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University of Groningen Library Gauronica

Weblog Gauronica

Rodolphus Agricola Phrisius by Lucas Cranach (Alte Pinakothek, Munich)

"I am the secretary of our Gauronica, which is the name that I use for our town." Ego scriba sum Gauronicae nostrae; sic enim soleo oppidum nostrum uocare. These are the words of Rodolphus Agricola, one of the most influential people ever to come from Groningen. He wrote them on 19 October 1480 in a letter to a friend from this northern region (Frisia).

Gauronica is also the perfect title for this blog, because besides "Groningen" it can also mean "things from Groningen" and that is precisely what we’ll be writing about here: things from the Special Collections in the University of Groningen Library. About handwritten texts, the oldest of which dates back to the second century. About printed texts, the oldest of which stems from 1473. About maps, letters, atlases. Of all periods, regions, and sorts.

All in all, they amount to some 200,000 items. So, definitely plural. In other words, Gauronica.

Marie Elise Loke
Published on:09 February 2024

Sunday 11 February 2024 is the 9th International Day of Women and Girls in Science. On that day, the United Nations calls attention to gender equality in science education. In the Netherlands, thoughts then quickly turn to Aletta Jacobs, the first woman to successfully complete a university degree in our country. Less well-known, but no less respectable, is the history of Marie Elise Loke.

Academic Portraits: the Boering Archive
Published on:08 December 2023

In the Special Collections of the University of Groningen Library (UB), you can find the archive of Geert Boering, Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. This archive has recently been made accessible. It comprises material about the position that Boering took on—together with the director of the University Museum—when he retired: continuing the UG tradition to honour certain professors with their own portrait. Under Boering’s auspices, a total of 166 portraits were made by 55 painters, among whom were famous artists.

Alba Amicorum: social media before the term was even coined
Published on:20 November 2023

These days, anyone who wants to be kept in the loop, put themselves on the map, or keep in touch with relatives has almost no other option than to use WhatsApp, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. But what many people are not aware of is that these forms of social media were actually preceded by ‘alba amicorum’ (friendship books).

Work in Progress
Published on:13 October 2023

Two hundred years ago, on 8 September 1823 to be precise, the natural scientist Johan Conrad van Hasselt died on the island of Java. He was only 26 years old. Two years earlier, on 14 September 1821, his bosom friend and colleague Heinrich Kuhl, 23 years of age, had also died on Java. Both young men had met while studying at the University of Groningen under Professor Van Swinderen—yes, the one whose name is given to the Huys on Boteringestraat.

University and Society in the 1930s
Published on:28 August 2023

The growing number of students in Groningen is a hot topic. Out of every six people living in town, one is a student. During the KEI-week especially, inhabitants of the city experience a lot of nuisance from students. But is this a new phenomenon? Back in the 1930s, people were having lively discussions about the growing number of students and the university’s role in society. This becomes apparent when looking through the archive of Harm Tewes Deelman, which is kept at the Special Collections department of the Groningen University Library. Nearly a hundred years on, the issue is still relevant.

A Frisian Abroad
Published on:14 August 2023

The world wide web easily brings together books that are far apart in the physical world. A recent addition to the database Material Evidence in Incunabula illustrates this in a spectacular way: it now contains an incunable which Petrus Poetinus from Stavoren once owned and in which he wrote a large number of notes. This incunable is on the other side of the globe! It’s an edition of Pliny’s Naturalis historia printed in 1479 at Treviso. This university town is near Venice, which is where Poetinus's three incunables were printed that are now in the University of Groningen Library.

An Emblem by Vincent van Gogh
Published on:16 June 2023

One of the books in this collection has a particularly interesting history. The front endpaper of Antoine de Bourgogne’s emblem book De Ghebreken der Tonghe, en de middelen om die te verbeteren (The shortcomings of the tongue, and ways to overcome them) contains several markings. On the right Bakker’s bookplate and on the left an ex libris by Vincent van Gogh! Could this book have belonged to the famous artist?

