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Josephus Justus Scaliger collection

Identifier: ubl025

Scope and Contents

According to the library catalogue of 1612 Scaliger's bequest must have consisted of 210 manuscripts and printed works. This collection was afterwards supplemented with other items once belonging to Scaliger’s library, e.g. mss. BPG 11, 67 N, and some 60 printed works in Latin or Greek with annotations of Scaliger.

There are 85 manuscripts in Latin or Greek (29 of which dating from before 1500). This part is still kept as a separate collection among the Western Manuscripts of Leiden University Library, known as the "Codices Scaligeriani (praeter orientales)". The items kept under shelfmark SCA 74-79 have been added after 1716.

The oriental manuscripts are divided into two sections. The larger of these two contains mostly manuscripts in Arabic and Persian with some isolated items in Turkish, Malay, Javanese, Spanish and Church Slavonic. These manuscripts bear the classmarks Or. 212-268. The second section of 21 manuscripts contains 18 items in Hebrew, 1 in Armenian, 1 in Ethiopian and 1 in Syriac. This second section is registered as Or. 4718-4738, shelfmarks Heb. Scal. 1-21. Alastair Hamilton has shown that several items originate in fact from Franciscus Raphelengius (1539-1597).

The printed books in oriental languages, bequeathed by Scaliger under the terms of his will, have been dispersed in the collection.


  • Creation: 9e-16e eeuw

Language of Materials

Latin, Greek, French, Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, Syriac, Malay, Ethiopian, Church Slavonic.

Conditions Governing Use

Regulations that apply during the use of these materials can be found on the website of Leiden University Library.

Biographical / Historical

Josephus Justus Scaliger (1540-1609) was the tenth child and third son of Julius Caesar Scaliger and Andiette de Roques Lobejac. He was born at Agen in the South of France on 5 August 1540. At the age of twelve, he was sent to the college of Guienne at Bordeaux. He was forced to return home in 1555 owing to an outbreak of the plague in 1555. He received his further education in Latin from his father. After his father's death, Scaliger spent four years at the University of Paris, where he studied Greek under Turnebus. In addition to Greek, Scaliger also became proficient in Hebrew and Arabic. From 1563 onwards, Scaliger travelled around Europe, together with Louis de Chastaigner, lord of La Roche Pozay. They first went to Italy, England and Scotland. Scaliger's Conjectanea in Varronem was written in England in 1564. In the course of his travels Scaliger had become a Protestant. In Valence in France Scaliger studied jurisprudence for three years with Cujas, but, after the massacre of St. Bartholomew, Scaliger was induced to retire with other Huguenots to Geneva, where he was appointed as professor in the academy. He returned to France in 1574. In the next decade, Scaliger wrote some of his major philological works, including editions of Catalecta (1575), Festus (1575), Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius (1577) and Manilius (1579), and his famous study on chronology De emendatione temporum (1583).

In 1590 Scaliger was offered a position at the University of Leiden. He initially declined, but accepted in 1591. He arrived in Leiden august 1593, and spent the remaining years of his life there, never returning to France. His reception at Leiden was all that he could wish for. In 1608 Scaliger wrote Confutatio fabulae Burdonum, which was a reply to Scaliger hypobolimaeus, an attack on Scaliger by the Jesuit Gaspar Scioppius. Scaliger died in Leiden on January 21, 1609.

Scaliger has been recognized as the most important scholar of his time, due to the broad scope and depth of his research and publications on classical and oriental languages, literatures and societies. In 2000 Leiden University established a centre of research and education for the special collections of its library. It was named Scaliger Institute, in recognition of this remarkable humanist and Leiden professor.


300 plus items

Abstract in Dutch

Collectie bijeengebracht door Josephus Justus Scaliger (1540-1609), Leids hoogleraar Latijnse spraak, oudheden en historie 1593-1609.

Abstract in English

Collection accumulated by Josephus Justus Scaliger (1540-1609), professor of Latin language, Roman Antiquity and History at Leiden University 1593-1609.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

For an overview of the Latin and Greek manuscripts see Digital Collections. Letters received by Scaliger and those sent by him and by his father J.C. Scaliger (1484-1558) are all part of other Leiden collections. They can be accessed through the Leiden Correspondence Catalogue.

The oriental manuscripts are mainly accessible through recent printed catalogues, arranged according to language (See under Contents and organisation, processing history, recent cataloguing efforts).

