of Learning’, and 3) ‘National Glory’. To see how this affects my protagonists, of whom there has been no mention yet in this post, I’ll have to take you to another of Hearne’s editions, the development of which was indeed coupled to the Leland volumes Sydenham already praised.

In 1716, Roger Gale (1672-1744), eldest son of Thomas Gale, approached Thomas Hearne in the same way as Sydenham would do nine years later, by complementing him on his just published Leland edition. The real aim of the letter was something else, though. Gale wanted to secure Hearne’s editorship for a manuscript in his possession, the Scotichronicon of John of Fordun (or Ffordun, c.1320-c.1386), which already had been partly edited by his father.[4] Hearne willingly accepted Gale’s offer of providing him with the manuscript and every assistance necessary for the edition and publication of the chronicle.[5] Both entered a long-drawn out process of working on the edition in which Roger Gale was constantly checking on Hearne to ensure the progress of the work, to provide him with colligations from other manuscripts, and helping him to gain enough subscribers for publication, he himself taking 20 copies.[6] When in 1722 the Fordun edition finally went to the press,[7] the Gale family was highly pleased with the result.

First, it represented a success in the endeavours of both Roger and his younger brother Samuel Gale, who both had been founding members of the Society of Antiquaries in 1718, in fighting oblivion. To do so represented a recurrent thread in their discussions of all fields of research they were actively engaged in, and print seemed a convenient way of doing it. When on February 25th, 1723, Samuel Gale held a speech before the Society of Lincoln, he spoke about the benefits of engraving:

“Give me Leave, Gentlemen, to Congratulate ye latter age on this Noble Invention, this Beneficial Discovery, and which alone seems to surpass all the great Things the Ancients ever did. Since eben the mouldring Fragments of theire proudest Structures, ye Temples of ye Gods, ye Statues of ye Heroes, ye Hippodromes ye Amphitheatres the Triumphal Arches, Aquaeducts, Military Ways, Baths, Colums, Medals, and Inscriptions, which yet, feebly beare up against ye power of corroding Time: even these Remaines I say of Athens, Corinth, and of Rome can be, and are now, only by this diffusive Art, triumphantly rescu’d from that total Havock, ye everlasting oblivion: Which a few more revolving years must inevitably bring on, and that of the Poet, then be too sadly verified: etiam periere Ruinae.”[8]

In 1726, Roger Gale took recourse to almost the same words in a letter to John Clerk to explain the purpose of the Society of Antiquaries, only with less rhetorical flourish:

“Besides the ½ guinea payd upon admission, one shilling is deposited every month by each member, and this money has been hitherto expended in buying a few books, but more in drawing and engraving, whereby a great many old seals, ruins, and other monuments of antiquity have been preserved from oblivion, and the danger of being intirely lost in a little time.”[9]

 Second, it was connected to the advancement of learning, which Samuel Gale not only connected to printing, but also to the scholars who had been paragons of learning. At the end of his speech, he made the connection quite explicit and directed it not only to the memory of the past, but also to the future.

“These [engravers] are They who by an uncommon Genius have almost outdone Nature, and have given Life & Spirit to Good Men after Death, Who is there yet Beholds ye Aspects of the Great & Learned, and Burns not with secret Æmulation to imitate their High Example.”[10]

And this connection might have been the driving force behind Roger Gale playing the driving force behind putting the manuscript inherited and already partly edited by his father to the press through Thomas Hearne although it costed him time, labour, and money. Samuel Gale put this into words in his letter congratulating Hearne on finishing the Fordun edition, thanking him because:

“Ye Hon[o]r You have done my Father, in mentioning him so often in It, is a great Satisfaction to Me in particular […].”[11]

And thus the history of knowledge, scholarly biographies, and – following Philip Sydenham – national honour which could be derived from both seem to have become entangled in Britain already in the early 18th century. The question is only to what end?


[1] Thomas Hearne (ed.): Joannis Lelandi antiquarii de rebus Britannicis collectanea ; Ex autographis descripsit ediditque Tho. Hearnius, 6 vol., Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1715.

[2] Philipp Sydenham to Thomas Hearne, Brympton St Every 23 May [1725?], Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 15, f. 473. Orthography as in the original, ligatures in [].

