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


How to guides

Guide to researching provenance of books now in the British Library

Where do the British Library’s old printed books ‘come from'? Who owned or read them in centuries past? Why does it matter?

How to request items not in the catalogue

You can use 'Request Other Items' to order items which have no record in Explore the British Library. Also to order most items found in Expore Archives and Manuscripts.

Guide to the British National Bibliography

A guide to help you use the British National Bibliography catalogue, covering: login, search, and how to manage your results

Can I take photographs of British Library material myself?

You can take photos of our collection items yourself in British Library Reading Rooms

Can I copy material in the Reading Rooms?

What you need to know about copying British Library collections in our Reading Rooms

Electronic resources

We collect thousands of electronic journals, books and websites and hundreds of databases. You need to come to the Library to access the majority of these resources.

Terms of use for Google Books

This page states the terms and conditions surrounding the British Library’s out of copyright books which have been digitised by Google.

Free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions: 2019

We offer a range of free Discovery and 1-2-1 sessions to help you make the most of your time researching here.

Guide to Explore the British Library

A guide to help you use the catalogue, covering: login, search, how to manage your results, how to order/view items

What collection items can I view online?

You can see books, manuscripts, maps, playbills, scores and much more. Researchers can use our collection of electronic resources and databases to help them find material relevant to their research.

How to handle books

See the techniques you should use to keep our books in good shape.

How to handle rolled items

We show how you should unroll items like scrolls, rolls and maps.

Using gloves with books and manuscripts

Should you wear gloves? Here's some advice to help you decide.

Breaches of British Library Reading Room Conditions of Use

These guidelines outline the British Library’s policies and procedures with regard to breaches of its Reading Room Conditions of Use. They are to ensure consistency in the actions taken in response to such breaches and to define the appropriate roles and responsibilities in the process.

Get a Reader Pass

Access over 170 million collection items for free with a Reader Pass.

Search for resources in microforms

How to search for resources in microforms

How to handle folded items

Find out how you should hand items like large maps and book inserts.

Using the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)

How to use the English Short Title Catalogue (ESTC)