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Dutch Printed Collections, 1501-1850

The early Dutch collections in the British Library are rich and extensive, the largest collections to be found anywhere outside the Low Countries

The Plantin or Elsevier imprints, for example, can rival those held in the national libraries of Belgium or the Netherlands. The superb history of printing in the Low Countries is reflected in the British Library holdings. Poetry, drama, theology, and politics (an enormous collection of pamphlets) are very well represented, and so too are the natural sciences.

Description de touts les Pays-Bas

From Description de touts les Pays-Bas by Lodovico Guicciardini (Amsterdam, 1625), shelfmark: C.78.e.11 © The British Library Board

Highlights of the collection

  • The works of Erasmus and Hugo Grotius.
  • A collection of politically inflammatory material, for example: Thomas Hobbes, Opera Philosophica (Amsterdam, 1668), shelfmark: 521.i.3.
  • Pamphlets on Anglo-Dutch political affairs.
  • A unique collection of early medical dissertations presented at Dutch universities (Leyden, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Franeker).
  • A rich collection of emblem books from the Low Countries as a whole.
  • An excellent collection of plays, including a large number of French plays printed in the Netherlands.
  • Shakespeare translations into Dutch/Flemish, from the 1780s onwards.

The Beudeker Collection of prints of the Low Countries is held in the British Library Map Collections.


Records for early Dutch/Flemish books, journals and printed ephemera can be found in Explore the British Library. They can also be found in a printed edition of the catalogue.

The Library's holdings of early Dutch/Flemish printed materials are also described in:

  • Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in the Netherlands and Belgium and of Dutch and Flemish Books Printed in Other Countries from 1470 to 1600 now in the British Museum (London, 1965).
  • Catalogue of Books from the Low Countries 1601-1621, compiled by AEC Simoni (London: British Library, 1990).

All 17th-century Dutch imprints held in the British Library (some 17,500) have now been recorded on the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands (STCN). This joint project with the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague is still in progress. At present, pre-1600 titles from the British Library's collection are being added. 18th-century imprints will be added at a later date.


Dutch/Flemish Section
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)20 7412 7764
Fax: +44 (0)20 7412 7578


External links

Koninklijke Bibliotheek