[3] Ibid.

[4] Roger Gale to Thomas Hearne, London 24 July 1716, Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 6, N° 14a, f. 311–312.

[5] Thomas Hearne to Roger Gale, [Oxford 1716 – Concept, no dates], Bodleian Library, MS Rawls letters 6, N° 15a, f. 313–314.

[6] Roger Gale to Thomas Hearne, London, 20 February 1722, MS Rawls letters 6, N° 35a, f. 355–357.

[7] Thomas Hearne (ed.): Johannis de Fordun Scotichronicon genuinum, una cum ejusdem supplemento ac continuatione. E codicibus Mss. eruit ediditque Tho. Hearnius, Oxford: Sheldon Theater 1722.

[8] Samuel Gale, Oratio Habita coram Societate Lincolniensi vicesimo quarto Die Februarii Anno C. 1723, Bodleian Library, MS Eng Misc E 147, f. 61, r.

[9] Roger Gale to John Clerk, [no place] 26 April 1726, Bodleian Library, MS Top Gen d 74, pp. 178–186; p. 184.  

[10] Ibid, f. 65, v.

[11] Samuel Gale to Thomas Hearne, London, 26 May 1722, Bodleian Library MS Rawls letters 6, f. 376–377.

Recollection by pupils, done properly

Heading of Karl Gottfried Woide’s Mémoir from the Journal des Savants, June 1774, p. 333-343.

Friday No. 18, February 1st, 2019

In one of my last posts I have been questioning if having pupils is indeed conducive to being remembered as a scholar and ended on a somewhat sceptical note. But there is no end to learning, and so I would like to take the opportunity today to shed some light on an example of a pupil’s network that really efficiently did so.

1704 – 1716: A triangular correspondence

To make clear how the following connects to my overall project, let’s first have a look at a (perhaps) somewhat unusual kind of correspondence.

Communication between Cuper, de la Croze, and Reland: Persons in red, letters in yellow, printed publications mentioned in green, and institutions mentioned in black.

This depicts the correspondences between Adrien Reland, Gijsbert Cuper (1644-1716) and Mathurin Veyssière de la Croze (1661-1739) between 1704 and 1716 as far as I have already been able to incorporate them into my database. As it looks like, they were all three very much connected, be it indirectly by way of referring to the same people (red dots), publications (green dots), institutions (black dots) or letters (yellow dots), or by relating to each other directly.  But this picture is a bit misleading, one might say, because if only sender-receiver relations are visualized without taking the content of the letters into account, it looks like this.

Letters (yellow) exchanged between Cuper, de la Croze, and Reland (red); the only three letters between Reland and de la Croze highlighted in blue

There seems to have been almost no direct epistolary connection between de la Croze and Reland; at least, I have only found three letters until now. But as they were taken from the selected edition of de la Croze’s letters, published between 1742 and 1746 (fully digitized by Mannheim university), which includes none of the Cuper-la Croze letters, presumably because they were written in French, it may be assumed that there were some more.

Be that as it may, there was a huge amount of indirect communication going on between de la Croze and Reland by way of Cuper. Both would ask Cuper to deliver questions or answers to the other, and Cuper did so. What emerged was a strange triangular correspondence pattern between these three scholars. Now two of the three letters between Reland and de la Croze mention a certain David Wilkins (Wilke, 1685-1745), and that will become interesting in a minute.