Some 60 printed books with annotations by Scaliger can be found in the handwritten Index alphabeticus virorum doctorum quorum notas manuscriptas libris typis impressis adscriptas servat Bibliotheca Lugduno-Batavae [s.d.], kept in the Special Collections Reference Library under shelfmark DOUSA 80 1520; see also Molhuysen (1910), p. 30-32.

Custodial History

According to Van der Heide (1977), p. 4-7, Scaliger purchased Arabic manuscripts through a Marseille merchant named Hostagier (also Ostag[i]er). Some of the Hebrew manuscripts originate from Jean Hurault de Boistallier, French ambassador to Constantinople and Venice in the 1550s and 1560s, and cardinal Domenico Grimani (d. 1523).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In his will Scaliger bequeathed "tous mes livres de langues étrangères, Hebraics, Syriens, Arabics, Ethiopiens" to Leiden University Library. A copy of the will is kept in the Perizonius collection (ms. PER Q 5) and has been edited by Du Rieu (1881) and Molhuysen (1910, p. V-VIII). A slightly earlier, Latin version of his testament, dated 1607, is preserved in Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, ms. Dupuy 395, f. 182a-189a (edited by De Jonge 1975). Afterwards, several books that were sold at the 1609 auction (cf. De Jonge 1977) or that had been given by Scaliger to his friends at an earlier date also came to the collections of Leiden University Library.


Additions to the collection are not to be expected.


  • Adelaar in de wolken. De Leidse jaren van Josephus Justus Scaliger 1593-1609. Leiden 2005. (Kleine publicaties van de Leidse Universiteitsbibliotheek, 69). – [Exhibition catalogue]
  • Album Scholasticum Academiae Lugduno-Batavae MDLXXV-MCMXL. Leiden 1941, p. 133.
  • Berkvens-Stevelinck, C., Magna Commoditas. Geschiedenis van de Leidse universiteitsbibliotheek 1575-2000. Leiden 2001, p. 71-74.
  • Catalogus compendiarius continens codices omnes manuscriptos qui in Bibliotheca Academiae Lugduno-Batavae asservantur. Pars 1. Leiden 1932. (Catalogus / Bibliotheca Academiae Lugduno Batavae, 14), IX.
  • Catalogus librorum bibliothecae Josephi Scaligeri, quorum auctio habebitur in aedibus Ludovici Elzevirii, bibliopol., Lugd. Bat. ad diem 11. Martij. Lugd. Batav. [1609]. – [repr. De Jonge 1977].
  • DBNL (auteur)
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica. 11th ed. Cambridge [etc.] 1910-1926, vol. 24, p. 286
  • Grafton, A.T., Joseph Scaliger: A Study in the History of Classical Scholarship. Oxford 1993. 2 vols.
  • Hamilton, A., Nam tirones sumus. Franciscus Raphelengius' Lexicon Arabico-Latinum (Leiden: 1613), in: De Gulden Passer 66-67 (1988-1989), p. 586-588.
  • Heide, A. van der, Hebrew manuscripts of Leiden University Library. Leiden 1977, p. 3-10, 49-64. (Codices manuscripti, 18).
  • Jonge, H.J. de, ‘The Latin testament of Joseph Scaliger’, in: LIAS 2 (1975), p. 248-263.
  • Jonge, H.J. de, The auction catalogue of the library of J.J. Scaliger. A facsimile edition with an introduction. Utrecht 1977.
  • Molhuysen, P.C., Geschiedenis der Universiteits-Bibliotheek te Leiden. Leiden 1905, p. 20-21.
  • [Molhuysen, P.C.], Codices Scaligerani (praeter Orientales). Lugd.-Batav. 1910. (Codices manuscripti, 2).
  • Molhuysen, P.C., Bronnen tot de geschiedenis der Leidsche Universiteit, dl. 1. 1574 - 7 Febr. 1610 ('s-Gravenhage 1913), p. 183 (legaat).
  • Rieu, W.N. du, De portretten en het testament van Josephus Justus Scaliger, in: Jaarboek van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Letterkunde 1881, p. 89-137.
  • Robinson, G.W., Autobiography of Joseph Scaliger; with autobiographical selections from his letters, his testament, and the funeral orations of by Daniel Heinsius and Dominicus Baudius. Cambridge 1927.
  • Schmidt, J. Catalogue of Turkish manuscripts in the Library of Leiden University and other collections in the Netherlands, vol. I. Leiden 2000, p. 24-42. (Codices manuscripti, 30).
  • Senguerdius, W. [e.a.], Catalogus librorum tam impressorum tam manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Publicae Universitatis Lugduno-Batavae. Lugd. Batav. 1716.
  • Steinschneider, M., Catalogus codicum hebraeorum Bibliothecae Academiae Lugduno-Batavae. Lugd. Bat. 1858, p. 310-379 (‘Codices Scaligeriani’).
  • Voorhoeve, P., Handlist of Arabic manuscripts in the Library of the University of Leiden and other collections in the Netherlands. Leiden 1957, 2e dr. 1980. (Codices manuscripti, 7).


