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Collection of the Royal Dutch Geographical Society

Identifier: ubl144

Scope and Contents

This collection reflects the interests of 19th century Dutch sinologists who acted as Chinese interpreters (mainly of Minnanhua) in the Netherlands Indies from 1862 to 1896, and afterwards as officials for Chinese affairs. Most books were acquired during their studies in Amoy (Xiamen).

The main categories, followed by the number of books are: Classics and philosophers (25), history (5), geography (4), Imperial edict (6), Buddhism and Taoism (13), Christianity (54), law (15), language and writing (9), schoolbooks (16), novels (33), medicine (9), encyclopedias (9), journals (6). The number of novels is rather large (33), but there is only one book of Chinese poetry.


  • Creation: 1812-1918
  • Creation: Bulk 1850-1912


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

The KNAG Collection originally belonged to the Royal Dutch Geographic Society (Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap). This society was established by P.J. Veth and others in 1873 and became a royal society in 1888. During the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, this was an active scientific society which stimulated and organized geographic research on the Dutch Colonies; nowadays it is an association of geographers and geography teachers. This society still has a very large collection of books and maps which are in part kept in the Amsterdam University Library.


252 items: 248 printed Chinese books (about 1150 vols.) and 4 Chinese manuscripts (7 vols.) (ca 24 metres)

Abstract in Dutch

De boeken uit de KNAG Collectie behoorden oorspronkelijk aan het Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap. Het merendeel is afkomstig van Nederlandse sinologen die als tolken voor de Chinese taal/ambtenaren voor Chinese zaken werkzaam waren in Nederlands-Indië De boeken weerspiegelen de belangstelling van de vroege sinologen (bijv. rechten, taal, romans).

Abstract in English

The KNAG Collection originally belonged to the Royal Dutch Geographic Society (Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap). Most of the books were originally owned by Dutch sinologists who worked as interpreters/officials for Chinese affairs in the Netherlands Indies. These books reflect the interests of these early sinologists (e.g. law, language, novels).

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

All books are described in the Catalogue, search for call number "sinol. knag?". There is also an inventory on paper of these books, which includes the Japanese and Malay books in other libraries.

Custodial History

The books are dated 1812-1918, and most of them were probably given to the KNAG at the beginning of the 20th century. They are from two sources: Dutch sinologists and missionaries. The origin of many books is known because Western or Chinese names or seals of sinologists are written on the covers or inside, or because their handwriting can be recognized. Moreover, some books that originally belonged to C.F.M. de Grijs can be identified with the help of a list of 22 numbered titles which is kept in Leiden University Library (BPL 1780:12); some of these numbers correspond to the numbers written on books or on their original wrappings (e.g. KNAG 139, 252). These sinologists are:

Name; Chinese names; Years of life; In Amoy (or China); Number of titles

Carolus Franciscus Maria de Grijs; 凱士; 1832-1902; 1856-1864; 37 titles

Gustaaf Schlegel; 施理, 施利加; 1840-1903; 1858-1862; 8 titles

Jacobus van der Spek; 薛伯, 邦傑; 1857-1902; 1879-1880; 19 titles

Bertus Anton Jacobus van Wettum; 墨湛, 翰香; 1870-1914; 1892-1894; 52 Chinese, 2 Jap. titles

At least one of the 54 Christian books once belonged to Hendrik Christiaan Millies (1810-1869) (KNAG 106). His collection of printed books was auctioned in the 1870s.

Around 2000, the Chinese books in Amsterdam University Library (including 18 Japanese and 9 Malay books) were transferred to the Sinological Institute in Leiden, and on 8 October 2004 they were officially donated to the Sinological Institute.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

In 2016 the collections of the East Asian Library were transferred to Leiden University Library.


No future additions are to be expected

Related Materials

Other books on similar subjects can be found in the Gützlaff Collection and the Go Collection.

Parts of the KNAG Collection were donated to other libraries. Originally there were also 18 Japanese and 9 Malay printed books, which were transferred and donated to the Japanological library (2567 B 1-18) and the library of the KITLV (M 2003 A 1816, 1819-1826) in 2003. These books have been transferred to Leiden University Library as well.

Some manuscripts by C.F.M. de Grijs were added to his other manuscripts (BPL 1780: 1 F, 9B, BPL 1782: 13 D).


  • Blussé, L., Of hewers of wood and drawers of water: Leiden University’s early Sinologists (1835-1911), in: W. Otterspeer (ed.), Leiden Oriental Connections 1850-1940. Leiden 1989, pp. 317-353.
  • Kuiper, K., Catalogue of Chinese and Sino-Western manuscripts in the Central Library of Leiden University. Leiden 2005. (Codices manuscripti, 33).
  • Wylie. A., Memorials of Protestant Missionaries to the Chinese: giving a list of their publications and obituary notes of the deceased. Shanghae 1867.


The material can be requested in the online catalogue. It can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Processing Information

The books are numbered 1-252. They are shelved according to the Harvard-Yenching system.

Collection guide of the collection of the Royal Dutch Geographical Society (1812-1918)
Collectie van het Koninklijk Nederlands Aardrijkskundig Genootschap
Koos Kuiper, 2007
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Revision Statements

  • 17 October 2016: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

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