Tag Archives: Netherlands

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”.

Speaking of bygone scholars

Friday n° 31, May 5th, 2019

Today, ladies and gentleman, I will be speaking about speaking about scholarly predecessors in public speeches. Well, at least semi-public speeches, as I will be dealing with the inaugural lectures of three 18th century professors. Although they all were delivered originally to a limited academic audience only, they were published in print afterwards and thus at least in principle publicly available. (And of course I’m also writing and not speaking, but although it sounds it like fun, I shall not spend any more time reflecting on the inadequacies of metaphors for scientific discourse here).

Three orators, three inaugural lectures

Let me introduce today’s three orators now:  Please welcome Albert Schultens (1686–1750) with On the springs from which all knowledge of the Hebrew language flows and their shortcomings and defects,[1] Jan Jacob Schultens (1716–1778) with Of the fruits of returning to theology from a deeper understanding of the Oriental languages,[2] and last but not least Henrik Albert Schultens (1749-1793) with On the labour of the Dutch in fostering the Arabic studies.[3] As you either know already or may have guessed by now, the similarity in names really points to a close relationship between these three scholars. They represent three generations of the same family, father, son, and grandson. They also represent three generations of scholars working within broadly the same discipline, which their contemporaries termed “Oriental Languages”, which was almost always blended with theology – as the title of Jan Jacob Schulten’s inaugural lecture directly captured.

How does that relate to forgetting?

So what is the connection of these three lectures/speeches to my project? Well, first of all they constitute a source type which I have not dealt with in my project yet. Of course I have drawn on funeral orations, but these are hardly the same kind of public speech act (and printed publication later on). So the first question is how this medium may be related to what I am generally interested in, the patterns of posthumous references to scholars and their fading. And the second question obviously is which relation existed between the Schultens family and my four protagonists whose patterns of fading I am especially interested in.

To do it the easier way I’ll start with the second question: Albert Schultens, the first of the family to attain a professorial post, had been a pupil of Johannes Braun in Groningen, in 1706 defending a graduation thesis under Braun On the utility of Arabic in the interpretation of Holy Scripture,[4] as I already had pointed out in an earlier post. From Groningen he first moved to Leiden, then on to Utrecht where he became a pupil of Adriaan Reland, earning a doctorate in theology in 1709 with a thesis on a passage from the gospel according to Mark.[5]  In 1713 he was appointed to the post of professor of theology at Franeker University. Albert Schultens thus was quite directly connected to two of my protagonists.

The lectures: 1714 – 1779

But is there any trace of that in his inaugural lecture? If so, only a very small trace. Schultens recurred once to Reland, when he listed “Hottinger (=Johann Heinrich Hottinger, 1620–1667), Golius (=Jacob Golius, 1569–1667), Pocockius (=Edward Pococke, 1604–1691), Relandus and other principal Arabists.”[6] He much more prominently referred to Samuel Bochart (1599–1667). What is remarkable in the passage on Reland, though, is that he was the only living person referred to. Which was quite uncommon; usually only dead people were explicitly mentioned in public academic orations. So while one could tentatively assume that Reland was done a special honour here, it is quite telling that Johannes Braun, who had presided over the graduation thesis in which Schultens had already defended the argument that Arabic could be used to illuminate Scripture, is not mentioned even once. Although he had been dead for six years already.

When Albert Schultens proposed the use of other Semitic languages to get a better grip on Hebrew in 1714 this still was a new approach. When his son, Jan Jacob Schultens, defended essentially the same argument – that “Oriental Languages” where a profitable tool for the study of theology – in his inaugurational lecture for the post of professor of theology in Leiden in 1749, it was no longer revolutionary anymore, which might perhaps explain why Jan Jacob could make it short; his oration was only a bit more than half as long as that of his father. But it had the additional value of being solidly established by his father by now, who had not only presided over his son’s doctoral thesis in 1742[7] but who also seems to have attained the inaugural lecture of Jan Jacob. At least his son addressed him in direct speech at the end in a paragraph especially designed to underscore their familial and scientific relationship.[8] And while Jan Jacob Schultens did not refer to any of the scholars his father had mentioned as his predecessors, he also continued his line of not referring to Johannes Braun. The punchline of this is that he did refer to Johannes Coccejus,[9] whose direct pupil Braun had been.  