‘No more time to lose’
Published on:19 December 2022

Over the past few weeks, I have been working on the archive of the Albert Schweitzer Committee, a Groningen committee that wanted to urge the United Nations to stop nuclear weapons testing, and collected signatures for this purpose in 1957. The committee was founded on the back of an inspiring speech by Albert Schweitzer, which was broadcast on radio by the VPRO on 3 may 1957. Schweitzer was a German physician, philosopher and theologian, and was best known for his work on culture and ethics. Nearer the end of his life, Schweitzer expressed concern about the use of nuclear weapons and the nuclear arms race, an ever more looming danger during the Cold War.

Not Relieved, But Seized: the Reduction of Groningen (1594)
Published on:18 August 2022

From the early-modern days of thanks and prayer to the contemporary fireworks display, the celebration of Groningen’s Relief has always been a popular event. Unlike the Reduction of Groningen: as in previous years, the anniversary of the Reduction on 24 July went by unnoticed. Not for want of trying: in the past, many consecutive city councils have tried to successfully celebrate the Reduction, for example with the so-called jubilee sermons, in which once every fifty years the eldest pastor of the public Reformed Church in Groningen focussed on the historical and religious significance of the Reduction.

A Medieval Missal: CSI Leermens
Published on:21 July 2022

Kjelda Glimmerveen felt a bit like a medieval Sherlock Holmes, when she put this Münster missal on a cushion and carefully started to leaf through it. The little stamps on the binding, the notes penned down on the first pages, the Bible texts printed in a Gothic font, the carefully stitched-up damage: this is her detective story.

Emo's Collateral
Published on:21 July 2022

Rereading a text always offers new insights. In the case of Emo of Huizinge's Chronicle, this is also because its author, despite being very erudite—he studied at multiple universities, including the universities of Paris and Oxford—wrote a kind of Latin that later scholars abhorred. And sometimes he is very concise when we, as 21st-century readers, would have preferred a more detailed account.

Sybrand Buma’s Search from Drenthe to the Cape
Published on:21 July 2022

On 9 June 2022, Sybrand Buma held a lecture about his research at the department of Special Collections in Groningen. In his presentation, titled Tussen Drenthe en de Kaap (‘Between Drenthe and the Cape’), he revealed an intriguing part of his family’s history that he had managed to unearth after he acquired his father’s books.

The ‘True Account’ of the Siege of Groningen
Published on:21 June 2022

Almost immediately after Groningen was besieged by Bishop Bernhard van Galen — better known in Groningen as ‘Bombing Bernard’ —news of the Siege of Groningen spread like wildfire throughout the Low Countries. This was partially made possible by the multitude of printed pamphlets that found a ready demand among the hungry-for-news public in the cities of Holland. De Belegringh van Groeningen (‘The Siege of Groningen’) is such a pamphlet.

200 Years of Groningen's Relief: A Celebration in Songs
Published on:21 June 2022

The celebration of the Relief of Groningen, or ‘Bombing Bernard’, is an old Groningen tradition. In the year 2022, we are celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Relief of Groningen, a jubilee that calls for a special celebration. Extensive festivities for special jubilees are, however, not new. The same thing happened in the year 1872, for instance, when Groningen celebrated the second centenary of the Relief.

Two Sides of One Story
Published on:17 June 2022

The year is 1673. The siege of the city of Groningen ended a year ago, and the city is slowly but surely repairing the damage caused by the flying bombs and cannonballs of the troops led by the Bishop of Münster. Dominicus Lens, a publisher based in the Kromme Elleboog, has just published a book retelling the story of the siege. That same year, a German version of the same story is published which substantially differs from its Dutch counterpart. Why?

Anonymous Lament and Jubilant Speech: a Remarkable Contemporary Pamphlet on Groningen's Relief
Published on:17 June 2022

The strong reading culture of the early-modern Dutch Republic meant that an incredible number of pamphlets were published every year, in which authors reflected on current affairs. Maeghd van Groningen (‘Maiden of Groningen’), published in the ‘Disaster Year’ 1672, is such a pamphlet.

