Fagel Fellowship: Results at a glance

Two months of research into the Fagel Collection as a visiting fellow at Trinity College Long Room Hub. It has been a pleasure and a privilege, but what did it lead up to? In this blog post you will find a short overview of the results and how to access them.

Fagel Collection at a glance

Online information and access
Website Fagel Collection Trinity College Library
Database Printed Catalogue 1872 Trinity College Library
Website Short-Title Catalogue, Netherlands (STCN)
Database STCN | Fagel copies in the STCN: search location code ir-dtc
DescriptionFagel Archives at the National Archives in The Hague

Total number of volumes Fagel collection: approximately 20,000
Total number of titles: 40,000 - 50,000 books, pamphlets and broadsides
Total number of Fagel copies in STCN (15/04/2019): approximately 2500
Total number of Fagel copies that are STCN unique (15/04/2019): 238

List of Fagels
Gaspar Fagel (1634-1688), greffier of the States-General 1670-1672
Hendrik Fagel 'the eldest' (1617-1690), greffier 1672-1690
François Fagel (1659-1746), greffier 1690-1744
Hendrik Fagel 'the elder' (1706-1790), greffier 1744-1790
Hendrik Fagel 'the younger' (1765-1838), greffier 1790-1795 

Fagel auction catalogues
Catalogus instructissimæ & exquisitissimæ bibliothecæ illustrissimi viri
  Gasparis Fagel [...]. In quâ omne genus, sed præcipuè juridicorum librorum;
  quos publicâ auctione distrahet Arnoldus Leers in suâ officinâ, quam tenet

  in Aulâ, vulgo dictâ de Groote Zael, ad insigne Plutarchi, die lunæ 17.
  octobris & sequentibus 1689. stilo novo (Hagæ-Comitum: apud A. Leers, 1689).
Bibliotheca instructissima, sive Catalogus librorum in omnigena literatura,
  præsertim vero antiqua romana & græca maxime insignium : magna ex parte ex
  bibliothecis celeberrimorum virorum Casparis Fagel [...]
(London, 1690).
Catalogus van twee uytmuntende cabinetten, met hoorns, schelpen, en zeer
  keurlyke zee-gewassen by een verzamelt door [...] Benjam. Fagel : welke
  verkoopinge gehouden sal worden [...] op Maandag den 15 July 1709
  Gravenhage: Abraham de Hondt, 1709).
Veilingcatalogus, boeken van H. Fagel [...], 12 tot 20 november 1792  
  ('s-Gravenhage, 1792).
Catalogue of the intire cabinet of capital drawings, collected by the late
  Greffier Francois Fagel, [...] which will be sold by auction, [...] on 
  Monday, the 20th of May, 1799
. (London, 1799).
The catalogue of all that perfect and beautiful assemblage of cabinet
  pictures, the property of the Greffiers Fagel, [...] brought from The Hague
   to England. Which will be sold by auction, [...] on Friday, the 22d of
   May, 1801, and following day at one o'clock. (London, 1801).
Bibliotheca Fageliana: a catalogue of the valuable and extensive library 
  of the Greffier Fagel, of The Hague (London, 1802).
Catalogus van eene uitmuntende verzameling van gedrukte en geschreevene
  resolutie͏̈n [...], waar onder veele raare en zeldzaame stukken,

  toebehoorende aan den heer en mr. Hendrik Fagel, [...] welke op woensdag
  den 2 februarij 1803 [...] verkogt zullen worden ('s-Gravenhage, 1803).
Portrait of Gaspar Fagel
Portrait of Gaspar Fagel, Grand Pensionary of Holland after 1672 in the background is the Meeting Hall of the States of Holland at the Binnenhof in The Hague. Oil paint on canvas. Rijksmuseum, SK-A-283.

Short-Title Catalogue, Netherlands

In the past two months, nearly 2500 copies from the Fagel Collection have been added to the STCN, the Dutch retrospective bibliography for books printed before 1801. They are freely available for everybody and can be accessed through the catalogue online. The copies account for 2353 titles, which shows that there is some duplication within the collection. There are at least a hundred books of which the exact same edition is found in the collection more than once. Why, for example, the 6th edition of Cardinal De Richelieu’s Testament politique, or Jacques Bernard’s De l’excellence de la religion are present in two copies, is open for speculation. It is good to keep in mind that the Fagel collection is in fact a combination of multiple private libraries from different family members.

Some pamphlets (for example Tractaet van de Vreede) simply appear in more than one composite volume. A rare broadside regarding the sale of tulip bulbs, not known anywhere else in the world, is in fact not a sole survivor because the Fagel collection holds two copies! Both copies have manuscript annotations, so from a different perspective they are both unique.

One of the broadsides with a printed list of tulip bulbs and manuscript prices. Trinity College Library, MS 1706.


One of the goals that I had set was to shed some light on the different – sometimes even conflicting – claims about ‘uniqueness’ of items by scholars who have studied the Fagel collection over the past century. Already in 1962 Ernst Braches concluded that at best five percent of the pamphlets was not known in Dutch collections. More recently, Jaap Harskamp suggested that the percentage of new entries to the STCN would be significantly higher. From their wonderful work on the 16th and 17th century pamphlets, Andrew Pettegree and Arthur der Weduwen concluded that twelve percent of all pamphlets is not known anywhere else.