In 1779, when Henrik Albert Schultens, the son of Jan Jacob, held his inaugural lecture for the post of professor of Oriental Languages and Ancient Hebrew, he no longer had the problem of having to deal with any living predecessors. Not only where the scholars his grandfather had referred to dead for almost one century, both his father and grandfather were dead for quite a while, too. He capitalized on this for taking another turn on the topic of his father’s and grandfather’s lectures, in turning their approach to a discipline and referring the history of this discipline in Dutch universities. This was a clever move in two respects, as it possible for him to refer to his family history as the history of an academic field, and to use the memory of his ancestors to his advantage. He first of all referred to a set of 16th and 17th century scholars which included those mentioned in his grandfather’s lecture, adding some more international figures to compare the achievements of Dutch scholars against (and thus to capitalize on the growing discursive entanglements of national ideas and science). In doing so, he referred to Reland and, on the French side, also to Renaudot.[10] Building on that, he then turned to describing his grandfather as the founder of the new kind of Oriental languages studies he himself professed.[11] To protect himself from being reproached as exploiting his family history to his own advantage, to the end he used a curious rhetorical strategy and began to describe – quite elaborately – how much of a burden the legacy of Albert and Jan Jacob Schultens placed on him, and that he would do his utmost to match their achievements.[12]

Family’s the thing!

Although from the example of Henrik Albert Schultens it seems that relying solely on family tradition as a qualification for scholarship had become problematic in the later 18th century, it still was preferable to ‘pure’ discipleship, the more so if both could be mixed, as in Jan Jacob Schulten’s case, who could style himself not as only the genealogical but also the intellectual heir of his father. This meant that scholars who were mentioned by the founding father of the line in question had good chances to be carried along and be referred to, as Reland was, more than half a century after their death; but for those who were excluded at the start, such as Johannes Braun, this meant that they were most likely to stay excluded. Structural forgetting in this case presents itself a process only challengeable with difficulty, if at all.  


[1] Albert Schultens: Oratio inauguralis de fontibus ex quibus omnis linguae hebraeae notitia manavit horumque vitiis et defectibus, Franeker: Halma 1714.

[2] Jan Jacob Schultens: Oratio inauguralis de Fructibus in theologiam redundantibus ex penitiore linguarum orientalium cognitione, Leiden: Luchtmans 1749.

[3] Henrik Albert Schultens: Oratio de studio Belgarum in literis Arabicis excolendis, Leiden: le Mair 1779.

[4] Albert Schultens: De utilitate linguae Arabicae in interpretanda Sacra Scriptura [1706], posthumously published in: Albert Schultens: Opera Minora, Leiden: Le Mair 1769 .

[5] Albert Schultens: Disputatio theologica inauguralis in locum Marci XIII:XXXII, Groningen: Barlinckhoff 1709.

[6] Albert Schultens: Oratio inauguralis de fontibus ex quibus omnis linguae hebraeae notitia manavit horumque vitiis et defectibus, Franeker: Halma 1714, p. 15: „Hottinger, Golius, Pocockius, Relandus aliique Arabizantium principes“.

[7] Jan Jacob Schultens: Dissertations Academicae de utilitate dialectorum orientalium ad tuendam integritatem codicis hebraei, Leiden: Luzac 1742.

[8] Jan Jacob Schultens: Oratio inauguralis de Fructibus in theologiam redundantibus ex penitiore linguarum orientalium cognitione, Leiden: Luchtmans 1749, p. 26: „Speciatim Tibi, Parens Indulgentissime, qui inde a teneris unguiculis in sinu Tuo me fovisti, atque incredibili diligentia, prudentia, patientia, rudes pueritiae meae mores finxisti et emollivisti, quin asperiorem quoque adolescentiae indolem expugnatrice Tua bonitate fregisti, desideratissimum tenerrimae educationis et curae fructum inpense gratulor.“

[9] Ibid, p. 19.

[10] Henrik Albert Schultens: Oratio de studio Belgarum in literis Arabicis excolendis, Leiden: le Mair 1779, p. 5, p. 20.

[11] Ibid, p. 40: „Unum tamen, Praestantissimi Commilitones, qui in Arabicis literis, sive ad juvanda studia vestra Theologia, seu ad majorem ingenii culturam, operam collocatis; unum igitur non possum quin vobis de Alberto Schultensio commemorem, & maxime [41] ad imitandum proponam.“

[12] Ibid., p. 43–45.

For Knowledge and Country II

Richard A. Davenport: A dictionary of biography : comprising the most eminent characters of all ages, nations, and professions, London: Tegg 1831, title page.

Sunday, March 31st, 2019, for Friday n° 25

Two weeks ago I announced here that I would devote a bit more attention to the interplay between the national provenance of biographical dictionaries and their content matter in the 19th century. I do have to start this post with an excuse because I could do only half this task. I only did the early 19th century for starters (52 years to be exact, 1800-1851), and this already got me behind schedule again.

But at least some things have become visible in paying closer attention to biographical dictionaries from this half-century. The first, and hardly surprising, observation to be made is that the content matter, the biographical information as presented within these works, is fairly stable. At least concerning my protagonists these entries are not the fruit of original research but are copied, sometimes verbatim, from 18th century dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Given that these works were aimed at a wider public, this was a completely rational and economic way to proceed. In most cases this means that the size of a particular dictionary was not so much determined by the length of the individual entries but by their number. Only in very condensed works, those which only featured one or two volumes, a biography would be heavily pruned. Much more often it was the selection of biographies, and not the selection of passages within biographies, which made the difference between a four- and a twenty-volume dictionary. That in turn means that any conscious framing of the complete edition would again rest on the selection of the biographies to be included rather than on rewriting the biographical materials themselves.

