The Erasmus Collection of Rotterdam Public Library is world's largest collection of Erasmiana. Apart from its own collection, the library also owns a unique card index containing bibliographical descriptions of about 6,000 early modern editions of Erasmus’s works. These encompass Latin texts as well as translations. Each edition is accompanied by information about the whereabouts of surviving copies worldwide. Bibliographical references are added in many cases too.
Van Gulik and his card index
The initiator of this card index is Egbertus van Gulik, MA (1910-1998). Educated as a historian, he was a librarian of Rotterdam Public Library from 1961 to 1973. Between 1965 and 1989 he was a member of the Conseil international pour l’édition des oeuvres complètes d’Erasme. His major work on Erasmus’s private book collection is published posthumously by University of Toronto Press: Erasmus and his Books (2018).
Starting point for Van Gulik’s index was the Bibliotheca Erasmiana, a provisional repertoire of Erasmus’s works, published by Ferdinand vander Haeghen in 1893. The information on library locations and the bibliographical references basically reflect the situation as it was by 1970. Although entries have since been regularly added and updated, this was not done in a systematic or comprehensive way.
Erasmus Online Database
The international world of scholarship attaches great importance to this card index named after Van Gulik. It is the starting point for any serious study of Erasmus’s works. For this reason it was decided to digitize the index and to publish it here under the name Erasmus Online Database, thus making it accessible worldwide and free of charge. In the 2000’s, this project was initiated by the Rotterdam Erasmus Centre for Early Modern Studies, that used to provide access to the database through the website erasmus.org.
The Erasmus Online Database offers a modern search functionality enabling complicated search actions such as: all editions of the Praise of Folly published between 1520 and 1530 but not in Antwerp. Over 2,000 editions include an illustration of the title page as well. Seventeen editions (including two Collected Works editions) have been digitized fully. All this makes Erasmus Online a useful tool not only for philologists and historians, for book historians, philosophers and theologians, but for booksellers and auctioneers as well.
This database is a work in progress. Since both Van Gulik’s index and Vander Haeghen’s repertoire are inexhaustive according to modern scholarly standards, their contents are continuously enlarged and updated. In the course of time a comprehensive bibliographical description of each title entry will be provided.
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