“Très-humblement”: Tracing the mysteries of a 1602 Dutch pamphlet

For more than a year now I have been working with volunteers on the Flemish holdings in the Folger.1 In the course of this project, we came across a small pamphlet, an anonymous booklet printed in 1602 (Folger DH110 K1196 Cage). The text is a response to another pamphlet and it indicates neither a place of publication nor a printer. But the flyleaves used by the binder of this little book tell a nice little story about the bookseller’s scene in Mechelen in the beginning of the 19th century.

Both at the beginning and at the end of the volume, scrap papers have been used along with a number of blank flyleaves, three at each side of the book block. The scrap paper comes from a draft letter and from a handwritten list of books with prices. The latter document lists seven books and was obviously part of a much longer list of books, the oldest of which dates back to 1695 and the most recent to 1780. The numbers in front of the titles and the price indications seem to indicate that this probably was at some point an auction catalog. 

Scrap paper, probably an auction catalog, used as a flyleaf. The first number, “113,” is probably a mistake for 104.

Scrap paper, probably an auction catalog, used as a flyleaf. The first number, “113,” is probably a mistake for 103.

One of the fragments in the front features the name “Monsieur De Bruijn,” which reappears as “Bernard De Bruyne” on a flyleaf in the back. This immediately rang a bell: the De Bruynes were a famous family in Mechelen, Belgium, a beautiful city where I happened to have lived for more than a decade. Bernard De Bruyne (1773–1839) was a fervent bibliophile who was active as a bookseller and an ardent defender of the creation of a public library in his home town.2

Lithograph by Jean Baptiste Madou entitled “Portrait of the bibliophile an bookseller Bernard de Bruyne (1773-1839) in his library.” (City Archive Mechelen, Port.021)

Lithograph by Jean Baptiste Madou entitled “Portrait of the bibliophile an bookseller Bernard de Bruyne (1773-1839) in his library.” (Courtesy of City Archive Mechelen, Port.021)

The fragment of the letter is addressed to Monsieur Apellius, the minister of finance. Because De Bruyne refers to the “departement des deux-Nethes,” an administrative entity that existed between 1795 and 1813, we can narrow in on the date of this letter. In the letter, De Bruyne refers to the difficult times and asks for a reduction of his taxes. He signs the letter by referring to himself as a “malheureux Pere de famille,” a needy family father.

Piece of De Bruyne’s draft letter to Monsieur Apellius.

Piece of De Bruyne’s draft letter to Monsieur Apellius.

For decades, many hundreds of political pamphlets like the one bound in these scrap papers have been added to the Folger’s holdings. In addition to a large series of so-called Mazarinades (French political pamphlets published during the Fronde in the period 1648),3 the pamphlet collections also contain more than 2,000 so-called Knuttels (pronounced /knutəl/).4 The name refers to the magnum opus of Dr Willem Pieter Cornelis Knuttel, Catalogus van de pamfletten-verzameling berustende in de Koninklijke Bibliotheekthe printed catalog of the pamphlet collection in the Royal Library in The Hague, Netherlands.

W.P.C. Knuttel, Catalogus van de pamfletten-verzameling berustende in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek

The Folger’s copy of Knuttel’s Catalogus

At the age of 23 years, Knuttel obtained a PhD in theology. He was then already working for the National Library of the Netherlands, an renowned institution to which he devoted the rest of his career as a civil servant. In 1890, he was appointed deputy librarian, but to his disillusion, he would never hold office as the librarian.5 His most important work was cataloging the pamphlets collection, which consisted of more than 26,000 items. In 1889, the first part of the catalog was published, covering the period 1486–1620. Amongst the 3,129 descriptions is the pamphlet bound in the scrap paper that caught my attention.

Title page (fol. A1r) of an anonymous 1602 pamphlet

Title page (fol. A1r) of the anonymous 1602 pamphlet bound in the scraps shown above

This pamphlet is a reaction to another text which was published by the Dutch Protestants in The Hague about a month earlier, on the seventh of June 1602.6 In that letter, the Dutch suggest ousting the archdukes in the Southern Netherlands and reuniting the South and the North again, which had de facto been separated since the last decades of the 16th century. The anonymous author of our pamphlet painstakingly refutes all those arguments one by one, resulting in a document of more than 70 pages.

Knuttel lists four variant editions of the original 7 June 1602 letter in the first part of his catalog, nos. 1192, 1193, 1194, and 1195. The Folger owns two of them, 1192 and 1195. The Folger’s copy of 1192 shows four stamps, two on the first leaf and two on the last. In both places an oval black stamp indicating the ownership of the Royal Library in The Hague (“koninklijke bibliotheek”) is stamped over with by a round purple stamp reading “afgeschafte dubbelen” (“abolished duplicates”). The cataloging project executed by Knuttel was obviously also taken as an opportunity to weed out redundant duplicates, which were subsequently bought by booksellers and put on the market. Knuttel 1192 and Knuttel 1195 came to the Folger in April 1955 in a lot of 2,059 pamphlets offered by M. Nijhoff the year before.7