There are exceptions from this general rule, of course. In Alexander Chalmers’ “The general biographical Dictionary containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons, particularly the English and Irish”, published in London between 1812 and 1817, Chalmers not only selected a larger share of English and Irish biographies as common in general biographical dictionaries to keep his promise from the title but also added to them in length. At least this might be concluded from the sample of my protagonists he featured: While the dictionary included Thomas Gale, Adriaan Reland, and Eusèbe Renaudot, it devoted four pages to Gale and two pages each to Reland and Renaudot.[1] On average their respective entries do all have roughly the same length within the same dictionary. But Chalmer’s work ran to 32 volumes in the end, so there was no need to be economic in terms of print space.  

The next thing that struck me was that so many of these dictionaries were of British origin. Of the 21 dictionaries surveyed for this post, 12 were written in English, compared to four in French, three in Dutch, one in German and one in Latin. This might well just be a bias in the sample that was caused by me following the references in those dictionaries and publications I had already collected for the last post, but it may also just point to the fact that in the early 19th century Great Britain presumably would have had more people willing and able to buy such a book, or series of books, than continental Europe which first had to cope with the impact of the Napoleonic Wars and then with its lagging behind in industrializing. But although the selections of biographies presented by dictionaries of the sample so far looked at here do not seem to have been much impacted by this provenance. At least Thomas Gale does not pop up with a frequency which seems over-exaggerated in proportion to half the dictionaries being English ones.

My protagonists as referred to in biographical dictionaries and encyclopaedic works, 1800-1851

So what does this tell me? First of all that there seem to have been long-time cycles on the book market, and what is captured by this graphic would be the cycle between roughly 1790 and 1840, with a peak in the 1830ies. The second half of the century would bring the national biographical dictionaries undertaken as state projects, and show a somewhat similar pattern reaching its apogee around the 1880ies. In the 18th century there are quite similar patterns, at least judging from my current state of research.

And, second, that national framings became more closely entangled with the framings – and selections thus prompted – of the content matter these dictionaries presented to their readers. The year I started with, 1800 (yes, that is the last year of the 18th century in proper reckoning), quite symbolically contributed two titles to the list: Francis Godolphin Waldron’s “The biographical mirrour, comprising a series of ancient and modern English portraits” on the British and Nicolas-Toussaint Le Moyne Des Essarts’s “Les Siècles littéraires de la France, ou nouveau dictionnaire, historique, critique, et bibliographique, de tous les Ecrivains français, morts et vivans, jusqu’à a la fin du XVIIIe. siècle” on the French side of the channel, both clearly framed to accommodate a ‘national’ selection of biographies. Fittingly, Waldron of my protagonists featured only Thomas Gale,[2] while Des Essarts in turn showcased only Eusèbe Renaudot.[3] This tendency in turn directly influenced the chances of certain types of scholars to be referred to, and thus being structurally remembered, through works of this kind.

A case in point is Johannes Braun, who only belatedly begins to make an appearance in these dictionaries at all, compared to the other three. This might well be at last partly due to problems in filing him adequately within a national reference system: Born in Kaiserslautern in 1628, he fled from the city with his mother in 1635 during the Thirty Years War, became preacher of the French Reformed Church in Nijmegen for quite a while, and finally got the post of professor of Theology and Hebrew at Groningen University in 1680; he wrote in French and Latin. Was he now to be considered German, French, or Dutch? A bit of everything, or nothing at all? In Mathieu Delvenne’s 1829 “Biographie du royaume des Pays-Bas, ancienne et moderne”, Braun was not included (while Reland was[4]).

This was due to the fact that Delvenne, although he nowhere stated it explicitly, only acknowledged persons in his dictionary who had been born on soil which now was part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. And this in turn was due to his explicit intention, as stated in his preface, to instill a love for this their fatherland into Belgians, particularly young students, by presenting them examples from their glorious past.[5] Delvenne’s attempt at nation-building obviously came a bit too late, as in 1830 the Kingdom of the Netherlands broke apart into nowadays Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg, but it captures quite well the overall spirit of these collections. Even those which called themselves “General” or “Universal” still privileged a certain nationally framed point of view, with the sometimes implicit, but more often quite explicit, aim to create patriotic sentiments and promote national honour and glory.


[1] See Chalmers, Alexander: The general biographical Dictionary containing an historical and critical account of the lives and writings of the most eminent persons, particularly the English and Irish, from the earliest accounts to the present time, vol. 15, London: J. Nichols 1814, pp. 221-224 (Thomas Gale); vol. 26, London: J. Nichols 1816, pp. 131-133 (Adriaan Reland) and pp. 140-141 (Eusèbe Renaudot).   

