The Correspondence of Hadriaan Beverland (currently 305 letters)

Primary Contributors:

Karen Hollewand

Hadriaan Beverland, by Ary de Vois. c.1675–80. Oil on panel, 35 by 27.5cm. (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Legaat van de heer F.G. Waller, Amsterdam)

Hadriaan Beverland (1650–1716)

Hadriaan Beverland, humanist scholar, was born between 20 September and 14 December 1650 in Middelburg. He was the third son of Johannes Beverland (d. 1654) and Catarina van Deijnse (d. 1665) and the younger brother of Johannes (1638?–1695) and Christoffel (1646?–1676). After the death of his father in 1654, his mother married Sir Bernard de Gomme (1620–1685), a military engineer for the English royalist army. When his parents moved to England in about 1660, Beverland lodged with different families during his education at the Latin School of Middelburg before, upon the death of his mother, being placed in the custody of guardians.

Beverland graduated from Latin School when he was 18 and left Zeeland soon after. In 1669 he began his academic career as a student of ‘philosophiae et litterarum’ and in the decade that followed he lay the foundations for a life of scholarship, as he studied at the universities of Franeker, Leiden, and Utrecht, and resided in Oxford in 1672 to study at the Bodleian Library. In 1676 he received his inheritance and started to assemble an extensive library and art collection, spending large sums on manuscripts, prints, and artefacts. During his studies he met many of the friends that would be important to him for the rest of his life. Lawyer Jacob de Goyer (1651−1689) belonged to this close circle, as did scholars Nicolaas Heinsius (1621−1681), Isaac Vossius (1618−1689), Jacobus Gronovius (1645−1716), and Johann Georg Graevius (1632−1703).

In 1677 Beverland was awarded a doctorate in law from the University of Utrecht. During his student years, he was preoccupied by a different subject however. His philological studies on ancient history and classical literature focused on one subject: sex. In the early 1670s he began work on his three-volume ‘De Prostibulis Veterum’ (‘On the Prostitution of the Classics’) in which he discussed sexuality in different historical, literary, religious, and cultural contexts. He offered a first glimpse of his argument in 1678: in Peccatum Originale (Original Sin), published in Leiden, he argued that sexual lust was the original sin and explained how sexual desire had become a universal and dominant characteristic of human nature after the Fall of Man. The work was widely criticized, yet a year later Beverland printed a second edition. De Peccato Originali (On Original Sin), printed in Leiden in 1679, presented the same argument on the prominence sexual desire in all people. He compounded his infamy by publishing De Stolatae Virginitatis Iure (On the Law on Draped Virginity), a treatise on the sexual lust of women, in the same year.

Disgusted by his studies, the Synod of the Reformed Church of South Holland sent a request to the States of Holland, which on 12 September 1679 discussed Beverland’s works. The States concluded that the Academic Court of the University of Leiden, where he was then enrolled as a student, should consider the case and he was arrested in October 1679. After five weeks in prison, Beverland, who managed to get a third edition of his work on sex and sin, titled Poma Amoris (The Fruits of Love), published when incarcerated, was convicted of writing godless, profane, and perverse works. In addition to a series of minor punishments, he was ordered to hand over the ‘De Prostibulis Veterum’, was expelled from the University of Leiden, and banished from the provinces of Holland, Zeeland, and West-Friesland. After his release on 4 December 1679, he resided briefly in Utrecht, before crossing the Channel to England in March 1680.

Beverland continued to work on his master thesis ‘De Prostibulis Veterum’ during the first years of his exile. Eventually, however, he abandoned the work and it was never published. He did continue to study classical literature: he wrote commentaries on the works of, amongst other authors, Martial, Horace, and Lucretius and composed essays on philological, religious, and historical subjects. He took on also the roles of secretary and librarian in the service of noted scholars and collectors, including Isaac Vossius, John Vaughan, third earl of Carbery, and Hans Sloane.

