The Correspondence of Gerardus Joannes Vossius

Primary Contributors:

G. A. C. van der Lem and C. S. M. Rademaker

Gerardus Johannes Vossius, by an unknown artist. 1636. Oil on panel, 58.3 by 51 cm. (Universiteitsmuseum Amsterdam; source of image: Wikimedia Commons)

Gerardus Joannes Vossius (1577–1649)

Vossius has been described by Anton van der Lem and Cor Rademaker, the scholars who worked on and published the inventory of his correspondence, as ‘one of the finest representatives of late humanism’.1 He was born in March or April 1577 in Heidelberg. His parents — Joannes Vossius [Jan Vos or Vuskens], a merchant, and Cornelia van Buel — both came originally from Roermond. In 1573, upon completion of theological studies at Heidelberg, Vossius’s father became minister of a congregation close to the city. After moves to Leimuyden and Veurne, the family settled in Dordrecht, where Vossius’s mother died in 1584. His father left him an orphan the following year, just months after a second marriage to Anna Fransdochter de Witt.

The eight-year-old Vossius and his sister were taken in by Barbara, the widow of the minister Jacob van der Myle. Vossius was educated at the Latin school in Dordrecht, and moved to Leiden University before curtailing his studies there to take up a position as vice-rector, and subsequently rector, of his old school, which flourished under his care. From 1615 he served as regent of the Collegium Theologicum in Leiden until — notwithstanding his moderate viewpoint— the differences between the Remonstants and Counter-Remonstrants attracted accusations of sympathy with the former and resulted in his dismissal. In 1622 Vossius was appointed Professor of eloquence and world history at Leiden, where he worked to reform education at the Latin schools in the Dutch Provinces.

Despite the offer of a professorship at Cambridge, Vossius chose — after lengthy deliberations — to remain in the Netherlands where, in 1631, he was invited to take up simultaneously the position of inaugural rector and a professorship (of two available) at the Athenaeum Illustre in Amsterdam. Here Vossius taught alongside Caspar Barlaeus. As Jan Bloemendal writes, the two professors were committed to delivering public lectures daily in the auditorium of St Agnes’s Chapel, ‘Barlaeus at nine o’clock and Vossius at ten o’clock. These lectures were attended not only by students, but also by burghers of the city, among whom were the Amsterdam merchants, and other extranei‘.2

In February 1602 Vossius married Elizabeth, the daughter of the leading protestant minister Hendrik van den Corput, with whom he had three children (the youngest, Joannes, born in 1606 was the only one to survive). Following Elizabeth’s death in 1606, he married a second time, to another Elisabeth who was the daughter of the Leiden professor of theology Franciscus Junius. Nine children (of whom seven survived) were born of this marriage, including the philologist, manuscript collector, and polymath Isaac Vossius (1618–1689).

Vossius’s published output over the course of his career was prodigious and covered every aspect of learning. His library, known to have been encyclopaedic of all ‘knowledge in the fields of history, rhetoric, classical languages and literature, poetics, philosophy and theology’, bears witness to his scholarship and was sold after his death to Queen Christina of Sweden.3 Vossius died in Amsterdam on 17 March 1649.


Partners and Additional Contributors

The invaluable printed inventory of Vossius’s correspondence (for details, please see the section on Key Bibliographic Sources, below) stands as testament to the meticulous scholarship and erudition not only of Vossius but also of G. A. C van der Lem and C. S. M. Rademaker, the scholars who compiled and published the calendar with Van Gorcum in 1993. Cultures of Knowledge is grateful to Professor Dirk van Miert for his suggestion that this calendar of Vossius’s correspondence be digitized and incorporated into EMLO’s union catalogue and would like to thank him for discussing the project with, and securing the permissions and blessings of, its scholarly editors and publisher alike.

Staff at EMLO are most grateful to Anton van der Lem and Cor Rademaker for the extraordinarily generous donation of their notes, together with their archive of greyscale images of the manuscripts, to assist with the identification process undertaken in Oxford on the large number of people and place records associated with Vossius’s correspondence. The boxes containing this material would never have made it across the North Sea were it not for the assistance of Dirk van Miert in Utrecht and Robin Buning and Alfred van Weperen at the Huygens ING in the weeks before the institute moved its headquarters from The Hague to Amsterdam.

