M. Tullii Ciceronis Opera
M. Tullii Ciceronis opera

M. Tullii Ciceronis opera
Marcus Tullius Cicero
Leiden: Officinâ Elzeviriana, 1642
[Elzevier] W.535

In 1629 Bonaventura and Abraham Elzevier instigated a duodecimo series of cheap, well-produced editions of classical authors. These followed the model of the octavos produced by the Manutius family in Italy in the sixteenth century as cheap, portable student textbooks, but the Elzeviers trumped the Aldines for both scholarship and price. Editors included such reputed scholars as Joseph Juste Scaliger, Daniel Heinsius and his son Nicolaus, and Jacobus Gronovius. The books carried the name of the Elzeviers across France, Germany, Italy, England and Scandinavia. They were a staple of Elzevier publications, printed and reprinted. This is the first of two editions of Cicero’s Opera, with the Elzeviers also producing his De officiis and Orationes selectae (three editions each); and Epistolae ad Atticum and Epistolae ad familiares (one edition each).

Catalogus librorum book cover
Catalogus librorum qui in bibliopolio Elseviriano venales extant

Catalogus librorum qui in bibliopolio Elseviriano venales extant
Leiden: Officinâ Elzeviriana, 1634.
[Elzevier] W.2

In order to obtain capital, Louis Elzevier, founder of the Elzevier firm, bought up and auctioned entire libraries, striking out as a second-hand bookdealer. Throughout the life of the firm, bookselling—wholesale, retail, and, as here, second-hand—remained as important to the family as printing and publishing. This is the second of 21 catalogues produced by the Elzeviers and, with 80 pages, is one of their more extensive ones.  It contains works in from the sixteenth and especially the seventeenth centuries, arranged alphabetically under broad subject areas: theology, law, medicine, and, in one large grouping, history, philosophy, literature and miscellaneous works. Books in languages other than Latin (oriental languages, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Dutch) are listed separately by language at the end, in the same subject areas. This catalogue has clearly been used, as shown by the fact that the titles of a few of the Latin theological books have been underlined.

Discorsi et dimonstrasioni p. 149
Discorsi et dimonstrasioni matematiche intorno à due nuoue scienze

Discorsi et dimonstrasioni matematiche intorno à due nuoue scienze
Galileo Galilei
Leiden: Officinâ Elzeviriana, 1638
[Elzevier] W.468

This is the first edition of Galileo’s Discorsi et dimonstrasioni matematiche (‘Discourses and Mathematical Demonstrations relating to Two New Sciences’), the work which forms the basis of modern dynamics. (The ‘two new sciences’ presented are the engineering science of the strength of materials and the mathematical science of kinetics.) Following Galileo’s trial for heresy in Italy, he was forbidden to publish in Florence or Rome by the Congregation of the Index, and could not obtain an ecclesiastical licence to publish in Venice. Galileo owed the Elzeviers a debt of gratitude for publicising his previous works. They published the Discorsi from a manuscript smuggled out of Italy into France in the first instance. It is one of their few scientific publications and one of their few publications in Italian: most of the Elzeviers’ output was in Latin, with French being the main vernacular language in which they published.

Disputatio juridica inauguralis p. 1
Disputatio juridica inauguralis, de patria potestate, quam divino numine propitio

Disputatio juridica inauguralis, de patria potestate, quam divino numine propitio
Jakob Niesen
Leiden: Abraham Elzevier, 1705
[Elzevier] E.S.123

This 26-page quarto is a dissertation on Roman law. The younger Abraham Elzevier (1653-1712) had a monopoly on publishing theses of the University of Leiden, which were almost all that he did publish.  Under him the quality and reputation of Elzevier works sunk markedly.  Abraham was expensive, charging five guilders instead of the permitted four for each quire printed, paper was poor and types worn, corrections of typographical errors were slovenly, no proof-readers were employed, and printing was too long delayed.  Complaints were frequent.  In 1710 Dr Lämmermann, visiting Leiden, wrote: ‘The Elzevier Press, which formerly was so justly famous, has now greatly declined …. Nowhere in Europe is printing done in a more vicious manner than here’.