‘Narrated to Children’: Groningen's Relief from a 19th-Century Nationalistic Perspective
Published on:17 June 2022

‘It happens all too often that the Groningen youth engage in all manner of revelry on the 28th of August, but without the joy of knowing, or the ability to recount, what the actual meaning of this celebration is.’ In these lines, the Groningen headmaster Aart Cornelis de Zwart (1836-1885) described quite precisely his reason for ‘dit feestgeschenkje te maken voor den 28sten Augustus’ (‘creating this celebration gift for the 28th of August’).

Helmuth Plessner made philosophy out of his own life story
Published on:01 April 2022

The German philosopher, sociologist, and biologist Helmuth Plessner was working between 1934 and 1951 at the University of Groningen. He introduced here a new school of thought: the philosophical anthropology, taking the essence of humankind as its object of enquiry.

Cursing, Raving, and Ranting: Luther and Manuscript 494
Published on:08 February 2022

In our vault lies Manuscript 494, the Luther Bible of Groningen from 1527. It has been here for centuries, so we have become accustomed to its presence. Which is why we are no longer struck by how exceptional it is as a historical object, or how it marked the end of the Middle Ages. To grasp its importance, we must first understand who Luther was.

The Marriage of Jacob Cats
Published on:24 January 2022

When I happened by chance to come across three different copies of Jacob Cats’ 1625 Hovwelyck (also referred to as Houwelyck or Hovwelick), I thought I would make use of this opportunity to show that copies of seventeenth-century editions often present small and larger typesetting differences. It was not unusual for a printer to make changes in the process of printing a single edition. When can we speak of different editions, each deserving its own catalogue description?

Catchpenny Prints for the UB
Published on:21 October 2021

"Around 10 years ago, someone donated a collection of old prints to the KinderBoekenHuis in Winsum. It is too late now to trace the name of the donor but we do know that Aernout Borms, a regular visitor to the KinderBoekenHuis at the time, showed a great interest. Although it was presumably clear from his enthusiastic reaction that the collection was valuable, somehow the prints were returned to their folder, put to one side and forgotten about.
Two years ago, I came across the folder and opened it. It was love at first sight, and I started describing its content..."

The Wittewierum Library
Published on:09 August 2021

The Library of Wittewierum is a thing of the past. For centuries now. It only existed as long as there was an abbey there. In 1561, that abbey was dissolved. Its last remains vanished in the 19th century. Some books from its library have survived, though. Even more than we thought.

New Light on Zernike?
Published on:12 February 2021

For the new permanent exhibition at the University Museum, I had recently been looking into Nobel Prize winner and Professor of Mathematical Physics Frits Zernike (1888-1966), one of the University of Groningen’s icons. In the literature, I discovered a note referencing the Zernike archive, which was supposed to be part of the University Library, but that I was unable to locate in the catalogue.
A mere five minutes after inquiring about the archive, a description of the Zernike archive was de-livered to my work station. Fast forward a little and I found myself standing next to staff member Evert Jan Reker, staring with some degree of wonder at the row of archive boxes in the vault...

Drinking like Brugman
Published on:20 October 2020

While Ubbo Emmius was the first rector of the University of Groningen, that is not the same as being the founder, right? A new school appoints a director but that word is not synonymous with founder, is it? And shouldn’t that honour go to mayor Alting, the gentlemen Phebens, Rengers ten Post, Lewen or trustee Scato Gockinga? But historians do not want to go that far. Klaas van Berkel, the university’s last biographer, writes: ‘Although he is not the actual founder, without him the university would not have flourished and become the success it is today.’

The diversity of incunabula at the University of Groningen Library
Published on:06 October 2020

In my previous blogpost, I demonstrated that the collection of incunabula at the University of Groningen Library is highly diverse. This time, I will attempt to unveil the origins of this diversity. The first cause can be found in the definition of the word ‘incunable’. The category of incunabula covers more than just books but everything that was printed before 1501, such as works by Avicenna consisting of several hundreds of folios but also a single indulgence consisting of only one folio.