After the deaths of his stepfather Sir Bernard de Gomme in 1685 and his patron Isaac Vossius in 1689, Beverland sought to return to the Dutch Republic. After various attempts, it was his important role in the sale of Vossius’s library that secured his acquittal by the University of Leiden. He ensured that his former patron’s collection was granted not to the University of Oxford but to Leiden. In return he received a pardon, which was signed by William III in 1693. However, notwithstanding his royal pardon, Beverland believed Dutch opinion was still too hostile to him and his works — even after his publication of an allegedly apologetic treatise (published in London in 1697 and 1698 as De Fornicatione Cavenda Admonitio). He never returned to his fatherland and spent the rest of his life in England, residing with his maid and partner Rebecca (or Rebekah) Tibbith. Few details survive of their relationship, although they had two daughters: Catherin, who died only a couple of weeks after she was born in 1685, and Anna, born in 1687.

From the mid-1690s onwards, Beverland’s financial and mental state deteriorated. He was forced to sell most items from his beloved collection of books and art and he became convinced that friends as well as enemies were plotting against him. By the end of his life he was a broken man. He did not live to see his work on original sin adapted and translated into popular French and German editions and died in London, poor and paranoid, on 14 December 1716.

Partners and Additional Contributors

The metadata for Hadriaan Beverland’s correspondence was supplied to EMLO by Karen Hollewand, who studied Beverland’s letters during her DPhil. project at the University of Oxford entitled ‘The Banishment of Beverland: Sex, Scripture, and Scholarship in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic’. Research into Beverland’s correspondence was also conducted by Karen in The Netherlands, during a Fellowship at the Scaliger Institute of the University of Leiden and a COST-funded Short-Term Scientific Mission at the Huygens ING Institute in The Hague in 2016.

Thanks are due to the Prince Bernard Culture Fund, Elizabeth Brandenburg Memorial Foundation, Cost Action IS1310 ‘Reassembling the Republic of Letters’, Ketel 1 Study Fund, Hendrik Muller Fund, Scaliger Institute Leiden, Vreede Fund, and VSB Fund for their generous funding of the study of Beverland’s letters. Particular thanks are due to Robin Buning, Albert Gootjes, Rudolf de Smet, Tim Wauters, Jelte Wiersma, and the staff of the Zeeuws Archief Middelburg.


Key Bibliographic Source(s)

Elegantioris Sophiae Magistri. Epistolae XII, unknown editor (Amsterdam: unknown publisher, 1747).

Smet, Rudolf de, ‘Epistolae Tullianae. Brieven van Hadriaan Beverland’, De Gulden Passer, 64, 65, 68 (1986, 1987, 1990), pp. 83–124, 70–101, 139–67.

Smet, Rudolf de, ‘H. Beverlandi Epistolae XII. Edition critique et commentaire’, Rudolf de Smet, Henri Melaerts, and Cecilia Saerens, eds, Studia Varia Bruxellensia ad Orbem Graeco-Latinum Pertinentia, vol. II (Leuven: Peeters, 1987), pp. 29–56.

Smet, Rudolf de, ‘Traces of Hadriaan Beverland (1650–1716) in the Zeeuws documentatiecentrum at Middelburg, 1692–1715’, Lias: sources and documents relating to the early modern history of ideas, 19, no. 1 (1992), pp. 73–91.

Wauters, Tim, ‘De onuitgegeven Latijnse correspondentie van Hadriaan Beverland met Nicolaas Heinsius en Iacobus Gronovius in de universiteitsbibliotheken van Leiden en München’ (Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Master Thesis, 2000).


The catalogue of Beverland’s letters consists of 305 letters, dated between 1676 and 1716. The majority of the preserved letters (174) was written in 1679 and 1680, during the years that Beverland published his first studies and was imprisoned, tried, and convicted by the Academic Court of the University of Leiden. Most of the letters in this catalogue (288) were written by Beverland. The list of correspondents numbers fifty-one names, predominantly consisting of fellow humanist scholars who Beverland met during his student years in the Dutch Republic (1650–80) or when living in England (1680–1716).