A posthumous publication

In June 1774, the Journal des Savants announced the upcoming publication of the Lexicon ægyptiaco-latinum, to be printed in Oxford at the Clarendon Press in 1775,[1] in a short piece entitled Mémoire de M. Woide, sur le Dictionnaire Cophte qu’il va publier à Oxford, & sur les Sçavans qui ont étudié la Langue Cophte. Adressée à Messieurs les Auteurs du Journal des Sçavans.[2] This piece was remarkable insofar as its author, Karl Gottfried Woide (Charles Godfrey, 1725-1790), the editor of the announced work, not only gave a detailed account of the state of the field of Coptic studies as he perceived it, but also of the genesis of the book itself, which at the time had become something like a lost learned heirloom. It was based on a manuscript that Maturin Veyssière de la Croze had compiled until 1721, but never published, and left to his former pupil Charles-Étienne Jordan (1700-1745) when he died in 1739 together with his library. After Jordan’s death in 1745, the manuscript was sold together with Jordan’s library by Jordan’s brothers, and acquired by Leiden University. In 1750, Woide had gone there to copy the manuscript, and this copy now formed the basis for the printed edition.[3] This would have been less remarkable where it not for the interconnections between the persons entangled in this research action. For, Woide maintained, he originally copied the manuscript for his use and that of Christian Scholtz (1697-1777) from whom he had learned his Coptic. Scholtz, who may have commissioned the copy,[4] was second court preacher in Berlin and had himself learned his Coptic from his brother-in-law Paul Ernst Jablonski (1693-1757), who in turn had learned his Coptic from Maturin Veyssière de la Croze, and who had supplied de la Croze with many of the primary materials needed for the compilation of the dictionary in question. Karl Gottfried Woide thus was, if I may put it that way, a fourth-generation scholarly descendant of de la Croze, working within a net of other former pupils or connections of his teacher’s teacher’s teacher.

As Woide now brought the copy of de la Croze’s manuscript back to Berlin, Scholtz started working on it, preparing it for print and adding annotations of his own. But it fell to Woide to actually secure an opportunity for publication through his contact with Oxford university, where he found a printer willing to publish de la Croze’s Coptic dictionary as edited by Scholtz and revised by Woide.

Back to the beginning

And now the circle closes back to the beginning of this post, for Woide in his Mémoir not only referred to de la Croze and his scholars but also to those other savants of note who had been working on the subject of Coptic. In doing so, he not only mentioned Adrien Reland but also David Wilkins, both of which had collaborated with de la Croze to establish a Coptic version of the Lord’s prayer to be included in John Chamberlayne’s (1668/9-1723) Oratio dominica in diversas omnium fere gentium linguas of 1715,[5] which is precisely what the edited Reland-de la Croze letters I mentioned touch upon. Wilkins in turn had offered de la Croze to print his dictionary in England at some point in time, but de la Croze had denied the offer.[6] Woide also mentioned, although on short notice, Eusèbe Renaudot as one among the number of learned scholars of Coptic; perhaps on short notice as Renaudot had always maintained good relations with the Maurists of St.-Germain-des-Pres whom de la Croze had fled in 1696 to become a Calvinist.

And, last but not least, Woide provided the additional detail that another scholar reoccurring rather often throughout my last posts here also was in on it, for when the proofs for the dictionary were at Oxford they were given to John Swinton (1703-1777), “known for his research in antiquities”,[7] to be seen through and corrected.

Proliferation by pupils

So this seems to be a point in time when at least two of my protagonists were posthumously reunited for a brief moment through their scholarly endeavours. Yet this had only become possible through the collective endeavours of de la Croze’s pupils over a period of more than three decades after his death. This might indicate that if pupils shall benefit a scholar’s posthumous memory, this may only happen through emergent effects from a working network of pupils at the time of the individual scholar’s death, focusing on a collective goal – as the study of Coptic in de la Croze’s case. One more hypothesis to test!


[1] Charles Godfrey Woide (ed.), Christian Scholtz (contr.), Mathurin Veyssière de la Croze: Lexicon ægyptiaco-latinum : ex veteribus illius linguæ monumentis summo studio collectum et elaboratum a Maturino Veyssiere la Croze. Quod in compendium redegit, ita ut nullae Voces Aegyptiacae, nullaeque earum significationes omitterentur, Christianus Scholtz: Aulae Regiae Borussiacae a concionibus sacris, et Ecclesiae Reformatae Cathedralis Berolinensis Pastor. Notulas quasdam, et indices adjecit Carolus Godofredus Woide, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1775.

[2] Charles Godfrey Woide: Mémoire de M. Woide, sur le Dictionnaire Cophte qu’il va publier à Oxford, & sur les Sçavans qui ont étudié la Langue Cophte. Adressée à Messieurs les Auteurs du Journal des Sçavans, in : Journal des Savants 109, June 1774, pp. 333-343.

[3] Ibid., p. 335.