Psalmi Davidis p. 1
Psalmi Davidis Regis et Prophetiae

Psalmi Davidis Regis et Prophetiae
Ed. by Thomas Erpenius
Leiden:  J. Maire and Officinâ Elzeviriana, 1625
[Elzevier] W.241

The University of Leiden was a renowned centre of oriental studies, and in the eyes both of the Elzeviers themselves and of the University of Leiden, the ability to print oriental languages was the Elzevier Press’s greatest claim to distinction. Oriental books were the specialty of Isaac Elzevier (1596-1651), who had established his own press in 1616 and became printer to the University of Leiden in 1620—although by the time this version of the Psalms in Syriac, with a facing Latin translation, appeared, he had sold out to Bonaventura and Abraham Elzevier, who were in turn appointed University printers. The University showed its regard for oriental printing by resolving in 1627 that eight common printers and journeymen compositors in oriental languages employed at the University should be free from excise and imposts (e.g. on beer).  In 1630 the privilege was extended to any typefounder resident in Leiden and enrolled at the University who could produce oriental types. The editor of the Psalmi Davidis, Thomas Erpenius (1584-1624), was a professor of oriental languages at Leiden and an official interpreter of the States of Holland, with a reputation which extended throughout Europe.  He printed this book at a press at his own house, which the Elzeviers subsequently acquired from his widow.

Danielis Heinsii, p.1
Danielis Heinsii Panegyricus, Gustavo Magno, Suecorum Gothorum, Vandalorum, &c. regi, consecratus

Danielis Heinsii Panegyricus, Gustavo Magno, Suecorum Gothorum, Vandalorum, &c. regi, consecratus
Daniel Heinsius
Leiden: Officinâ Bonaventurae & Abrahami Elzevir, 1632
[Elzevier] W.369 (fol.)

The popularity of the Elzevier series of small classical texts and ‘Little republics’ books leads us to associate them with publications in duodecimo or yet smaller formats. In fact, their output also includes well over one hundred folios. This panegyric on the newly dead Gustaf II Adolf, King of Sweden (1594-1632) is by the Dutch poet and classical scholar Daniel Heinsius (1580-1655), who had produced orations from an early age. Heinsius not only published twenty-eight titles with the Elzeviers but advised them on their publishing programme. This folio of his is marked by the large size of the fount, three millimetres for the body of each letter, as opposed to the more usual two millimetres.

M. Vitruvii Pollionis p.54
M. Vitruvii Pollionis De architectura libri decem

M. Vitruvii Pollionis De architectura libri decem
Vitruvius Pollio
Amsterdam: Louis Elzevier, 1649
[Elzevier] W.1097 (fol.)

This folio on architecture by the first-century BC Roman author, architect and civil and military engineer is the only surviving major book on architecture from classical antiquity. It was influential from the early Renaissance onwards. The Elzeviers’ publication of it followed several earlier editions from 1486 onwards, including the first illustrated edition in 1511, and several sixteenth-century translations into vernacular languages. Alphonse Willems, the major Elzevier bibliographer, described the generous illustrations in the Elzevier edition as not very accurate. The book is also noteworthy for having notes at the bottom of pages: footnotes, as opposed to side-notes or notes surrounding text, originated in the Netherlands and were used there for several decades before spreading to other European countries.

Poemata & effigies p.1
Poemata & effigies trium fratrum Belgarum Nicolai Grudii, Hadriani Marii, Ioannis Secundi

Poemata & effigies trium fratrum Belgarum Nicolai Grudii, Hadriani Marii, Ioannis Secundi
Nicolaus Grudius, Hadrianus Marius, and Janus Secundus; ed. by Bonaventura Vulcanius
Leiden: Louis Elzevier, 1612
[Elzevier] W.75

Several items in the Elzevier Collection bear traces of former ownership. Poemata & effigies is the most illustrious of these. The editor, the Renaissance humanist and philologist Bonaventura Vulcanius (1538-1614), gave the book to the jurist and scholar Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), who was known as the father of international law for his De jure belli et pacis (1625). The book then passed into the ownership of his second son, the lawyer and diplomat Pieter de Groot, (1615-1678), who as an inscription states, gave it to his friend and fellow student at the University of Leiden, Johannes Carbasius (b. 1616).

Anonymous and pseudonymous imprints

Relationi del cardinal Bentivoglio p.1
Relationi del cardinal Bentivoglio

Relationi del cardinal Bentivoglio
Guido Bentivoglio
Cologne [i.e. Leiden]: [Bonaventure and Abraham Elzevir], 1646
[Elzevier] W.599

Guido Bentivoglio (1579-1644) was an Italian churchman, diplomat and historian.  Pope Paul V created him cardinal in 1621.  His writings give a precise account of his diplomatic activities, and his Relationi is one of his major works.  Religious considerations provide a reason for anonymous publication in this instance, as Bentivoglio’s descriptions from a Catholic stance of recent religious struggles could be seen as controversial in the Protestant Netherlands. Except for the title page and the order of the preliminary material, the work is a re-issue of the text produced by the Elzeviers in 1632 under the name of Giovanni de Meerbeecq in Brussels. That the work emanates from the Elzeviers is evident from the device of a palm tree with the motto ‘Assurgo pressa’ (‘I grow under pressure’), previously used by Thomas Erpenius and acquired by the Leiden Elzeviers in 1625, after Erpenius’s death.

L'art de connoistre les hommes p.1
L'art de connoistre les hommes

L'art de connoistre les hommes
Marin Cureau de La Chambre
Amsterdam: Jacques le Jeune [i.e. Louis and Daniel Elzevier], 1660
[Elzevier] W.1260

The Elzeviers almost always published their French literature anonymously or pseudonymously, as they were pirating the texts of living authors. Such is the case with this title, one of the principle works by the French physician and philosopher Marin Cureau de La Chambre (1594-1669).  ‘Jacques le Jeune’ was a common pseudonym for the Elzevier house at Amsterdam, especially for Daniel Elzevir; the Elzeviers at Leiden used the name ‘Jean Sambix’.  Other techniques for pseudonymous publication were to use the names of actual booksellers, to use imprints invented by the authors with various place names (Jansenist works and other texts seen as dangerous), and to retain the imprints which applied to previous publication of the work.

Heraclius empereur d'Orient p.1
Heraclius empereur d'Orient: tragedie

Heraclius empereur d'Orient: tragedie
Pierre Corneille
[Leiden] Suivant la copie imprimée à Paris: [Bonaventure and Abraham Elzevir], 1647
[Elzevier] W.614

Elzevier French plays were published chiefly, as here, by the partnership of Bonaventura and Abraham Elzevier.  Corneille featured, partly due to the interest of Constantijn Huygens in the Elzeviers. About two-thirds of the publications from which the Elzeviers suppressed their name (178 of some 265) simply give a date, or a date with the words, as here, ‘Suivant’ (or ‘jouxte’) ‘la copie imprimée à …’ For pirated French literature, reference to Paris could help sales, as the public preferred French books printed in France to French books printed in Holland, which often contained numerous glaring errors or indeed alterations. The device of the sphere on the title page was sometimes used for acknowledged Elzeverian publications, starting with titles by Arnold Clapmarius published in Amsterdam in 1644. However, the Elzeviers also marked many of their anonymous or pseudonymous publications with a sphere. A number of other seventeenth-century printers employed the same device, whereby the Elzevier sphere is considered to be of higher quality than its imitations.


De iure asylorum p.1
De iure asylorum, liber singularis

De iure asylorum, liber singularis
Paolo Sarpi
Leiden: Officinâ Elzeviriana, 1622
[Elzevier] W.205

The Elzeviers used four main identifying devices on their title pages. The earliest of these is an eagle with outstretched wings perched on a cippe, with the motto ‘Concordia res parvae crescunt’ (‘in harmony, small things flourish’). It was adopted by Louis Elzevier, founder of the firm. The original form of the device included a beam with seven arrows, with the device and motto being those of the Batavian republic and the arrows symbolising the union of the seven provinces which constituted the republic. This simplified version was first used in 1612. Isaac Elzevier continued to use it even after the 1620, when the device of a hermit beneath an elm tree with the motto ‘Non solus’ had been introduced. Bonaventura and Abraham Elzevier used it only for catalogues.

Adagiorum D. Erasmi p.1
Adagiorum D. Erasmi Roterodami Epitome

Adagiorum D. Erasmi Roterodami Epitome
Desiderius Erasmus
Amsterdam: Officinâ Elzeviriana, 1663
[Elzevier] W.1307

Whereas the Leiden branch of the Elzevier family adopted the hermit as their main symbol, the Amsterdam branch used the figure of Minerva as goddess of wisdom with owl, shield and olive tree as their principal device. It was first used by the younger Louis Elzevier in 1642, and continued with his successor Daniel. The device was not unique to the Elzeviers, but was used for some of the imprints by the Utrecht printer Dirck van Ackersdijck (fl. 1643-1670). The motto ‘Ne extra oleas’ (‘Nothing but the olive’) comes from Erasmus’s Adagia (which the Elzeviers first published in 1650, 150 years after its first printing), and is translated from a Greek proverb in Aristophanes’ The Frogs. It is a caution not to go beyond limits (a range of olive trees having marked the boundary of a stadium where horse races took place).

Library Provenance

Antiquae musicae auctores septem p.65
Antiquae musicae auctores septem

Antiquae musicae auctores septem
Marcus Meibom
Amsterdam: Louis Elzevier, 1652
[DeM] Boa [Meibomius]

This book shows the Elzeviers’ use of a Greek fount and of printed music. The text, on ancient Greek music, is the first edition of the Danish scholar Marcus Meibom’s (1626-1711) best-known work. Meibom presents the Greek texts of seven authors (Aristoxenus, Cleonides, Gaudentius, Nicomachus, Alypius, Bacchius, and Aristides), with facing Latin translation and with editorial notes. Whilst there is a copy in the Elzevier Collection, this copy is from the mathematical library of Augustus de Morgan (1806-1871), a mathematician, mathematical historian, and skilled amateur flautist. It is one of some 25 books in his collection either devoted to music or including sections on music, reflecting that music is based on mathematical relationships.