A number of Beverland’s letters have been assembled in collections: the ‘Epistolae Tullianae’, ‘Epistolae Familiares’, and ‘Epistolae XII’. Beverland himself constructed and named the first two collections. The ‘Epistolae Tullianae’ consists of a selection of forty-two letters, preserved in the Library of the University of Leiden (BPL 204) and sent by Beverland to friends and family members between 21 April 1679 and 5 October 1685. The title of the collection, as Rudolf de Smet and Tim Wauters have established (see for their works Key Bibliographic Sources above), could signify either the Ciceronian style of the letters (with Tullianae referring to Cicero’s middle name Tullius) or Beverland’s time in the student prison in Leiden, from which most letters were send (Tullianum was the name of an ancient Roman prison). The ‘Epistolae Tullianae’ letters were printed by Rudolf de Smet with Dutch commentary in three articles for De Gulden Passer between 1986 and 1990 (see Key Bibliographic Sources above). Beverland also selected the letters of the second collection: the ‘Epistolae Familiares’ consists of thirty letters he sent to family members and friends between 1680 and 1702. Today the original letters are preserved in Royal Library of the Netherlands in The Hague (KW 131 G25) and copies of the originals may be found in the Bodleian Library in Oxford (D’Orville 480). Twelve letters of the ‘Epistolae Familiares’ collection were selected by an unknown editor and printed as the ‘Epistolae XII’ in 1747 in Amsterdam. Unfortunately the context of this publication remains unclear. The same twelve letters feature in a modern publication by Rudolf de Smet, who transcribed the letters and added French commentary in an article published in 1987 (see Key Bibliographic Sources above).

Beverland preferred to write in Latin (80%) or Dutch (17%); only a couple of the letters preserved were written in French or English. While his letters often represent a Ciceronian style of writing, with a clear, rhythmic, and balanced diction, some of his letters are written in a much more baroque style, consisting of rare words and vague allegories. This variety was part of his personal diction, yet Beverland did at times adjust his style to particular contexts. Firstly, his style depended on the period. In his younger years he had a great admiration for the baroque and used many uncommon words and complex structures in his Latin. By the late 1670s, however, he came to prefer a clearer, Ciceronian style of writing. Secondly, he adjusted his style to the main subject of his letter; he often chose to write in extravagant Latin when focusing on scholarly topics while more mundane matters were discussed in a more simple style or in the vernacular. Thirdly, he adapted the style and language of his letters to his recipient, who might not understand Dutch or Latin. He also kept a larger audience in mind: in the letters he collected for possible publication, the ‘Epistolae Familiares’ and ‘Epistolae Tullianae’, Beverland seemed keen to impress his readers with his eloquence in Latin.

Beverland’s letters can be of interest for a number of reasons. His letters give insight into his scholarship, the development of his ideas on sexuality, his discussions with other scholars, and his general views on classical scholarship as well as specific comments on the studies of other academics. His correspondence also provides a unique view upon the context of the publication of his infamous studies in 1678 and 1679 and tells us what happened before, during, and after his trial. We come to know the man behind the scholar, since Beverland’s libertine lifestyle is often described. In addition, his correspondence can be of interest to scholars interested in the trade in books and art in England between approximately 1680 and 1705. Letters from this period show, especially the large number of epistles exchanged with Hans Sloane, that Beverland was an important figure in these markets, as he bought and sold items for himself as well as for the collections of others, like Sloane and Isaac Vossius.

It is not at all unlikely that more letters will be added to this catalogue in the future, since letters addressed to or composed by Beverland might turn up in archives and libraries around Europe as research on his scholarship continues.