[4] Cf. C. Siegfried: Scholtz, Christian, in: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie 32 (1891), pp. 228–229 [Online-Version], p. 228. URL: https://www.deutsche-biographie.de/pnd101488637.html#adbcontent

[5] John Chamberlayne: Oratio dominica in diversas omnium fere gentium linguas versa et propriis cujusque linguae characteribus expressa, una cum dissertationibus nonnullis de linguarum origine, variisque ipsarum permutationibus. Editore Joanne Chamberlayno anglo-britanno, Regiae societatis Londinensis & Berolinensis socio,

[6] Charles Godfrey Woide: Mémoire de M. Woide, sur le Dictionnaire Cophte, p. 334.

[7] Ibid., p. 337: „connu par ses recherches dans les antiquités ».

What to do with a heap of old manuscripts?

From the letter of the conservatory of the Bibliothèque nationale to the minister of the interior, May 18th, 1798

Friday No. 7, November 16th, 2018

Close your eyes, and imagine that among your worldly possessions there is a heap of old manuscripts inherited from your maternal great-uncle who died almost 80 years ago. A rather large heap of old manuscripts, by the way. Now imagine that you belong to a noble lineage, and that you want to get rid of these manuscripts. Done? Good. Now imagine that you are negotiating a settlement between you and the national library about the destination of these writings. Still comfortable? Good. Now imagine that it is the year 6 of the French Republic, you are negotiating with the Directoire Government, and you are dead set to barter your manuscripts against books, not to sell them. Now I’ve overdone it, right?

Bartering for books, first round

But I haven’t. This is what actually happened in 1798/99. The family in question – that’s you! don’t forget to imagine – really had something extraordinary in their hands, as the director of the French national library stated:

“There is no person who doesn’t know the reputation the late Eusebe Renaudot enjoyed within the Republic of Letters. Equally accomplished in the knowledge of the most difficult and most ancient oriental languages and in the study of Greek and Latin, and moreover very apt in handling worldly affairs; this savant has left at his death a large collection of manuscript treatises other than the works published in his name during his lifetime; its existence was known throughout all of Learned Europe, and through succession it now has passed into the possession of the Menou family, related by marriage to that of Verneuil, the heir of Eusebe Renaudot.”[1]

The manuscripts in question were those of the abbé Eusèbe Renaudot (1646–1720), Oratorian, member of the Academie française and the Academie des Inscriptions since 1689, specialist for the early history of the Eastern churches and for languages such as Arabic and Aramaic. At his death, Renaudot had bequeathed his considerable library to the monastery of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, but a part of his collections – perhaps not really just “a small number which was of no use to them”[2] – had gone to the executor of his testament, his nephew Eusèbe Jacques Chaspoux de Verneuil (1695–1747), “Secrétaire de la chambre et du cabinet du Roi”, who was the son of Renaudot’s younger sister Anne-Claude Claire (1664–1720). Chaspoux de Verneuil had left the manuscripts to his son, Eusèbe Félix Chaspoux de Verneuil (1720-1791), and Eusèbe Félix in turn to his daughter Anne Michèle Isabelle Chaspoux de Verneuil (1751-1829) who had married René-Louis-Charles de Menou (1746-c.1820) in 1769. René-Louis-Charles’ father had been “Maréchal-de-champ” of Louis XV,[3] and his younger brother was the notorious Jacques-François Abdallah de Menou (1750–1810) who in 1798 was fighting with Napoleon in Egypt and would soon convert to Islam to marry an Egyptian woman. These were the “citoyens Menou” who now owned 94 of Eusèbe Renaudot’s manuscripts, and had offered them to the Bibliothèque nationale in exchange for printed books. They didn’t want money, they wanted books.  So they submitted a wish list to the director of the national library, but it turned out to be a bit more complicated than that.