The Folger’s copy of Knuttel 1195 has clearly been disbound, and it contains a manuscript note in ink in the top right corner reading “21,” probably indicating that this item was at some point bound together with at least 20 other texts. There are also two handwritten notes on the title page, one of which is a reference to one of the editions of Emmanuel Van Meteren’s historical treatises about the Low Countries, probably the Memorien der Belgische ofte Nederlantsche historie van onse tijden. This Knuttel pamphlet does not indicate a provenance, and it seems not to be recorded in the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands (STCN). The STCN lists four titles with the word “wel-gheboren” (the equivalent of “count” or “highly honored”) in the title, only one of which is from the year 1602. According to the bibliographic fingerprint recorded in the STCN, this edition constitutes at least a variant state, because the type-setting of fol. A2r of the Folger copy is certainly not the same.8

Title page of Knuttel 1192, also recorded in the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands as no. 86022502X

On the left, the title page of Knuttel 1192, also recorded in the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands as no. 86022502X. On the right, the title page of Knuttel 1195, a variant of Knuttel 1192 not recorded in the STCN


The response to the original letter (that is, Knuttel 1196, the pamphlet that caught my attention) is not signed by the author. Nor does the booklet bear a complete imprint; the title page only mentions the year of publication, M.D.C.II. (1602). But with the help of the decorative elements in the book and the Short Title Catalogue Flanders (STCV), it is possible to identify the printer. In October 2013, the STCV contained more than 32,000 images of title pages, printer’s devices, incipits, colophons, and fingerprint positions which are linked to about 14,800 catalog records. In addition, some 1,045 records have deep links to fully digitized editions. All three decorative elements in the anonymously printed pamphlet can be found in editions published by the Brussels printer Rutger Velpius, who was active in Brussels from 1585 until 1614.9

Three ornaments in Knuttel xxxx used to identify the printer:

Three elements in Knuttel 1196 used to identify the printer: on the left, the ornament on the title page (A1r); in the middle, a decorated initial used on the opening page (A2r); on the right, the ornament used at the end of the book (E4r).

The first ornament on the pamphlet’s title page, shown above on the far left, is very specific and quite rare. It also features on fol. B3v of a 1608 ordinance published by Rutger Velpius (STCV 3116136), which has been fully digitized by the University Library of Antwerp University. In this book we can also see  on fol. A2r the decorated initial A with a characteristic break in the border near the left top corner that appears on the opening page of our pamphlet (middle image, above). Another edition by Rutger Velpius proves that he possessed that initial in 1602: it can be spotted in the digitized copy of STCV 12858258 on fol. [A]2 recto.10 STCV 12858258 also contains an instance of the third decoration appears as well, notably on fol. [A]4v.

Thanks to this careful cataloging and digitizations, we can now identify the printer of our pamphlet. And once again, we see the many of the interesting aspects and possibilities of one of the less well-known pockets in the Folger’s holdings.

  1. I reported on this project at the annual international conference of Sixteenth Century Society and Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Friday 25 October 2013. []
  2. Goran Proot, Diederik Lanoye & Willy Van de Vijver, Gedrukte stad. Drukken in en voor Mechelen, 1581-1800. Brugge 2010, p. 102. []
  3. See Kathryn Gucer’s Collation post for more on the Folger’s Mazarinades. []
  4. Between April 1955 and October 1992 the Folger bought about 2,700 Knuttel items, the bulk of which have not yet been entered in Hamnet. To see which items the Folger holds, one needs to consult the annotated copy of Knuttel’s Catalogus in the Acquisitions Office. []
  5. See the obituary notice by P.J. Blok in the Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde 1922, pp. 17–23. []
  6. This pamphlet was acquired in 1997 together with 19 other Knuttels from Notebaart. []
  7. See file no. D1302 in the Acquisition Department, which lists all the individual items. The lot is briefly described in Martinus Nijhoff’s Standard Catalogue 1954–1955, under no. 963 (p. 212), where it is described as an “Extensive collection of contemporary historical pamphlets on the events in the Netherlands from 1574–1700, arranged after Knuttel. Amst., etc., 1574–1700. 2150 pieces. 4to. sewed. $1175.-” []
  8. See the description in the STCN for pflt 1195. []
  9. See Anne Rouzet, Dictionnarie des imprimeurs, libraires et éditeurs des XVe et XVIe siècles dans les limites géographiques de la Belgique actuelle. Nieuwkoop 1975, p. 2310-231. With thanks to Steven Van Impe. []
  10. It also appears in another edition from 1602, present in the University Library of Ghent University (STCV 6178303). []

Author: Goran Proot

GORAN PROOT is Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Rare Books at the Folger Shakespeare Library. He is currently surveying layout and typography in early modern books.


  1. why would a Brussels printer print a tract against Dutch reunification plans? 70 arguments that is a lot.

  2. Dear colleague,

    Thank you for this question. The motives of the author, who calls himself a “zekeren liefhebbere des vaderlants” (“a certain devotee of the fatherland”), are clear from the two verses on the title page. He states: “Van eendracht en vrede spreken, en is niet quaet: // Maer ick pryse hem, die vrede soect metter daet.” So he would rather appreciate it if the author of the original pamphlet would effectively be seeking to conclude peace. This becomes immediately apparent from the first refutation of the original pamphlet, on fol. A2 verso, where the anonymous author of the Brussels reply says, that the pamphlet is only meant to agitate, to threaten and to frighten (“alleenlyck om ons te beroeren, dreygen, vervaert te maecken”).

    Best wishes, and happy holidays!


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