Professor Stefan Radt’s Other Book Collection
Published on:26 June 2020

Stefan Lorenz Radt, the respected and popular professor of Greek language and literature, died on 22 November 2017 at the age of 90. On his death, he bequeathed his extensive collection of books to the University Library. As a result, roughly 350 linear metres of books, journals and academic documents were transferred in September 2018 from the Radt family home in Onnen to the repository at the Zernike campus. A few dozen old editions are stored in the vault of the Special Collections department in the University of Groningen Library.

Corona, Guilt and Punishment
Published on:12 June 2020

Philosopher Damiaen Denys commented in Dutch newspaper Trouw that ‘the coronavirus is a healthy correction for our megalomaniac lifestyle, a warning from the Creator, the law of nature.’ A quote by former cyclist and Tour-de-France winner Jan Janssen, from an interview recorded during the pandemic: ‘Maybe, he thought as he looked at the budding flowers, nature is trying to tell us something.’

Humanity Lab
Published on:27 May 2020


Published on:08 May 2020

During these times of crisis, most of us have become shut-ins. But history shows that we are far from the only ones to stay indoors for an extended period of time...

Nazi Propaganda in the UB
Published on:27 April 2020

Swastikas, anvils, swords, wreaths, images of labourers, poems and quotes by great poets and philosophers. At the UB’s Special Collections department, I leaf through piles of illustrated posters that were spread among the population in Nazi Germany as Wochenspruch der NSDAP (the NSDAP weekly slogan)...

The incunabula at the University of Groningen Library
Published on:23 April 2020

The term ‘incunabula’ probably doesn’t immediately conjure up thoughts of a university library – at least, it didn’t for me. However, incunabula – books printed before 1501 – are among the University of Groningen Library’s most valuable treasures. The term comes from the Latin word incunabulum, which means cradle, a metaphorical reference to something’s early beginnings. It is an apt term, as this category of printed works refers to printed books from the earliest stage of typography in Europe.

Student in Groningen, Prime Minister in England
Published on:04 March 2020

Nowadays, the University of Groningen is doing its utmost to attract international students, in exchange for full classrooms, money and prestige. It may seem to be a trend that has developed over the past few years but, in actual fact, this has always been the case. The Groningen resident Emo (Fivelingo, 1175 – Wittewierum, 1237) left the country to go and study in Oxford as far back as the Middle Ages. As stated on the University of Oxford’s website: ‘Centuries before most of today’s leading universities existed, Oxford welcomed the first international student, Emo of Friesland, in 1190’.
Conversely, Brits also came to the Netherlands to study later on. On 14 August 1730, for example, three students from Scotland enrolled at the University of Groningen: Messrs Bute, Bothwell and Middleton.

Rare engravings
Published on:12 February 2020

In 1606 twelve chambers of rhetoric took part in the Haarlem Landjuweel , festive competition between the poetry societies. the event was linked to a lottery intended to raise money to build a new Oude Mannenhuis (Old Men’s home) in the city (currently the Frans Halsmuseum). Literary leader Zacharias Heyns documented this event. It is the most comprehensive and most impressive report on a rhetoricians’ competition ever published.

Haikus by Henny Prins
Published on:31 January 2020

Special Collections staff member Elje Buist writes about her special bond with recently deceased poet, prose writer and bookseller Henny Prins.

Published on:10 January 2020

Al eeuwenlang wordt gegist naar de identiteit en locatie van de drukker van het het Freeska Landriucht, het eerste gedrukte boek in het Fries...
Een gastblog van Anne Tjerk Popkema en Herre de Vries.

About this blog
Published on:09 January 2020

‘I am the secretary of our Gauronica, which is the name that I use for our town.’ These are the words of one of the most influential people ever to come from Groningen. He wrote them on 19 October 1480 in a letter to a friend...

Eearlier blogposts

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