Understanding the literary system of the 18th century


Private libraries and private library inventories, 1665 – 1830: Locating, studying and understanding sources, in Europe and beyond

17-18 January, 2019
Soeterbeeck Convent, Radboud University, Nijmegen (The Netherlands)

Book historians have long acknowledged the importance of private book lists and library inventories as a source to study book ownership and print culture before the advent of public libraries and mechanized book production in the nineteenth century. Private libraries often fulfilled essential functions within reading communities, through family and professional networks, and through other networks of informal, interpersonal book lending. In some cases, private libraries laid the foundations for later, public institutions providing access to books.

Despite the bourgeoning of case studies focusing on multiple aspects of private book ownership, and on specific collectors and their libraries, scholarship is still hampered by the lack of overviews of the source material: private library inventories. These include a broad range of materials, from printed library sales catalogues to probate inventories and manuscript inventories for domestic use. Even for the most well-documented of these sources, auction catalogues, it is however impossible to provide plausible estimates of the extant numbers today. Private inventories can be found in archives, libraries, and other institutions in Europe and beyond. Many of these are located well beyond their original place of production, making it essential to approach any overview from a transnational perspective. The available resources are sometimes fragmentary, dispersed or difficult to access, for both material, historical (the massive destruction of archives after WW II in central Europe) and linguistic reasons (south-eastern Europe, with its Ottoman legacy).

During this international conference, we lay the groundwork for a more systematic survey of available sources, resources and interpretative approaches to private book inventories, in Europe and beyond. A selection of the papers presented during the conference will be published in 2021. ​


Private Libraries and Private Library Inventories, 1665 – 1830:
Locating, Studying and Understanding Sources

Soeterbeeck Convent, Ravenstein
17-18 January 2019

Thursday, 17 January

9.00 – 9.30 Introduction

Welcome and introduction
Alicia C. Montoya (Radboud University)

Private collections in the Soeterbeeck convent library
Ad Poirters (Radboud University)

9.30 – 10.00 Coffee / tea

10.00 – 11.15 Session 1. What is a ‘private’ library catalogue?
Chair: Johan Oosterman (Radboud University)

“Private library catalogue”: Challenges in getting to a working definition
Meghan Constantinou (Grolier Club)

Setting household catalogues for living Libraries: Material failures and half-success in seventeenth and eighteenth-century France
Yann Sordet (Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris)

The card catalogue of a private library in the eighteenth century
Raphaële Mouren (Warburg Institute)

11.15 – 12.00 Session 2. Accessing sources: challenges and perspectives
Chair: Robbe Devriese (University of St Andrews)

‘Thus they consented and signed before me’. Tracing books in the historical collection of the notaries archive from Mexico City
Andrea Reyes Elizondo (Leiden University)

Potentials of researching private libraries: Kušević family library in Zagreb, Croatia
Jasna Tingle (Croatian Academic and Research Network – CARNET)
12.00 – 13.00 Lunch

13.00 – 14.15 Session 3. Relations between ‘private’ and ‘public’ libraries
Chair: Alexandra Ortalja-Baird (British Museum)

The aristocratic republic of collectors: Private library inventories in Poland (1680-1830)
Michał Bajer (University of Szczecin)

‘A blessing, far and near’: Private libraries and the social history of Enlightenment in Scotland
Mark Towsey (University of Liverpool)

When the private becomes public: Collection building in eighteenth-century Dublin
Jason McElligott (Marsh’s Library, Dublin)

14.15 – 14.45 Coffee / tea

14.45 – 16.00 Session 4. Scholars’ libraries
Chair: Martje de Vries (Radboud University)

Private libraries and the book trade in early modern academia
Pierre Delsaerdt (University of Antwerp)

Philosophical libraries. Private libraries of philosophers in the modern and contemporary age
Giovanna Granata (University of Cagliari)

Scholars’ libraries as a community facility
Laurence Brockliss (University of Oxford)

16.00 – 17.15 Session 5. Libraries and religious communities
Chair: Helwi Blom (Radboud University)

An early eighteenth-century Collegiant’s library in Rijnsburg
Paul Hoftijzer (Leiden University)

Jewish and Hebrew private library catalogues in the Dutch Republic
Anna De Wilde (Radboud University)

Of making many books there is no end: The private catalogue of David Oppenheim and Jewish book culture in early modern Europe
Joshua Teplitsky (Stony Brook University)

19.00 – 21.00 Conference dinner

Friday, 18 January

9.00 – 10.15 Session 6. Using digital tools and databases to study book ownership (I)
Chair: Manuel Llano (University of Utrecht)

The Private Libraries of Renaissance England database
Joseph Black (University of Massachusetts)

Private libraries and the Material Evidence in Incunabula Database
Marieke van Delft (Koninklijke Bibliotheek – National Library of the Netherlands, The Hague)

Locating women’s writing in early modern libraries: Findings from the RECIRC project
Marie Louise Coolahan (National University of Ireland, Galway)

10.15 – 10.45 Coffee / tea

10.45 – 11.30 Session 7. Using digital tools and databases to study book ownership (II)
Chair: Shari Boodts (Radboud University)

Distant reading of early English auction catalogues: Visualisation and network analysis
Graeme Kemp (University of St Andrews)

The MEDIATE and BIBLIO databases
Micha Hulsbosch, Alicia Montoya and Juliette Reboul (Radboud University)

11.30 – 12. 45 Session 8. Library catalogues and the (international) book trade
Chair: Jan Hillgärtner (Leiden University)

Private libraries and the book trade in the Venetian ghetto
Evelien Chayes (Radboud University)

Mercury in the Republic of Letters: private Libraries in Spanish booksellers’ auction catalogues
Pedro Rueda and Lluís Agustí (University of Barcelona)

Do sales matter? Reputation and contemporary popularity in the Dutch and Danish book worlds
Andrew Pettegree (University of St Andrews)

12.45 – 13.45 Lunch

13.45 – 15.00 Session 9. International models and national specificities
Chair: Ann-Marie Hansen (Université Rennes 2)

The documentation of the private libraries in the Hungarian Kingdom and the Transylvanian Principality between 1665 and 1830
István Monok (Library of Academy of Science, Budapest)

The inventories of Swedish private libraries
Alex Alsemgeest, Peter Sjökvist and Helena Backman (Uppsala University Library and Koninklijke Bibliotheek – National Library of the Netherlands, The Hague)

Private libraries in Parma
Federica Dallasta (University of Parma)

15.00 – 15.30 Coffee / tea

15.30 – 16.15 Session 10. The afterlives of books and catalogues
Chair: Koen Scholten (University of Utrecht)

‘Antiquissima edition’: Antiquarian interests in libraries of the Dutch Golden Age
Arthur der Weduwen (University of St Andrews)

Beyond the books: Catalogues as memory in eighteenth-century Germany
Philippe Schmid (University of St Andrews)

16.15 – 16.30 Concluding remarks

Past events

MEDIATE team members have presented the project at the following conferences: