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The Rhetoricians collection of the University of Groningen Library

At the beginning of the fifteenth century, literature lovers in the Low Countries started to unite in chambers of rhetoric. The rhetoricians, mostly men, focused on writing, reciting and performing poems and plays in the mother tongue. They also exchanged their texts with each other for comments. The chambers were competitive, both inside and outside the walls of their town. Trials of strength between members, national competitions and even festivals lasting several days were popular entertainment. The rhetoricians formed the greatest literary movement in Dutch history.

(See: Herman Pleij. Het gevleugelde woord. Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse literatuur 1400-1560. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij Bert Bakker, 2007.)

The University of Groningen Library possesses a large amount of printed works by the rhetoricians. The list of around 200 book titles presented below is the first substantial step in the endeavour to inventory the rhetoricians collection. The collection consists of poetry volumes and plays written by the rhetoricians up to the eighteenth century.

These works were written by poets who were either members of a chamber (member lists can be found here, for example) or by poets who probably were members of a chamber because the crest or motto of a chamber was printed on their works. In addition, works that fit perfectly within the rhetoricians’ repertoire (for instance, a refrain or morality play), but of which we are not sure of the author, have also been included on the list.

It goes without saying that the list is limited. Joost van den Vondel was also a rhetorician but, considering the extent of his body of work, only the works that were printed during his life have been included in the Collection. For a more complete overview, you can consult the Vondel Collection.

In principle, the list does not contain any anthologies that were collated (long) after the poet’s death, nor any occasional verse, speeches, pamphlets, histories or biographies. However, the list does include competition volumes. The list also includes plays that were translated by a rhetorician because they were usually not about creating pure translations, but rather adaptations.

The list is ordered alphabetically by the poets’ surnames or, if a certain name is unknown, by the first word of the title description. Some biographical information of certain poets can also be found, such as their years of birth and death, the chamber of which they were a member and the city in which they performed. This information is, of course, only included for the poets about which the information could be found; biographies of the rhetoricians can be found, for example, on the DBNL. You can also find the signature or signatures per work. If there are multiple signatures, this means that there are multiple copies of the same print available in the library. The works can be requested by simply following the link and can be consulted in the Special Collections research room.

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Last modified:25 June 2021 11.58 a.m.
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