The Correspondence of Pieter de Frans

Primary Contributors:

† Chris Heesakkers and Nathalie Smit

Petrus Francius, by Petrus Schenk and Janus Broukhusius. 1675–1704. (Allard Pierson  collection, University of Amsterdam, 022.513)

Pieter de Frans (1645–1704)

Pieter de Frans, or Petrus Francius, was born in Amsterdam on 19 August 1645. The son of Amsterdam wine buyers Jacob de Frans and Margarita Wachters, he studied at the Latin School in Amsterdam and matriculated at Leiden University in 1662, before moving to Angers in France to complete his doctorate in law. De Frans struggled in Angers, however, homesick for the country of his birth, and following the successful defence of his dissertation he returned to Amsterdam in 1671.

In 1674, De Frans was appointed professor of Rhetoric and History at the Athenaeum Illustre in Amsterdam. He had been expected to take up the position two years earlier, but the Third Anglo-Dutch War caused a delay. In 1686, he became professor of Greek. De Frans played a significant role in augmenting the prestige of the Athenaeum in the last quarter of the seventeenth century and his lectures and presence attracted many students. His high standards and harsh criticism on his students’ works did nothing to diminish his fame; if anything his approach made him more popular. De Frans’s poetry and public performances contributed to his popularity, although he became engaged in controversy with the Leiden professor Jacob Perizonius (1651–1715). De Frans was a prolific poet and a member of the circle of scholars that included Johannes Georgius Graevius (1632–1703), Janus Broekhuizen (1649–1707), David van Hoogstraten (1658-1724), and the printer Henricus Wetstein (1649–1726). Many of his poems received applause, although his letters reflect that he struggled with the level of praise received for his Poemata and Laurus Europaea as he tended not to be satisfied with his own work.

De Frans did not marry; he died childless in Amsterdam on 19 August 1704.

Partners and Additional Contributors

This catalogue is based on an unpublished inventory of De Frans’s letters compiled by Chris Heesakkers. It was digitized and translated into English, together with Heesakkers’s notes on the contents, by Nathalie Smit during her research internship in the Sharing Knowledge in Literary and Learned Networks (SKILLNET) project (project no. 724972), funded by the European Research Council, under the direction of Dr Dirk van Miert. The introductory text was written by Nathalie Smit.


A total of 261 letters are included in the inventory. The earliest letter in the collection is dated 1669 and the latest letter is dated just a few months before De Frans’s death in August 1704. These thirty-five years of epistolary exchanges provide the reader with an insight into De Frans’s love for poetry, his travels, his political opinions, the visits he makes to his colleagues and friends, and—as a true Dutchman—what he was willing to pay for the books on sale at library auctions. The letters demonstrate that De Frans’s network stretched from Deventer, The Hague, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Vianen, and Leiden in the Low Countries, to Mantua, Neuhausen, Mainz, Cologne, Paris, Franeker, Rome, Venice, London, and Kortrijk in Europe.

Further resources


Petrus Francius, Posthuma: Quibus accedunt Illustrium Eruditorum ad eundem Epistolae (Amsterdam, 1706).

Chris Heesakkers, ‘De hoogleraar in de Welsprekendheid Petrus Francius’, in E. O. G. Haitsma Mulier, et al., eds., Athenaeum Illustre. Elf studies over de Amsterdamse Doorluchtige School 1632–1877 (Amsterdam, 1997), pp. 90–134. Note: This article contains a full bibliography of Francius’s own works (including his polemical works against Perizonius), the works of his students, and the works of others to which he contributed (pp. 126–34).

Dirk van Miert, Humanism in an Age of Science: The Amsterdam Athenaeum in the Golden Age, 1632–1704 (Leiden and Boston, 2009).

Theodorus J. Meijer, Kritiek als herwaardering. Het levenswerk van Jacob Perizonius (1651–1715) (Leiden, 1971), pp. 98–107.

Peter Jan Knegtmans, Professoren van de Stad: Het Athenaeum Illustre en de Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1632–1960 (Amsterdam, 2007).

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