The Collation

Research and Exploration at the Folger

An important auction

broadside advertising a 1617 auction
broadside advertising a 1617 auction (click to enlarge in a new window/tab)

Let it be known that amongst the furniture of the late Duke of Aerschot, there are about 2000 paintings in all kinds of colors by a variety of excellent masters, such as Albrecht Dürer, Lucas van Leyden, Jan Gossaert, Hieronymus Bosch, “Florus Daych,” “Longue Pierre,” Titian, Veronese, and others.

Thus begins the text on a French-language broadside listing paintings, medals, golden rings, crystals, gems, shells, and many more objects which can typically be found in a cabinet of wonder, but also a library consisting of 6,000 volumes, “beaucoup d’iceulx manu-scrits.” These items, together with the furniture and tapestries of Charles III de Croÿ, fourth Duke of Aerschot (1560–1612), were put on auction in Brussels in 1614. The poster points out that the sale will start with the furniture on the 15th of July; the library will follow on the 19th of August. All objects were sold to the highest bidder. As Christian Coppens argued in his article about the magnitude of this auction, the fact that it was not sold “en bloc” to the University of Louvain saved the collection from its total destruction. 1 That is why, four centuries later, some real treasures of the Duke’s library are housed right across the street from the Folger, at the Library of Congress in the renowned Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection.

Although public auctions were not that unusual at the time, not many of their announcements survive, and certainly not from this period. The majority of the copies of such announcements could not be recovered after they had been pinned up on a door or glued onto a wall. 2

There is only one other copy recorded of this broadsheet. It is held at the Bibliothèque nationale de Paris (shelf mark MS Dupuy 488, fol. 165), and as far as we can judge from the reproduction in the journal Quærendo, it is produced from the same type-setting. 3 The Folger copy of the broadside measures 321 x 207 mm and is in fact only as large as half a sheet of the pot size as described by Philip Gaskell in his New Introduction to Bibliography. 4 The watermark is visible right in the middle of the half sheet, indicating that the Folger copy was produced on the upper half of the original pot sheet.

close-up of the watermark
close-up of the watermark

There is no imprint on the broadsheet, but the printer can be identified on the basis of ornamental capital “L” depicting a man with a sword who holds a bird (a pigeon?) in his hands. It also appears in a 1626 Brussels edition of the eight novels by the Spanish priest Juan Pérez de Montalbán (1602–1638), also part of the Folger’s holdings:

Fol. A1 recto of Svcessos y prodigios de amor en ocho novelas exemplares by Juan Perez de Montalbán
Fol. A1 recto of Svcessos y prodigios de amor en ocho novelas exemplares by Juan Perez de Montalbán

The man responsible for printing the novel is the Brussels printer Huybrecht I Anthoon, also known by his French name as Hubert I Antoine, who was active in the period 1615–1630. He would also produce, with the shop of his colleague Rutgerus Velpius, the catalog for the auction. 5 Below you can compare the initial letter from the novel on the left with the letter from the broadside on the right, noting that the crack in the top border suggests some wear of the woodblock:

comparing the ornamental capital "L" in the two works
comparing the ornamental capital “L” in the two works

This broadsheet demonstrates once again that however unassuming some of the items in the Folger Shakespeare Library at first glance may seem, they often bear witness of a rich and intriguing printing and cultural history.


  1. See Christian Coppens, “A Post-Mortem Inventory Turned into a Sales Catalogue: a Screening of the Auction Catalogue of the Library of Charles Duke of Croy, Brussels 1614”, Quærendo 38 (2008), pp. 359–380. My thanks to Professor Coppens for the reference to this article.
  2. The majority of broadsides in the Short Title Catalogus Vlaanderen from the seventeenth century are ordinances and so-called “Gheboden ende wtgheroepen,” public announcements of regulations. In the STCV, broadsides can be searched by entering the term “single-page print” in the subject term index in the drop-down list on the home page.
  3. See Coppens, p. 367.
  4. Philip Gaskell, A New Introduction to Bibliography, New Castle, DE, 2006, p. 86.
  5. Coppens, p. 362. It is not clear whether Rutgerus Velpius himself was still active that year, but the shop is clearly mentioned in the novel’s imprint: “Ex officina Rutgeri Velpij & Huberti Antonij Typog. Iur. anno 1614.”


  • This advertisement for paintings is early for the Low Countries as well. Later auctions have been studied by the Antwerp scholar Dr. Dries Lyna. In 2010 he published his PhD about this topic. It is entitled The cultural construction of value: art auctions in Antwerp and Brussels (1700-1794). Antwerp, University of Antwerp, 2010. In 2012, he surveyed the ‘British’ connection in a chapter of a book, called: ‘In search of a British connection: Flemish dealers on the London art market and the taste for continental paintings (1750-1800)’, in Charlotte Gould (ed.) et al., Marketing arts in the British Isles, 1700 to the present: a cultural history. Aldershot, Ashgate, 2012, pp. 101-118.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)