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Weblog Gauronica


‘I am the secretary of our Gauronica, which is the name that I use for our town.’ 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.

Gauronica is the perfect title for this blog because, here, we’ll be writing about things from Groningen, that is to say: things from the Special Collections in the University of Groningen Library.
About handwritten texts, the most ancient 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.

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 repos-itory at the Zernike campus. A few dozen old editions are stored in the vault of the Special Collec-tions 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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