[2] Francis Godolphin Waldron: The biographical mirrour, comprising a series of ancient and modern English portraits, of eminent and distinguished persons, from original pictures and drawings, Vol. 3, London: Harding 1800, pp. 18-20.

[3] Nicolas-Toussaint Le Moyne Des Essarts: Les Siècles littéraires de la France, ou nouveau dictionnaire, historique, critique, et bibliographique, de tous les Ecrivains français, morts et vivans, jusqu’à a la fin du XVIIIe. siècle, Paris: Des Essarts 1801, Vol. 5, pp. 372-374.

[4] Mathieu Delvenne: Biographie du royaume des Pays-Bas, ancienne et moderne, ou Histoire abrégée, par ordre alphabétique, de la vie publique et privée des Belges et des Hollandais qui se sont fait remarquer par leurs écrits, leurs actions, leurs talens, leurs vertus, ou leurs crimes, extraite d’un grand nombe d’auteurs anciens et modernes, et augmentée de beaucoup d’articles qui ne se trouvent rapportés dans aucune biographie, Vol. 2, Liege: Desoer 1829, pp. 290-291.

[5] Delvenne, Biographie du royaume des Pays-Bas, Vol. 1, Liege: Desoer 1829, p. [ii] : “Il [le rédacteur, i.e. Delvennes] se trouvera assez récompensé dans ses longs efforts, si son livre contribue à inspirer aux Belges, et surtout à la jeunesse studieuse qui peuple nos écoles, l’amour d’un pays qui a tant de droits à notre reconnaissance. Il a cru qu’il ne pouvait mieux employer ses loisirs qu’à la composition d’un ouvrage vraiment national.”

For Knowledge and Country

Title plate of Jean-Pierre Niceron’s “Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres” (1729-1742)

Saturday, March 16th, 2019, for Friday no. 23

Late again

This time the delay in posting this text is only partially my fault. I can blame some of it on the Biographisch portaal van Nederland, from which I wanted to draw some information but which just was not available for the last days. So I decided to do without these data for a first go, which I think will also do. I do have got enough material to present some first conclusions.

When knowledge went national

Or, as the headline for this paragraph should perhaps better have been, when did knowledge go national? Because it seems to have been fragmented and compartmentalized into ‘national’ units which, to be frank, only make sense on a technical, not on a content level. Framing knowledge in national terms may serve to portion a bit of it to make it manageable, to get it between the covers of a book – or several books of a series, as was much more frequently the case – more easily. But when did such a framing start to impact how knowledge was ordered? As this is of course a question too huge to be answered in a few paragraphs, I’ll focus on a special branch of knowledge and of knowledge stores today, and that is what in the 18th century was called Historia Litteraria. This was the study of the history of knowledge, most often with an arts and humanities focus, but not restricted to it. It was laid down in dictionaries and encyclopaedias, and it was usually biographical in nature, because heavily person-centred. Over time, this genre thinned out and became more and more specialized, while many of its more general contents were merged into the national biographical dictionaries which became popular in the 19th century. During these processes, somewhen between the 18th and the 19th century national categories became the dominant frames for laying out knowledge stores in this field, for both the specialized and the generalized forms of it. And this, at least this is my hypothesis for these materials, impacted if and how dead scholars where referenced, and so the references to my protagonists also.

How it began

But to return to the question from the preceeding paragraph: When did this happen? The obvious answer ‘it is complicated’ seems not to be very helpful here, so it may be best to first of all look at examples which may show when it did not have happened yet to be able to posit a terminus post quem. For those of these works written in German, the first half of the 18th century still was free from being dominated by the national gaze. The omnivorous Universal-Lexicon initally edited by Johann Heinrich Zedler (1706-1763) referred to all my four protagonists between the years 1733 and 1742,[1] and the more specialist dictionary of scholars by Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (1694-1758), the Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, did likewise in 1750/51.[2] Both applied national classifications, but neither consistently nor very prominent; the focus was on the scholarly achievements of those portrayed as learned rather than on their share of the learning their nation was supposed to have achieved.