Letter of 25 March 1693 from Hadriaan Beverland to Jacobus Gronovius. (University Library of Munich, 2° 627, 168r–v)


The three collections of Beverland’s letters are preserved in the University Library of Leiden (‘Epistolae Tullianae’, BPL 204, forty-two letters), the Royal Library of The Netherlands in The Hague (‘Epistolae Familiares’, including the ‘Epistolae XII’, KW 131 G25, thirty letters), and in the Bodleian Library in Oxford (copies of the ‘Epistolae Familiares’, including the ‘Epistolae XII’, D’Orville 480, thirty letters). Large numbers of letters can also be found in the British Library in London (mainly correspondence with Hans Sloane, Sloane MSS 1985, 3395, 3963, and 4042, ninety-one letters), in the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München University Library in Munich (mainly letters sent to Jacobus Gronovius, 2° 627, forty-one letters), and in the Library of the University of Amsterdam (mainly his correspondence with Isaac Vossius, OTM: hs. E 10: a-u and E127, twenty-one letters). The remainder of the letters are kept in libraries and archives in Copenhagen, London, Middelburg, Munich, Oxford, and Paris.

Twelve letters of Beverland’s ‘Epistolae Familiares’ were printed in Amsterdam in 1747 as the ‘Epistolae XII’ (see Key Bibliographic Sources, above). Unfortunately we do not know who edited this small collection and/or who published them. Rudolf de Smet transcribed the letters of the ‘Epistolae Tullianae’ and the ‘Epistolae XII’ and printed them with commentary in four articles published between 1986 and 1990 (see Key Bibliographic Sources, above). Beverland’s correspondence with Nicolaas Heinsius (as preserved in the University Library in Leiden, BUR F 6 a and BPL246, thirteen letters) and his Latin letters to Jacobus Gronovius (preserved in the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München University Library in Munich, 2° 627, twenty-three letters) were transcribed by Tim Wauters, who translated these letters into Dutch and discussed them in his unpublished Master Thesis (see Key Bibliographic Sources, above). In a joint article Rudolf de Smet and Tim Wauters also transcribed, translated, and discussed two other letters of Beverland, sent to Jacobus Gronovius (Zeeuws Archief MS 2619) and to John Irish (Zeeuws Archief MS 2375). Some of the letters Beverland sent from student prison in 1679 were discussed by T.J. Meijer and Rudolf de Smet has commented on Erasmian themes in Beverland’s correspondence; for both articles see Further Resources, below.

Scope of Catalogue

Some of the dates of letters in the catalogue are inferred: if this is the case a note is provided with information on how the approximate date or the given date range was established.

When places of origin and/or destination are inferred, locations were assigned based on the place of residence of the author and/or recipient at the time. We know for example that Beverland resided in the Dutch Republic between 1650 (born in Middelburg) and March 1680 (left for England) and that he lived in England (arrival March 1680) until his death in 1716.

Further resources


Hadriaan Beverland’s De Peccato Originali (On Original Sin, 1679): a critical edition and translation, ed. Karen Hollewand and Floris B. Verhaart (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2018).

Hollewand, Karen, The banishment of Beverland: sex, sin, and scholarship in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2018).

Meijer, T.J., ‘Brieven uit de studentenkerker’, Jaarboekje voor de geschiedenis en oudheidkunde van Leiden en omstreken, 63 (1971), pp. 43–64.

Smet, Rudolf de, ‘Erasmiaanse thematiek in de laat-humanistische epistolografie: de briefwisseling van Hadriaan Beverland (1650–1716)’, J.P. Vandenbranden, eds, Miscellanea Jean-Pierre Vanden Branden: Erasmus ab Anderlaco, Archives et Bibliothèques de Belgiques, 45 (1995), pp. 125–44.

Smet, Rudolf de, Hadrianus Beverlandus (1650–1716): non unus e multis peccator: studie over het leven en werk van Hadriaan Beverland, Verhandelingen van de Koninklijke Academie voor Wetenschappen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België. Klasse der Letteren, 50, no. 126 (Brussels: Paleis der Academiën, 1988).


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