The Correspondence of Anna Maria van Schurman

Primary Contributors:

Samantha Sint Nicolaas with the SKILLNET project, under the supervision of Dirk van Miert

Self portrait, by Anna Maria van Schurman. 1640. (Collection Anna Maria van Schuurman in Museum Martena, Franeker; source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

Anna Maria van Schurman (1607–1678)

Scholar, poet, and radical Protestant Anna Maria van Schurman was celebrated and remembered widely as one of the most learned women of early modern Europe. From 1636 she attended lectures at Utrecht University and thus became the first female university student on the continent. Well versed in theology and philosophy — and with knowledge of at least fourteen languages (including a number of Semitic) — her correspondence network illustrates her prominent position in the midst of the Respublica Literaria. Notable amongst Anna Maria van Schurman’s male correspondents are figures such as Pierre Gassendi, Constantijn Huygens, André Rivet, Claude Saumaise, Andreas Colvius, Frederik Spanheim, and Daniel Heinsius, most of whom she conversed with in Latin.

Anna Maria van Schurman corresponded also with a large selection of learned women, notably figures such as Antoinette Bourignon, Bathsua Makin, Dorothy Moore, and Anne de Rohan. Although van Schurman’s correspondence with Christina of Sweden has not been transmitted, records show that van Schurman received the Swedish Queen at her home in Utrecht, as she did also the Polish Queen Ludwika Maria [Maria Louise de Gonzaga]. Corresponding with these learned women primarily in French, Van Schurman acted as a mentor for Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia and advocated eagerly for women’s education. Her public work defending women’s right to study, the Dissertatio de ingenii muliebris ad doctrinam et meliores litteras aptitudine (published in Paris in 1638 and Leiden in 1641), was translated into English in 1659 as The Learned Maid.

As well as engaging in epistolary debates and discussions, van Schurman also wrote poetry and was an accomplished artist. A collection of her work, Opuscula Hebraea Graeca Latina et Gallica, prosaica et metrica, was published in 1648 and subsequently reprinted in 1650, 1652, and 1749.

Van Schurman stands as an intriguing case study of a learned woman contributing prominently to both male and female knowledge-sharing networks. Of equal interest are the significant changes in Anna Maria van Schurman’s epistolary practices upon her departure from Utrecht in 1669 to join the radical Protestant Labadist group. Her work, Eukleria (1673), details her decision to join the Labadists; van Schurman renounces what she felt to be the shallow and exaggerated praise of her scholarly talents. She remained with the Labadists until her death in 1678 in the Frisian village of Wieuwerd.

Partners and Additional Contributors

This catalogue of metadata was gathered by Samantha Sint Nicolaas during a research internship made possible by the Sharing Knowledge in Literary and Learned NETworks [SKILLNET] project, with the support of the European Research Council. It was carried out under the supervision of Dr Dirk van Miert, to whom sincere thanks are due for his thorough corrections and his invaluable knowledge of the surrounding material.

The collection of this metadata from Anna Maria van Schurman’s letters would have been substantially more challenging without the extensive and ongoing research into her life and work conducted by Dr Pieta van Beek, to whom warm thanks are extended for her generous advice and assistance.


Key Bibliographic Source(s)

Pieta van Beek, The first female university student: Anna Maria van Schurman (1636) (Utrecht: Igitur, 2010).


According to Pieta van Beek, Anna Maria van Schurman may have exchanged thousands of letters, but after her departure from Utrecht she destroyed a significant and unknown number of letters in her possession. This inventory has gathered the metadata of two hundred and thirty-nine surviving letters. Although the majority of these were written in Latin or French, some were written in Greek, Hebrew, or Dutch. Many are taken from the published collection of van Schurman’s work, the Opuscula Hebraea Graeca Latina et Gallica; URL links to transcriptions in the public domain have been provided from the letter records. Where multiple manifestations exist, care has been taken to assimilate them into a single record that distinguishes between autograph letters, manuscript copies and printed editions (including translations into Dutch, English, or French).

Further resources


Pieta van Beek, ‘Verbastert Christendom.’ Nederlandse gedichten van Anna Maria van Schurman (1607–1678) (Houten: Den Hertog, 1992).

Pieta van Beek, Klein werk: de Opuscula Hebraea Graeca Latine et Gallica, prosaice et metrica van Anna Maria van Schurman (1607–1678) (Stellenbosch: Stellenbosch Universiteit Uitgevers, 1997).

Pieta van Beek, ‘Over God.’ Een onbekend florilegium van Anna Maria van Schurman (ca. 1625) (Ridderkerk: Provily Pers, 2013; translated by Dineke Ehlers, 2014).

Pieta van Beek, ‘Uw Lieftalige brief.’ Een onbekende brief van Anna Maria van Schurman aan Johannes Vollenhoven (1668) (Ridderkerk: Provily Pers, 2014).

Pieta van Beek, ‘Verslonden door zijn liefde.’ Een onbekende brief van Anna Maria van Schurman aan Petrus Montanus (1669) (Ridderkerk: Provily Pers, 2015).

Pieta van Beek, ‘Herrezen uit de as.’ Verbrande lofgeschriften van Rotger zum Bergen voor Anna Maria van Schurman (1649–1655) (Ridderkerk: Provily Pers, 2015).

Pieta van Beek, with Joris Bürmann, ‘Ex libris.’ De boeken van Anna Maria van Schurman en de catalogi van de Labadistenbibliotheek. (Ridderkerk: Provily Pers, 2016).

Pieta van Beek, ‘Het wereldwonder van Utrechts Academie.’ Naam en faam van Anna Maria van Schurman (Boekrol: Ridderkerk: Provily Pers, 2016; Boek: Ridderkerk, Provily Pers, forthcoming).

A. M. H. Douma, Anna Maria van Schurman en de studie der vrouw (Amsterdam: Proefschrift Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1924).

Anne R. Larsen, ‘A Women’s Republic of Letters: Anna Maria van Schurman, Marie de Gournay and Female Selfpresentation in Relation to the Public Sphere’ in Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 3 (2008), pp. 105–26.

Anne R. Larsen, Anna Maria van Schurman, ‘The Star of Utrecht.’ The Educational Vision and Reception of a Savante (New York: Routledge, 2016).

Carol Pal, Republic of Women: Rethinking the Republic of Letters in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

G. D. J. Schotel, Anna Maria van Schurman (’s Hertogenbosch: Gebroeders Muller, 1853).

Constant Venesoen, Anne Marie de Schurman: Femme Savante (1607-1678) (Paris: Honoré Champion, 2004).

Additional resources

Mirjam de Baar, Schurman, Anna Maria van, in Digitaal Vrouwenlexicon van Nederland (Online Dictionary of Dutch Women).

Pieta van Beek, Anna Maria van Schurman website.

Pieta van Beek, Schurman, Anna Maria van (1607-1678)‘, on Digitaal Wetenschopshistorisch Centrum (Digital Web Centre for the History of Science in the Low Countries) [DWC].

Women’s Early Modern Letters Online [WEMLO] project page.

WEMLO network and resources hub.



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