This is interesting in so far as it was no longer completely usual. The large series of Jean-Pierre Niceron (1685-1738), the Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres, contemporary with the Universal-Lexicon and a bit earlier than Jöcher, mentioned only Reland and Renaudot, skipping Gale and Braun.[3] A cautionary approach is warranted here: One of the criteria for being included in such a dictionary of course always was scholarly excellence and/or fame, and they might have just been dropped for being of too little interest. For Niceron did reference non-French scholars, as for instance Reland. But – in keeping with the special attention Niceron programmatically devoted to illustrious scholars of the French nation – it may also be seen as telling that, in contrast to the Universal-Lexicon and Jöcher were both were quite on a par, in Niceron’s volumes Renaudot’s entries total 18 pages while Reland’s total 10. Such weightings and omissions – or selections – one might also meet with elsewhere, and according to different criteria. In David van Hoogstraten’s (1658-1724) and Matthaeus Brouërius van Nidek’s (1677-1743) Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek Braun and Reland received about the same share of attention, half a page each, whereas Gale was mentioned only in seven lines, and Renaudot was dropped altogether.[4] In this case, the selection might have been facilitated by the fact that the only Catholic was left out, and the Anglican Gale received less attention than the Calvinists Braun and Reland. Be that as it may, the main editor of the Groot algemeen […] woordenboek, Brouërius van Nidek – Hoogstraten had died in 1724 already, and the first volume went to print in 1725 – had edited another encyclopaedic work with a very clear national focus before, the Tooneel der Vereenigde Nederlanden (Theatre of the United Netherlands), the author of which, François Halma (1653-1722), also had died before seeing his work in print. And to make the full round, when Thomas Gale was referred to in an encyclopaedic work for the next time (since the Groot algemeen […] woordenboek), it was in volume three of Andrew Kippis’ (1725-1795) Biographia Britannica: Or The Lives Of The Most eminent Persons Who have flourished in Great Britain And Ireland, so that it was out of the question to refer to any other of my protagonists within this work.[5]

How it went on

References to my protagonists in encyclopaedias and dictionaries, 18th to 21st centuries

So although these were just a few spotlights on the situation in the first half of the 18th century, it seems that a national paradigm in constructing the history of learning was one way to do it but not the predominant. The question then must be, when did this change, and to which effect?

In respect to my protagonists, I am currently drawing up a list of such encyclopaedic references to them, and although it is not complete yet, the overall statistics you see to the left provide an indication when and how knowledge – at least of these people – became nationally framed.

Afirst phase of interest in my protagonists which lasted until the 1750s – which was, as also indicated by other materials, the phase after which when they entered a state of being structurally forgotten.  Then the references become sparse, until a renewed phase of interest begins which covers the 1830s to 1880s, and which is different for each of them. And this is, I would like to argue, due to the national framework having now become the predominant pattern of reference to scholars. Thomas Gale marks the first one to be referenced again in this way, in publications such as George Godfrey Cunningham’s (no dates, sorry) Lives of eminent and illustrious Englishmen (Glasgow, 1834-1842) and John Francis Waller’s The imperial dictionary of universal biography (London, 1857-1863) – although the last, to be fair, at least advertised itself as “a series of original memoirs of distinguished men, of all ages and all nations”. Yet the British focus was clear. Next come Johannes Braun and Adriaan Reland, in works like, Hendrick Collot d’Ésuery van Heinenoord’s (1773-1845) Holland’s Roem in Kunsten en Wetenschappen (Holland’s Glory in Arts and Sciences, Den Haag/Amsterdam 1825-1844) and Herman Verwoert’s (1801-1865) Handwoordenboek der vaderlandsche geschiedenis  (Nijmegen 1851), and of course the huge dictionary of national biography, the Biographisch woordenboek der Nederlanden (Amsterdam 1858-1874). References to Reland are still being made in the 1880s, which is due to him also being referenced in the German dictionary of national biography, the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (Berlin, 1875-1912), as I already pointed out in an earlier blogpost.

And, last but not least, Eusèbe Renaudot is being re-referenced from the 1860s onwards, but – and that makes his case perhaps the most interesting in here, but this is a topic I cannot say very much about right now (scheduled for in two weeks!) – he is referred to mostly in works without a direct French national connotation, such as Louis-Gabriel Michaud’s (1773-1858) Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne which appeared, in different editions, through almost all of the 19th century. What does this say about the connections made between scholarship and nation in 19th century France (if it does say anything about it)?


[1] Anon.: Braun (Joann.), in: Johann Heinrich Zedlers Grosses Vollständiges Universal-Lexicon, Vol. 4, Halle & Leipzig 1733, col. 1130-1131; Anon: Gale (Thomas), in: Grosses Vollständiges Universal-Lexicon, Vol. 10, Halle & Leipzig 1735, col. 98; Anon.: Reland (Hadrian), in: Grosses Vollständiges Universal-Lexicon, Vol. 31, Halle & Leipzig 1742, col. 420-422; Renaudot (Eusebius), ein Gottesgelehrter, in: Ibid., col. 581-584.

[2] Braun (Johannes), in: Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (ed.): Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, Vol. 1, Leipzig 1750, col. 1344-1345; Gale (Thomas) in:  Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (ed.): Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, Vol. 2, Leipzig 1750, col. 830-831; Reland (Adrian), in: Christian Gottlieb Jöcher (ed.): Allgemeines Gelehrten-Lexicon, Vol. 3, Leipzig 1751, col.2002-2004; Renaudot (Eusebius), in: Ibid., col. 2012-2013.

