Book Sales Catalogues Online

Book Sales Catalogues Online (BSCO) offers a comprehensivebibliography of book sales catalogues printed in the Dutch Republic before1801. A sophisticated search menu provides access to some 3,750 digitalfacsimiles from ca. 50 libraries across Europe, including major collections inthe Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, France, and Russia. More catalogueswill be added in the future. These catalogues are a key primary source forresearch on the history of the book and libraries, the history of ideas, thehistory of collecting, the history of literature, and the history of art. Theycontain information on books from all over Europe in various languages, such asDutch, French, and Latin.


The early seventeenth century witnessed the sudden rise of the DutchRepublic as focal point of the European book trade. Venice and Antwerp hadceased to play their parts; Germany was shattered by the Thirty Years' War; TheBritish Isles and the Scandinavian and Iberian Peninsulas were peripheral;centralism and censorship were crushing France's native genius. Booksprohibited there and elsewhere were published or offered for sale in Amsterdam,Leiden, The Hague, and Rotterdam. Dutch booksellers and publishers became themost productive and most versatile of their time, with permanent agents in thebook centers of other countries. This condition lasted, without much challenge,for a century and a half.

The printed auction catalogue was a late sixteenth century Dutch innovationthat led to the rapid development of a flourishing auction system. In Leiden inparticular, large scholarly libraries of international repute were auctioned;Amsterdam was known for the auctions of the stocks of the major booksellers;and, especially in the early part of the eighteenth century, numerous privatelibraries of high-ranking officials, foreign ambassadors, and other collectorsof valuable libraries were shipped to The Hague to be sold in auctions. Dutchscholars, divines, members of the professions, merchants and magistratesassembled relatively large libraries, and the printed auction catalogues ofthese collections were used in the Republic of Letters as models, bibliographicreference tools, and guides for tracing the best books in the handsomesteditions.

At the end of the sixteenth century the first auction catalogue of ascholar’s library was printed in the newborn Dutch Republic. This catalogue hasrightly been regarded as an important innovation in international book trade,because this type of catalogue was soon to be printed and distributed all overEurope. In the seventeenth century the most important auction towns in Hollandwere Amsterdam, Leiden and The Hague. Thousands of auction catalogues have beenprinted here. No wonder Holland was called ‘The Bookshop of the World’.

The Dutch Republic was the greatest 'clearing-house of European print' inthe seventeenth century, and it remained extremely significant during thefollowing century. Complete 'freedom of the press' was still an unknownconcept, but in the Dutch Republic censorship was fairly limited compared tomany other European countries. Non-Dutch authors were able to publish theirbooks in the Republic, and Dutch book publishers and traders issuedtranslations of works in Latin and European languages that challengedtraditional scientific, social, and political conventions. Many of these workshad a profound influence on European history and culture.

Contents of book sales catalogues are not limited to printed objects; oftenthey also include scientific instruments, art objects, and all sorts of'curiosities'.

Book Sales Catalogues as Sources

Auction catalogues are indispensable sources for research on:

The history of the book
Catalogues prepared for an auction of a publisher's wholesale stock provideinformation about the titles published and distributed by him. Booksellers’stock catalogues and stock-auction catalogues give a picture of the bookspresent in a bookstore at a given time. Like the catalogues of privatelibraries, they repeatedly list books which have since disappeared. Auction cataloguescontain information about the provenance of manuscripts and unique copies ofprinted books.

The history of libraries
Few records of important private libraries of the past have been preserved.Interest in book ownership in early modern times is increasing, and with it thedemand for historic auction catalogues.

The history of ideas and literature
More than any other source, sales catalogues offer the possibility to determineto what extent books circulated.

The history of art
Combined book and art auctions were common. Auction catalogues often list notonly drawings and prints but also feature sections on paintings as well as coinand medal collections.

Contributing Libraries and Archives

The catalogues in this collection were reproduced from the following libraries and archives:

Amsterdam Museum (formerly: Historical Museum, Amsterdam)
Amsterdam University Library
Artis Library, Amsterdam
Bibliotheca Philosophica Hermetica, Amsterdam
City Archives, Amsterdam
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
Toonkunst-Bibliotheek, Amsterdam (at the library of the KoninklijkeChristelijke Zangersbond)
VU University Library, Amsterdam
Gelders Archief, Arnhem
University Library, Augsburg
National Széchényi Library, Budapest
Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen
Elisabeth Weeshuis Museum, Culemborg
Stadsarchief en Athenaeumbibliotheek, Deventer
Streekarchief Midden-Holland, Gouda
Groninger Archieven, Groningen
University Library, Groningen
Bibliotheek Zuid-Kennemerland, Haarlem
Noord-Hollands Archief, Haarlem
Municipal Archives, Kampen
Library Theological University, Kampen
Historisch Centrum, Leeuwarden
Tresoar, Leeuwarden
Erfgoed Leiden en Omstreken, Leiden
University Library, Leiden
British Library, London
Stadsbibliotheek, Maastricht
University Library, Maastricht
Zeeuwse Bibliotheek, Middelburg
Radboud University Library, Nijmegen
Regional Archives, Nijmegen
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
City Archives, Rotterdam
Public Library, Rotterdam
National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg
Private collection (drs. P.G. Luzac), The Hague
Koninklijke Bibliotheek - National library of the Netherlands, The Hague
Municipal Archives, The Hague
Museum Meermanno, The Hague
National Archives, The Hague
Netherlands Institute for Art History, The Hague
Netherlands Music Institute, The Hague
University Library, Tilburg
Röell Family Archive, Ulvenhout
University Library, Uppsala
Utrecht Archives, Utrecht
University Library, Utrecht
Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel
Biblioteka Ossolineum, Wrocław
University Library, Wrocław
Bibliotheca Documenta C.P.D., Zalău
Regional Archives, Zutphen
Historisch Centrum Overijssel, Zwolle


Karel Bostoen, Leiden University
Otto Lankhorst
Alicia C. Montoya, Radboud University
Marieke van Delft, Koninklijke Bibliotheek - National library of theNetherlands

Founding Editors

B. van Selm (†)
J.A. Gruys
H.W. de Kooker (†)