Finally, thanks are due to EMLO Digital Fellows Lucy Hennings, Karen Hollewand, Katharine Morris, and Callum Seddon, as well as to Editorial Assistant Charlotte Marique, for their hard work to help prepare the metadata for upload. Cultures of Knowledge’s former Project Manager Lizzy Williamson moved many an obstructing mountain to make possible the scanning and keying of this data, and Mike Popham and Pip Willcox offered — as ever — most invaluable advice.


Key Bibliographic Source(s)

G. A. C. van der Lem and C. S. M. Rademaker, Inventory of the Correspondence of Gerardus Joannes Vossius (1577–1649) (Assen and Maastricht: Van Gorcum, 1993).



In the course of the five decades of his adult life, Vossius not only developed and maintained an extensive network of scholarly correspondents and friends within the United Provinces but he kept in regular communication also with scholars and contacts the length and breadth of Europe. His surviving correspondence alone is voluminous and bears witness to his remarkable ability to keep on amicable terms with correspondents of every belief within the religious spectrum of his day.



A meticulously organised scholar, Vossius preserved the letters he received and filed minutes and copies of those he had written and dispatched. This archive passed, along with his personal papers and manuscripts, into the library of his son Isaac. Letters contained in an edition published by Paulus Colomesius (who was in turn related to Isaac), together with the manuscripts of many unpublished letters, may be found now in the Bodleian Libraries (Rawlinson Collection) and in the British Library (Harleian collection). A further cluster of manuscript letters is preserved in the University Library in Amsterdam. Almost all of the letters located in a wide range of other archives are known from the copies and minutes kept so carefully by Vossius for his own records.


Scope of Catalogue

Wherever possible the letters calendared in the 1993 inventory have been assigned dates in the Gregorian calendar by Van der Lem and Rademaker.4 Many of the originals were dated using the Roman calendar. Members of the EMLO editorial staff have attached the authors and recipients to person records in the union catalogue and the origin and destinations (where given) to the relevant place records. Van der Lem and Rademaker included in their inventory incipits containing the first five words of a letter after the salutation, and wherever there are multiple incipits with the same first five words, the text has been provided up to and including the first different word.

Please note that the metadata from the inventory has been uploaded in its entirety into EMLO and this means there are many alternative records for the same letter within the Bodleian card catalogue. Work is in progress to link these two interpretations at the level of the record. It should be emphasized that the records contributed by Van der Lem and Rademaker are the more accurate and should be considered the authority.


Further resources


Bloemendal, Jan, Gerardus Joannes Vossius: Poeticarum Institutionum Libri Tres / Institutes of Poetics in Three Books (Leiden: Brill, 2010).

Lem, G. A. C. van der, and C. S. M. Rademaker, Inventory of the Correspondence of Gerardus Joannes Vossius (1577–1649) (Assen and Maastricht: Van Gorcum, 1993).

Rademaker, C. S. M., Life and Work of Gerardus Joannes Vossius (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1981).

Rademaker, C. S. M., ‘Vossius, Gerardus Joannes (1577–1649)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2006).


Printed sources

Vossius, G. J., Gerardi Joannis Vossii et clarorum vivorum ad eum epistolae, ed. Paulo Colomesio (London, 1690; Augsburg, 1691; and London 1693).

Vossius, G. J., Opera in sex tomos divisa, quorum series post praefationem exhibetur (Amsterdam, 1695–1701).


For extensive bibliographic listings, please refer to those published in C. S. M. Rademaker, Life and Work of Gerardus Joannes Vossius (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1981).


Launch dated correspondence from the Van der Lem and Rademaker inventory

Please see our citation guidelines for instructions on how to cite this catalogue.


1 ‘He was one of the finest representatives of late humanism and his many publications dealt with the whole spectrum of it.’ See G. A. C. van der Lem and C. S. M. Rademaker, Inventory of the Correspondence of Gerardus Joannes Vossius (1577–1649) (Assen and Maastricht: Van Gorcum, 1993), p. VII.

See Jan Bloemendal, Gerardus Joannes Vossius: Poeticarum Institutionum Libri Tres / Institutes of Poetics in Three Books (Leiden: Brill, 2010), p. 4.

Ibid., p. 5.

4 ‘See G. A. C. van der Lem and C. S. M. Rademaker, Inventory of the Correspondence of Gerardus Joannes Vossius (1577–1649) (Assen and Maastricht: Van Gorcum, 1993), p. IX.