[3] Niceron, Jean-Pierre: Reland, Adrien, in: —: Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres, Vol. 1, Paris 1729, pp. 335-342, and vol. 10, Paris 1730, pp. 62-63 ; Niceron, Jean-Pierre: Renaudot, Eusèbe, in : —: Memoires pour servir a l’histoire des hommes illustres dans la Republique des lettres, vol. 11, Paris 1732, pp. 25-41, and vol. 20, Paris 1732, pp. 35.

[4] Anon: Braun (Johannes), in: David van Hoogstraten/ Mathaeus Brouërius van Nidek (eds.): Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek, Vol. 2, Den Haag/Asterdam/Utrecht 1725, pp. 378-379 ; Anon : Gale (Thomas), in : David van Hoogstraten/ Mathaeus Brouërius van Nidek (eds.): Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek, Vol. 5, Den Haag/Asterdam/Utrecht 1729, p. 11 ; Anon : Reland (Adriaan), in : David van Hoogstraten/ Mathaeus Brouërius van Nidek (eds.): Groot algemeen historisch, geographisch, genealogisch en oordeelkundig woordenboek, Vol. 9, Den Haag/Asterdam/Utrecht 1732, p. 54.

[5] Kippis, Andrew: Biographia Britannica, Vol. 3, London 1750, p. 2075-2077.

What’s a pupil worth?

Saturday, for Friday No.10, December 15th, 2018 (Holidays are coming and everything is getting complicated to schedule…)

I do not have touched upon one facet of scholar’s posthumous reputation yet, although it is commonly believed to possibly have a powerful influence upon it. And that ist he impact a scholar’s pupils can have on his or her memory.

The pupil hypothesis

The hypothesis behind this is quite simple. If you study with someone, who provides you the starting point for your own learning and perhaps even your career, you might be especially likely to keep that person not only in fond memory privately butalso to refer him or her professionally by quotation, citation or other forms of reference. This would then contribute to the overall reference frequency of the teacher. And you might even pass his or her theories, ideas, writings or whatever to your own pupils as a kind of intellectual legacy. At least this is what is commonly thought to be happening in the formation of intellectual communities, schools of thought, or scientific disciplines.

 As with all hypotheses this one also should be tested before being assumed too easily. Toput it to the test is unfortunately a bit tricky. The problem with it is that it has been drawn from the showcase examples. For those cases in which we areable to see such a pattern at work clearly are the successful ones, those that really did establish intellectual communities, schools of thought, or scientific disciplines and framed them as certain person’s legacies. They are present, powerful, and seem to indicate the value of the hypothesis because it is able to explain them. The question now should be, are these cases representing the standard against which all others should be measured, or are they exceptional? If they are exceptional, the patterns that formed them are likely to be exceptional, too. They should, therefore, only with care be applied to other cases as long as this possibility cannot be ruled out.

How to test this?

If I now want to test this hypothesis with my four protagonists which clearly do not represent successful showcases of establishing intellectual legacies, this raises a number of follow-up questions. The first and perhaps crucial of these is simply: Who is a pupil? Obviously not every student who ever heard a lecture by one of them should qualify for that. And also not every younger scholar who ever exchanged letters with one of them should do so. But if the source material is scarce anyway, how am I to determine the closer kind of relationship which would qualify as a teacher-pupil-relationship?

The second and third questions are not very much more easily solved either. For having identified someone as qualifying for a pupil in the sense of the hypothesis, I would have to determine his (in my cases there are no hers, unfortunately) overall impact; and then to single out from this impact his references to his teacher to be able to determine how much this particular individual contributed to the reference pattern.

I do not have very conclusive evidence to present yet (for two select cases see below) but from what I have seen so far I strongly suspect that for the average scholar, the impact of pupils is highly overrated by the standard hypothesis. It really does not seem to matter so much. But before I go into speculation about why that might be so, first let me present two very contrary examples which are completely non-representative but which may give you an idea what I am after here.

First: a forgotten scholar’s unknown pupil

In 1713 the Journal des Savants (issue 34/1713, August 21th) reviewed a scholarly commentary of some Hebrew texts, the Hilkōt maʿśerōt Seu Commentarius Philologicus De Decimis Judaeorum[1] by Johann Conrad Hottinger (1688?–1727?). The young author was characterized in this piece intwo ways: First, as he was himself kind enough to tell in the title of thereviewed book, he was a member of the Zürich Hottinger family of reputedscholars for all matters theological and oriental. It even detailed the precisenature of this connection: He was a nephew of Heinrich Hottinger (1647–1692) by being a son of Heinrich’s brother Conrad, most likely Johann Conrad Hottinger (1655–1730). This would make “our” Johann Conrad Hottinger the second of the name, and stemming from something like a sideline, as his father was none of the celebrated scholars of the name but a physician and numismat of lesser fame. That his uncle rather than his father was named as the reference point for the family connection on the title page of Johann Conrad the younger’s printed work would make perfect sense then. Second, and not directly forthcoming from the title of the work, Adrien Reland was referred to by the reviewer as “the young author’s teacher”.

