The Correspondence of Constantijn Huygens (7,120 letters)

Primary Contributors:

ePistolarium, CKCC project, Huygens ING, The Hague

Constantijn Huygens and his children, by Adriaen Hanneman. 1640. (Mauritshuis, The Hague)

Constantijn Huygens (1596–1687)

Educated by his father, Christiaan the elder, who was secretary both to William the Silent and to Prince Maurice, the poet, diplomat, and composer Constantijn Huygens was born and raised in The Hague. He was employed initially by the English envoy Dudley Carleton, travelling to London in 1618 and then in 1620, as secretary of Francis van Aerssen, to Venice, before taking a position in 1630 as secretary to the stadholder Frederik Hendrik. Constantijn continued in the service of the Orange family under Wilhelm II. His correspondence was extensive; his network was large — he counted princes, poets, diplomats, and scholars amongst his friends — and he was the father of five children, including the statesman Constantijn the Younger and the natural scientist and mathematician Christiaan.

Partners and Additional Contributors

The Circulation of Knowledge project [CKCC] was established in 2008 as a partnership between the Descartes Centre at the University of Utrecht, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands), the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands (Huygens ING), the Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS), and the University of Amsterdam (UvA). The project began by digitizing the metadata and curating existing full-text transcriptions of c.20,000 letters to or from nine prominent intellectuals resident in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic. In 2013, this material was published as open access in a sophisticated web application — the ePistolarium — which provides scholars with multiple means of exploring and analysing both metadata and full texts across all nine correspondences. As well as conducting full-text searches, mapping and graphing the metadata, and extracting people mentioned, the ePistolarium is capable of interrogating the entire corpus to analyse and visualize co-citation networks, and produces the results of keyword extraction and experimental topic-modelling.

CKCC’s 20,020 records represent the largest single dataset contributed to EMLO during the second phase of Cultures of Knowledge.  The re-publication of these records within EMLO marks the inauguration in 2014 of the rolling incorporation of major new catalogues which will continue into 2015 and beyond.  As well as integrating CKCC’s metadata into an expansive union catalogue, EMLO’s records link back to the original letter texts published within the ePistolarium.

EMLO would like to thank Walter Ravenek for his careful preparation of CKCC metadata. Thanks are due also to Cultures of Knowledge’s editor Miranda Lewis, editorial assistant Mark Thakker, and first intern Charlotte Marique for their work on the people and place records associated with this correspondence.

Key Bibliographic Source(s)

The metadata and texts for the transcriptions published in ePistolarium were taken from Briefwisseling,  ed. J.A. Worp (The Hague, 1911–1917).


Constantijn’s letters listed in EMLO, 7,120 in total, span seventy-nine years from 1608 to January 1687, just a couple of months before his death. Amongst his array of correspondents may be numbered Marin Mersenne, Barlaeus, Descartes, Pieter Corneliszoon Hooft, David le Leu de Wilhem, and Daniel Heinsius.

A link is provided from each record in EMLO to the online transcription in the ePistolarium catalogue where, it should be noted, the Gregorian calendar is used throughout.

Visualized search result showing the correspondence network of Constantijn Huygens (ePistolarium, CKCC project, Huygens ING, The Hague).

Scope of Catalogue

It should be noted that many of the origin and destination locations in this correspondence are still to be qualified as ‘inferred’. This work will be completed in the course of the coming months and, in the meantime, users are advised to refer to the transcription itself to see whether the origin and destination is stated or inferred.

Further resources


Briefwisseling, ed. J.A. Worp (The Hague, 1911–1917).

Additional recently discovered letters, as well as facsimiles, transcriptions, references to printed editions, and brief biographical information for the 1,317 correspondents may be found in the complete edition of The Correspondence of Constantijn Huygens [De briefwisseling van Constantijn Huygens 1608–1687], which is published online at the Huygens ING under the supervision of Ineke Huysman.

Launch Catalogue

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