The problem with uniqueness is twofold. First, the use of the word ‘unique’ is ambiguous. Even though we all agree what it means in a literal sense, surviving in just one copy, the practical approach leaves room for interpretation. Braches managed to trace additional copies of most pamphlets and broadsides in Dutch libraries through printed catalogues, but it is likely that he missed a few variants due to the fact that he had to do his research without the aid of fingerprints and online databases. Harskamp point of reference was the STCN in a time that broadsides were not yet part of the national bibliography. This obviously limited the number of new entries that he predicted. The twelve percent of new additions to the USTC mentioned by Pettegree and Der Weduwen does include broadsides.

The second problem is that most research in the Fagel collection has focused on the pamphlets. Even though there is little doubt that this is a remarkable part of the collection, there is no good reason to ignore the rest of the library. In fact, if we consider the 2500 Fagel-copies in the STCN, it is noteworthy that the STCN-unique items can be found all across the collection. There is not one genre that stands out, nor a specific time-frame where we find most unique items. With just under ten percent of the entire collection catalogued according to modern standards, we have to be cautious not to jump to conclusions.

Future cataloguing

The auction catalogue from 1802 accounts for nearly 10,000 items, a modest estimate is that there are at least 20,000 volumes. The total number of titles (books, pamphlets, broadsides) is expected to be somewhere in the range of 40,000 to 50,000. The reason that there are so much more titles than items in the original auction catalogue, is that auction catalogues tend to focus on expensive items and generally ignore cheap print, ephemera and smaller works in composite volumes. The well-known fact that 6,000 pamphlets in the Fagel Collection are listed in just two lots in the auction catalogue is illustrative.

Based on the 1802 auction catalogue, approximately 35 percent of the collection is either printed in the Netherlands or in the Dutch language. All that is not mentioned in the auction catalogue, is of course missed in these statistics. The same applies to anonymous imprints and mystifications. From the sample of 2500 books that has been catalogued so far, the STCN shows there are editions with the imprint ‘London’ (31), Paris (40) and Cologne (40) that are in fact printed in the Dutch Republic. 560 titles have no place of publication in the imprint. If this is all taken into account, the expected number of ‘Dutch’ books in the collection is in fact not 35 but around 50 percent.

Copy from the Fagel Collection with a false imprint. Trinity College Library, Fag. II.I.29.

Future research

There is a coherence between bibliographic description of a material collection and research that is not always understood and appreciated. The basic fact that you see thousands of books in a short period of time is a prerequisite, or at the very least a tremendous advantage, for understanding a collection. The repetition of material aspects, visual elements, practices in use, and so on, is the first step towards asking questions. Three considerations from me:

  1. We tend to talk about ‘the Fagel collection’ as an indivisible entity, one 18th century private library that has been ‘frozen in time’. In reality, a collection that has been built up by different members of a family over the course of one and a half century is much more organic. Books were added to and detached from the library all the time, some parts of the collection should be connected to one specific Fagel, the 1803 auction catalogue reminds us that there was a ‘professional’ collection next to the private library, and even in the 1802 catalogue we can find hundreds of items that somehow never made it to Dublin. It would be justifiable to speak of ‘Fagel collections’ and it would be productive if we can get a better understanding of the build up of the collection over time. Most of the scholars who have been involved with the Fagel collection have pointed out that the books themselves hold very few clues about their provenance. There are, however, other sources, such as auction catalogues, booksellers’ archives and correspondence that can tell more.
  2. The part of the Fagel collection that is now in Dublin is foremost the private library of the family, but how should we understand the relation with the state documents and books that were part of the office or work collection of the Fagels? The division can simply be made on the basis of the respective auction catalogues of 1802 and 1803. However, it is debatable that they kept a strict division of private and public collections all the time. The Fagel collection at Trinity College Library holds volumes with ordinances, placards, treaties and other documents that typically would be seen as state documents. It might simply be the case that individual members of the family kept copies in their personal archives since most of these publications were signed by one of them, but that is speculation. Can we find out more about the relation of the private and public book collections in terms of acquisition, use and collecting?
  3. The Fagels were in office at the political heart of the Dutch Republic for more than a century. It is understandable that there are all sorts of connections with other collections in the Netherlands. We can see parallel practices, topics, documents, bindings, and traces of use in the collections of the National Library, the National Archives and the Library of the House of Parliament, all in The Hague. The state documents that were auctioned in 1803 supposedly ended up in the collections of the National library and the National archives. The National archives also have the family archive of the Fagels. The Fagel-Dierquens armorial book is now in Museum Meermanno. Furthermore, there are practices that were continued even after the Fagels had left. In the Library of the House of Parliament we find composite bindings with ‘greffier’ on the spine. And where the series of 278 volumes with pamphlets in the Fagel collection ends at 1793, the pamphlet collection at the Library of the House of Parliament begins precisely at 1793. There is no overlap, these collections are consecutive. All of this should be brought together in a grand narrative about government, political networks and books, with the Fagels somewhere in the middle. It is only in the connection with other libraries that we can begin to understand the relevance of this marvelous 18th century book collection at Trinity College Library in Dublin.
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