Journal des Savants, 34/1713, August 21th, p. 450. 

It is always a bit risky to trust your sources too much but in this case there is no other evidence I yet know of contradicting this, so I trust the anonymous reviewer to have done his homework and to have known what he wrote. That a complimentary letter from Reland to the author was added to the work makes it an interpretation highly probable. So what I have here is a prime case fulfilling the hypothesis, at least on the face of it. There is a teacher-pupil-relationship in which the pupil uses the name and fame of his teacher to proliferate his writings, and by referring back to his teacher in return circulates his name. The problem is that this in all likelihood did not benefit Reland much, as the young Hottinger seems never to have made himself much of a name. It is quite hard to find any reliable information about him; even the larger catalogues have problems disambiguing him and his father. And even if one of his publications surely had the potential to be influential interms of circulating references to his “maitre”, the Journal “Altes und Neues aus der gelehrten Welt”, it seems to have been rather short-lived and not to have spread very far. So as a first preliminary conclusion from this case the hypothesis would have to be specified in that you may only expect substantial returns in terms of reference frequency from your pupils if they are either at least modestly successful themselves – so as to have an audience – or if they are very many (to compensate for little individual success).

Second: a famous pupil of two forgotten scholars?

Johannes Braun, professor of theology in Groningen and himself often busy with the exegesis of scriptural Hebrew, had many pupils of minor fame who later ventured to become predikanten in Dutch churches, an occupation for which a solid theological education was necessary. But there were also others among those who listened to his lectures. One of these, the young Albert Schultens (1686–1750) in 1706 defended a thesis on the utility of Arabic in the study of scripture presided over by Braun. In an age where the defended thesis often was acollaboration between president and respondent, this points to a rather close relationship, as does the theme. And moreover, Schultens afterwards relocated to Utrecht in 1707 to further study Arabic under Reland, living in his house. His first publication, the “Animadversiones philologicae in Jobum” is said to have been written under Reland’s direct guidance, and as Hottinger’s book also contained a letter to the author by Reland as a prelude – as well as a laudatory examination verdict by Johannes Braun and his colleague Paulus Hulsius (1653–1712). Now Schultens embarked on a very solid career, became an appreciated Orientalist and Arabist, and the founder of a dynasty of three generations of renowned Arabists. This, then, would be the ideal pupil for the hypothesis: Building on the knowledge inherited from his or her teachers an own career, becoming esteemed, and also creating a family tradition of proliferation of this intellectual legacy he or she should be perfectly able to carry on the name and fame of the teachers who had been instrumental in laying the foundations to these accomplishments.

Only that Schultens does not seem to have done so, at least not overly zealous. As far as I am able to determine at the moment. So even famous pupil might net you not much return for your own reference patterns in the end, perhaps – one more preliminary conclusion – because they are too much taken up by building their own reputation. 

But if neither minor nor major pupils really add to your reference patterns as the hypothesis supposes, who then does? Well, I don’t know yet, but I’ll going to try to find out.


[1] Johann Conrad Hottinger: Hilkōt maʿśerōt Seu Commentarius Philologicus De Decimis Judaeorum: Decem Exercitationibus absolutus. In quo omni, quae ad hanc materiam illustrandam pertinent, tum è Sacris Litteris, tum ipsis Judaeorum veterum monumentis explicantur, variaque alia Sacrarum Antiquitatum themata ex occasione tractantur. Auctore Joh. Conr. Hottingero, Henr. ex Conr. Nep. Helv. Tigurino. Praemittitur celeberimi viri Hadriani Relandi Epistola ad Auctorem. Cum Indicibus necessariis, Leiden: Isaac Severinus 1713.

A not-so-regular update: 19th century Dutch-German memory crossings

Friday N°2 plus one (Saturday), October 13th, 2018

First lesson learned

Regularly scheduled updates may become difficult once family matters have to be reckoned with. As I was on the road with the kids yesterday as promised centuries ago, I subsequently deliver my update today. And promise to be punctual from now on. But now let’s move on to the interesting things.

What’s new?

As I am following my trails into the 19th century – treading on unfamiliar terrain here, so moving on cautiously – I have recently stumbled upon two interesting Dutch figures and an even more interesting memory crossings. But let me start from the beginning: Last Wednesday I proposed that references are the building blocks for structural remembrance –  or forgetting. But references do not just pop up and float around; they are made by specific people with a specific purpose each time. Which means that, to put it shortly, structural forgetting comes into being through mass omission: by references not being made, connections not being drawn, names not being dropped. And to be able to discern this, I have to make use of those – fewer – references that are still being made, and to use them like little spotlights in the dark: To draw clues about where to look next.

