Dutch printed collections

Emblemata Amatoria by P. Hooft. Amsterdam, 1611
Emblemata Amatoria by P. Hooft. Amsterdam, 1611. Shelfmark: BL 11556.bbb.32

Our Dutch printed collections contain material published in the Low Countries and includes Frisian and Afrikaans.

About the collection

The superb history of printing in the Low Countries is reflected in the British Library's collections. Our early Dutch collections contain many Plantin or Elsevier imprints. Poetry, drama, theology and politics (an enormous collection of pamphlets) are very well represented, and so too are the natural sciences. It is estimated that of the pre-1800 collections around a quarter is not held in the Netherlands. For this reason they are of worldwide importance.

Post 1800 the focal point for publications on history is the 17th century, which is regarded as the Golden Age, especially where art history is concerned.

The most important subject for the 20th century is undoubtedly the Second World War. Our holdings of clandestinely published material are listed in the special catalogue by Anna Simoni, Publish and be Free.

The Dutch colonial history is well represented in our collections, both in the Dutch language collections and in the India Office Records. Indonesia’s struggle for independence is documented too, as can be seen from the bibliography by Jacob Harskamp The Indonesian question.

The Dutch language collections include material in other languages that are published in the Netherlands or Belgium. An exception forms South-Africa, where non-Dutch titles are selected and held by Asian and African Studies.

Highlights inlcude:

  • The works of Desiderius Erasmus (1466 – 1536) and Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)
  • A collection of politically inflammatory material, for example: Thomas Hobbes, Opera Philosophica
  • Pamphlets on Anglo-Dutch political affairs
  • A unique collection of early medical dissertations presented at Dutch universities
  • 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
  • Clandestinely published newspapers, poems, etc. during World War II, in particular the works of H.N. Werkman (1882-1945) and De Blauwe Schuit.

What is available online?

All our Dutch printed material can be found in the British Library’s online catalogue, Explore the British Library.

In addition, there are several specialist catalogues available:

What is available in our Reading Rooms?

Most post-1850 Dutch printed books and periodicals can be ordered to any of our Reading Rooms, usually within 70 minutes, although an increasing amount of material is held at our Boston Spa site in Yorkshire and may take up to two days to arrive.

Pre-1850 material can be consulted in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room, while newspapers, maps and manuscripts are available in their own respective Reading Rooms. All the reading rooms have some reference works on open shelves, including bibliographies, catalogues, dictionaries and general reference works.

A large number of electronic resources can be accessed through the Reading Room PCs. Staff are available to offer bibliographic and other basic research assistance. 

Further information