The material can be requested in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Processing Information

The manuscripts and printed works of Scaliger were placed in a closed bookcase, specially made for that purpose and ornated with his coat of arms. Daniel Heinsius, one of Scaliger’s pupils, described them in his library catalogues of 1612 (p. 79-88), 1623 (p. 122-139), 1636 and 1640 (p. 159-172), without book numbers.

The library catalogue of 1674 presents the Scaliger items (now numbered) in three non- consecutive clusters, due to the incorporation of the Legatum Warnerianum acquired in 1665: first the "Impressi Legati Scaligeriani” in Oriental languages, in folio 1-32, in quarto 1-54, in octavo 1-28 (p. 252-258); then the "Manuscripti Legati Scaligeriani Hebraici, &c." 1-26 (p. 276-278), "Arabici, Persici Turcici" 1-61 (p. 278-283); and finally the "Catalogus librorum mss. tam Graecorum tam Latinorum, quos illustrissimus Josephus Scaliger Bibliothecae legavit" 1-58; 14 unnumbered items (p. 391-395).

The 1716 catalogue brings the manuscript collections of Golius, Scaliger and Warner in the languages of the Middle East together into one numbering system. In the "Manuscripti libri orientales" section (p. 409-489), the Scaliger items are numbered with their current classmarks 212-268, but they are difficult to identify, since they are dispersed over numerous paragraphs in a catalogue that is arranged according to subject and author.

The printed books in (mostly) Hebrew and the manuscripts in Hebrew kept in Leiden are listed in two separate sections, of which the 102 printed and 21 handwritten Scaliger items cover several pages (310-313, 404-405).

In between these sections the Latin and Greek manuscripts are listed, with the 74 Scaliger items (p. 339-343) following the Bibliotheca Publica Latina (BPL 1-207) and Bibliotheca Publica Graeca (BPG 1-77) and preceding the Vulcanius items (VUL 1-08). This ‘western’ part of the Scaliger collection – with book numbers different from those in the 1674 catalogus but identical to the present shelfmarks (SCA 1-74) – has been kept together until today. These manuscripts are sometimes referred to as the Codices Scaligeriani proper, which is somewhat misleading, bearing in mind that there is also an other, 'oriental', part of Scaliger’s legacy.

Recent cataloguing efforts – The Latin and Greek manuscripts have been described in Molhuysen (1910), later as short titles in the Catalogus compendiarius (1932). The oriental manuscripts are described in the respective oriental catalogues according to language. For the Hebrew manuscripts there is the 1858 catalogue by M. Steinschneider, and more recently, the catalogue by Van der Heide (1977). For the Arabic manuscripts consult P. Voorhoeve’s Handlist of Arabic manuscripts (1957, 1980), and for manuscripts in Ottoman Turkish the catalogue by Jan Schmidt (vol. I, 2000).

Leiden University Library now holds some 85 printed books that have been annotated by Scaliger. Those in Latin and Greek (c. 60) did not belong to the 1609 bequest, but were acquired at a later date; they can be found in the handwritten 'Index alphabeticus virorum doctorum quorum notas manuscriptas libris typis impressis adscriptas servat Bibliotheca Lugduno-Batavae' [s.d.], kept in the Special Collections Reference Library under shelfmark DOUSA 80 1520; see also Molhuysen (1910), p. 30-32.

On the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Scaliger Institute in 2005 an exhibition was held in Leiden University Library, based on the manuscripts and books of Scaliger (catalogue: Adelaar in de wolken 2005).

Collection guide of the Josephus Justus Scaliger collection (9e-16e eeuw)
Collectie Josephus Justus Scaliger
André Bouwman, Arnoud Vrolijk, 2007
Language of description
Script of description
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Language of description note
This finding aid has been written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

Witte Singel 27
Leiden 2311 BG Netherlands
+31 71 527 2857