Now I had discovered long ago already a curious case of referencing and non-referencing of two of my protagonists: Adrien Reland (1676-1718) and Johannes Braun (Braunius, 1628-1708). While Reland had an entry in the ADB, the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, Braun had none. Not very interesting, where it not for the fact that there was no reason to include Reland into the ADB while Braun might well have been. For the aim of the General German Biography was to collect the biographies of the most important persons from the German-speaking areas of Europe from the early Middle Ages up until the 19th century when it was written. Now Braun was born in Kaiserslautern in 1628 and lived there until the burning of the city during the Thirty Years’ War, after which the rest of the family moved to the Netherlands. Being of German extraction, he would have made good ADB material. Reland in turn was born in 1676 in De Rijp, north of Leeuwarden in Western Frisia, and had no German family background. So, why include one but not the other? For such selections are the stuff structural forgetting is made of. One referenced, one not; one remembered, one not. Unfortunately that question cannot be answered directly, as the ADB archive is missing since decades and we frankly do not know how those who were portrayed were selected. We do know from a number of examples, however, that the editors could be quite generous in determining the ‘German-speaking area’ from which the biographies were to be drawn. What to do now? Well, when questions cannot be tackled directly, do it in a roundabout way.

Enter the first Dutch scholar

Jacob Cornelis van Slee

I already knew from other inquiries that there was one author who had portrayed some early  modern Dutch scholars for the ADB. Perhaps this would give something like a clue? And indeed it does, and this is where the first of the two 19th century Dutch scholars I announced above enters the stage. Jakob Cornelis van Slee (1841-1929), predikant in Deventer and part-time historian specialising in church history and history of knowledge with a local focus, wrote 205 entries. Most of them are about Dutchmen, and all situated within the history of church and theology – befitting a preacher, one might say. Now Slee accurately saw to it that he did not portray anyone born after 1648, the date of formal Dutch independence from the Holy Roman Empire. Which would provide good reason why he did not include Reland himself; that entry was written by Richard Hoche (1834-1906). But why did Slee not reference Braun, who was born before 1648, spent most of his life in the Netherlands, and was professor for theology at Groningen university? A question that becomes even more interesting as Braun was suspected of unorthodox views, accused of being a Spinozist, and Slee obviously had something of an interest for such people, having written a history of Socinianism in the Netherlands in 1914. And how came Slee’s connection to the ADB about? Well, as material about him is quite sparse, I am going to the sources next week and have a look at what’s left of his materials in the Stadsarchief and the Athenaeumbibliotheek Deventer. The hunt is on!

Exit Slee, enter a German scholar

Now to Richard Gottfried Hoche who wrote the ADB entry on Reland. Biographical information concerning him is even harder to come by, but he was director of a Hamburg gymnasium, then became head of the Hamburg education authority, and published some works about classical philology and Roman mathematics. He wrote 183 entries for the ADB, for the most part about philologists, teachers, and scholars from somewhere between the 16th to the 19th century. He most likely picked Reland because he also was a philologist, and Hoche had no problems in including Dutch philologists, no matter if born after 1648 (see for instance his entry on Jakob Perizonius (1651-1715), a close contact of Reland). Now Braunius was neither a teacher nor a philologist in the strict sense of the word, but he was a scholar with strong philological interests pertaining to biblical Hebrew. So Hoche could have included him in principle, but he did not. I did not yet find out if any materials from Hoche have survived, but this is on the list. And will not be forgotten.

Exit Hoche, enter the second Dutch scholar

Willem Boele Sophius Boeles

If Braun was not mentioned by both Slee and Hoche, perhaps this just to be taken as a sign that he was, already at the time, quite definitely forgotten? Perhaps this is the case. But at least one 19th century Dutch author did lose a few words about him, and that is the second Dutch scholar I promised. It is Willem Boele Sophius Boeles (1832-1902) who was president of the Leeuwarden Court of Law and part-time historian, specialising in church history and history of knowledge with a local focus (sounds familiar? Yes, he and Slee might make for a good comparison couple). He wrote zero articles for the ADB, but among his many publications there is a biographical compendium of the professors of Groningen university – where Boeles himself had studied law – from 1864 which, of course (this time), features Braun as the Groningen professor he was. Boeles later wrote about the history of Franeker university also, and about some individual scholars whose memory he wanted to keep alive. Slee had done the same for the Deventer Athenaeum, and for those individual scholars whose memory he wanted to be upheld. So Boeles will be worth a closer look too, to find out more about why 19th century Dutch scholars as these referred back to their predecessors in the way they did, and why and how Johannes Braun and Adrien Reland became tangled up in this. Work to do!