Cl. Salmasii p.1
Cl. Salmasii De annis climactericis et antiqua astrologia diatribae

Cl. Salmasii De annis climactericis et antiqua astrologia diatribae
Claude Saumaise
Leiden: Officinâ Elzeviriana, 1648
[H.P.L.] Saumaise (RBC)

This is an astrology book by the French scholar Claude Saumaise, or Claudius Salmasius (1588-1653), who in 1631 became a professor at the University of Leiden and who published ten titles with the Elzeviers between 1638 and 1652. Whilst there is a copy in the Elzevier Collection (together with several other of his titles), this copy came to the University of London from the library of Harry Price (1881-1948), who collected astrology books within the broader remit of magical literature, with astrological titles in Latin, French and English from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries.

C. Iulii Caesaris quae exstant p.1
C. Iulii Caesaris quae exstant

C. Iulii Caesaris quae exstant
Julius Caesar; ed. by Joseph Juste Scaliger
Amsterdam: Officinâ Elzeviriana, 1670
[Chichester] 032

Classics were a staple of Elzevier publishing, and the Elzeviers produced ten editions of Caesar in formats ranging from folio down to 24mo.  The edition by the erudite classical scholar Joseph Juste Scaliger (1588-1653) first appeared with the Officina Plantiniana (Plantin Press) in 1606 in Leiden, where Scaliger had taught since 1593. It is in the Elzevier Collection, both in a printing of 1661 and in this printing: a copy formerly owned by Benjamin Heath (1739-1817), a rector of Walkerne who took great pride and pleasure in the library he built there. The copy shwon, however, had been given to John Frankland (d. 1777), prebendary of Chichester, by Thomas Belasyse, Earl Fauconberg (1699-1774) before entering the library of Chichester Cathedral with several other of Frankland’s books. It was one of the many classical works which, next to theology, were common in cathedral libraries. In 1947 Chichester Cathedral sold many of its books, and this was one of about one hundred titles purchased by the University of London.

Fr. Baconi de Verulamio Historia p.1
Fr. Baconi de Verulamio Historia naturalis & experimentalis de ventis, &c.

Fr. Baconi de Verulamio Historia naturalis & experimentalis de ventis, &c.
Francis Bacon
Amsterdam: Officinâ Elzeviriana, 1662
[D.-L.L.] (XVII) Bc [Bacon - Historia Ventorum - 1662]

The Amsterdam branch of the Elzeviers, started by the third Louis Elzevier, began to publish contemporary authors in 1638. Francis Bacon joined Thomas Hobbes, Blaise Pascal, and René Descartes as a philosopher on their publishing list; the Elzeviers published twelve titles (thirteen editions) of Bacon between 1648 and 1663. Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence (1837-1914) was a Baconian who considered Sir Francis Bacon one of the greatest Englishmen ever to have lived and who amassed a comprehensive collection of his works. This Elzevier edition of Bacon’s Historia ventorum (‘History of winds’) is one of six early editions (excluding copies within collected works) from Durning-Lawrence’s library. There is another copy in the Elzevier Collection.

Russia, seu, Moscovia p.1
Russia, seu, Moscovia itemque Tartaria

Russia, seu, Moscovia itemque Tartaria
Leiden: Officinâ Elzeviriana, 1630
[M.S. Anderson] 1630 - Russia

Starting with England and ending with Japan, from 1625 until 1649 the partnership of Bonaventura and Abraham Elzevier published a series of ‘Little Republics’ books in Leiden: thirty-five inexpensive sextodecimo (16mo) volumes, in Latin, describing the history, geography, politics, economics, customs, law and society of various European and other countries. While some were freshly commissioned, many were reprints of older works; and while some were monographs most, like this volume on Russia, were anthologies. The Republics were a profitable line and were widely imitated by other printers, such that about as many Republics were issued by the Elzeviers’ contemporaries as by themselves. The Elzevier Collection includes several Republics, including this title. But the volume shown is the only Elzevier in the collection of some 1,850 books by the twentieth-century historian Matthew Smith Anderson (1922-2006) covering western perceptions of Russia between 1525 and 1917. The Elzevier Republics served as travel manuals and as information for armchair travellers, such that the book contributes to the strong travel section in Anderson’s collection.