Bartering for books, second round

The director of the Bibliothèque nationale was either not capable or not comfortable deciding such an issue on its own, and thus forwarded the request to the minister of the interior, who already six days later approved of the exchange.[4] But now it happened to be the case that the books the citoyens Menou had wished for were not all found in the “dépôts littéraires”, and the negotiations entered a second stage. Because, as the next report to the minister of the interior stated on June 1st, 1798, “The curators of manuscripts at the Bibliothèque nationale have thoroughly examined this collection and found it to be of major importance and utility“,[5] he was urgently advised to stay with his decision to approve of the exchange nevertheless and to let the citoyens Menou make another selection from the holdings of the “dépôts littéraires”. Only that finding another suitable set of books for the exchange seems to have been somewhat more difficult than thought of. It took its time at least. When the conservatory of the Bibliothèque nationale addressed the issue to the minister the next time, half a year had gone by.[6]

Bartering for books, final round

This time, everything seemed settled. The Menous had taken a good look around the depots, had made their list, and the conservatory reported to the minister: “See the list of books the Menou family wishes for: to us they seem acceptable given the material and immaterial worth of the manuscripts.”[7] Now this is indeed interesting because it gives a hint as to how highly the librarians really thought of the manuscripts and their value. What could one get for 94 Renaudot autographs? Well, here’s the list (the links point you to the edition I established as the most probable one to have been meant here):

“Livres demandés pour le Citoyen françois Menou, en Echange des Manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot qu’il a remis à la Bibliothéque [sic] Nationale.

Taken together this amounts to 106 volumes in duodecimo; 107 volumes in octavo; and 19 volumes in quarto. Or 232 printed books altogether. Quite impressive I think. It’s amazing what the memory of a long-dead great-uncle can do for you if you want to clean up the house.

I might add that something is clearly wrong with my working strategy: I spent one and a half hour in the archive on the sources, another hour transcribing those documents I photographed, and then more than four hours this morning in identifying those damned editions. And I didn’t even get them all right!


[1] Archives Nationales, Paris, F/17/3468-I, Acquisitions de l’an IV à 1830, an VII: Acquisition des manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot. Capperonier to the minister of the interior, 23. Floreal an VI (May 12th, 1798), p.1.

[2] C. Detlef G. Müller: Renaudot, Eusèbe, in: Bautz, Traugott (ed.): Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon, Vol. 8, Hamm: Bautz 1994, col. 34-44, online version: http://www.bautz.de/bbkl/r/renaudot_e.shtml (11/16/2018): „Eine kleine, für sie nicht brauchbare Anzahl erhielt der Neffe, Herr Verneuil.“

[3] François-Alexandre Aubert de La Chesnaye Des Bois: Dictionnaire de la noblesse, 2nd ed., vol. 10, Paris: Antoine Baudet 1775, p. 46.

[4] Archives Nationales, Paris, F/17/3468-I, Acquisitions de l’an IV à 1830, an VII: Acquisition des manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot. Ministre de l’Interieur to the Conservateur de la bibliothèque Nationale, 29. Floreal an 6 (May 18th, 1798).

[5] Archives Nationales, Paris, F/17/3468-I, Acquisitions de l’an IV à 1830, an VII: Acquisition des manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot. Rapport présenté au minister a l’interieur, 13. Prairial an 6 (June 1st, 1798): “Les Conservateurs des manuscrits de la Bibliotheque nationale ont éxaminé attentivement cette collection et l’ont trouvée d’une importance et d’une utilité majeure […].”

[6] Archives Nationales, Paris, F/17/3468-I, Acquisitions de l’an IV à 1830, an VII: Acquisition des manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot. Conservatoire de la bibliothèque nationale to the ministre de l’interieur, 12. Frimaire an 7 (December 2nd, 1798).

[7] Ibid.

[8] Obviously not the complete edition which was 70 volumes in total.

[9] The only Buffon edition approximately matching this number was the edition linked to, but that is slightly at odds with its printing date. Of course it might be that the books in being rebound had been split, and the original number of volumes was smaller. Anyone a good idea?

[10] Only a selection of the original edition which totalled 125 volumes.

[11] I must confess I don’t know what this is. The only publication Gaillard dedicated to Charles V I have been able to find was the linked “Eloge of 1767, but this is not likely to have been bound as six separate volumes.

[12] Archives Nationales, Paris, F/17/3468-I, Acquisitions de l’an IV à 1830, an VII: Acquisition des manuscrits d’Eusebe Renaudot. Conservatoire de la bibliothèque nationale to the ministre de l’interieur, 12. Frimaire an 7 (December 2nd, 1798).