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Jacobus Golius collection

Identifier: ubl172

Scope and Contents

Unsurprising for a scholar who was keenly interested in the scientific heritage of the Islamic World, Golius' collection is mainly devoted to subjects such as algebra, geometry, astronomy and physics. The collection also comprises part of the Arabic lexicographical works he used for his Lexicon Arabico-Latinum of 1653.

The main collection is registered as Codd. Or. 1-211. Dispersed items, mostly acquired in the 18th and 19th centuries, can be found under the registration numbers Or. 1183-1186 (copies by Shāhīn Qandī made at the expense of the University); Or. 1221; Or. 1228, 1229, 1280, 1283, 1284 (bought from the auction of J.J. Schultens, who died in 1778); Or. 1628; Or. 3080-3083 (donated in 1888 by the Rau family, previously from the estate of S.F.J. Rau [1765-1807], who had acquired them at the auction of the collection of E. Scheidus [1742-1794]).


  • Creation: 1100-1650
  • Creation: Bulk 1300-1600

Language of Materials

Mostly Arabic, with Persian, Ottoman Turkish and Latin as secondary languages

Conditions Governing Use

Most manuscripts in the Golius collection are available digitally. The original Golius manuscripts are still available to qualified users at special request.

Biographical / Historical

Jacobus Golius (Jacob Gool) was born in the Hague, the Netherlands, in 1596 as the son of Dirk Gool, a high-ranking clerk in the bureaucracy of the Dutch Republic. At the age of sixteen he matriculated at Leiden University, studying 'philosophy', i.e. humanities and exact sciences. In 1616 he obtained his degree and withdrew to the estate of his father in Naaldwijk to pursue his studies. In this period of self-study he discovered that he needed to know Arabic in order to gain a wider knowledge of the exact sciences. In 1618 he re-entered the University, this time to study Oriental languages under Thomas Erpenius, professor of Arabic since 1613.

Because of his double competence in geometry and Arabic he was selected in 1622 to join a Dutch diplomatic mission to Morocco, with the aim of finding suitable anchorage facilities for Dutch ships as long as the Republic was at war with Spain. The mission failed, but Golius was given an opportunity to establish contacts with local scholars and to acquire (copies of) Arabic manuscripts. Golius returned in July 1624, only to bury his professor Erpenius later that year.

Golius was appointed professor of Arabic in May 1625, but a few months later he secured permission from the University to travel to the Middle East in the retinue of Cornelis Witsen, consul of the Dutch Republic at Aleppo, whom he served as secretary. In 1627, when Witsen returned to the Netherlands, Golius travelled onwards to Istanbul, where he found employment with, and hospitality from, Cornelis Haga, the first 'orator' or ambassador of the Dutch Republic to the Ottoman Empire.

In 1629 Golius returned home, taking up his duties as professor of Arabic and receiving a second appointment as professor of mathematics. During his professorship he re-edited grammatical works by his predecessor Erpenius and produced a text edition of the Life of Timur Lenk by Ibn ʿArabshāh (1389-1450), Vitae et rerum gestarum Timuri qui vulgo Tamerlanes dicitur historia (Leiden, 1636). His main achievement, however, is his Lexicon Arabico-Latinum, published in 1653, a dictionary that remained indispensible to European Orientalists for almost two centuries (see Vrolijk 2009).

Golius was an Arabist of singular standing, who attracted many students from abroad. On his death in 1667, however, no suitable candidate was found to succeed him, thus putting an end to the ascendancy of Arabic studies in the Dutch Republic. Only later, in the 18th century, they were revived by Albert Schultens (1686-1750).

One of his more famous students was Levinus Warner (1617 or 18 – 1665), who served as resident of the Dutch Republic in Istanbul in the mid-seventeenth century and who left a collection of c. 1000 Middle Eastern manuscripts to Leiden University on his death in 1665. Golius knew about the legacy, but he never witnessed the arrival of this important collection. For details on Golius' life and work see Juynboll 1931. His portrait is in the collection of the Academisch Historisch Museum of Leiden University (Icones 81).


211 codices in 243 volumes, dispersed items not included (Ca. 10 metres, dispersed items not included)

Abstract in Dutch

Collectie van Midden-oosterse handschriften van Jacobus Golius (1596-1667), hoogleraar Arabisch aan de Universiteit Leiden vanaf 1625, tevens hoogleraar in de wiskunde vanaf 1629. Het overgrote merendeel van de collectie werd aangeschaft voor rekening van de Universiteit tijdens Golius' verblijf in Aleppo en Istanbul in 1626-1629.

Abstract in English

Collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts of Jacobus Golius (1596-1667), professor of Arabic at Leiden University from 1625, also professor of mathematics from 1629. The bulk of the collection was acquired at the University’s expense during Golius' stay in Aleppo and Istanbul in 1626-1629.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

Users within the University of Leiden Community Network (ULCN) have free access to the digitised images of the Golius manuscripts. All other users are requested to contact Brill. Please be advised that digital reproductions of individual manuscripts are available for purchase.

Custodial History

While in Morocco, Golius either managed to buy some Arabic manuscripts or copies, or arranged for them to be sent to them after his departure. Some manuscripts are known to have been supplied by local contacts, among whom the Morisco Aḥmad b. Qāsim al-Ḥajarī ranks most prominently (see Wiegers 1988). While in Aleppo, Golius obtained a budget of 2000 guilders from Leiden University to buy manuscripts in the Ottoman Empire, a sum that eventually reached a total of more than 3200 guilders. He also had copies made by a local Aleppine known as al-Darwīsh Aḥmad.

During his career Golius solicited the help of a number of Arab scribes, mainly from Aleppo. Among them are Nīqūlā b. Buṭrus al-Ḥalabī, an Arab Christian known in the West as Nicolaus Petri, and Shāhīn Qandī, an Armenian Christian, also from Aleppo. Both lived for some time in the Dutch Republic. Muḥammad al-ʿUrḍī al-Ḥalabī, a Muslim scholar from Aleppo who is mainly known for his contacts with Levinus Warner in Istanbul, also rendered services to Golius.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The greater part of the collection was presumably purchased in the local marketplace, either by Golius himself or by his intermediaries. In many cases Golius marked the prices in the manuscripts. A minority of the collection consists of copies made by Oriental copyists on Golius' demand.


No future additions are expected.

Related Materials

Other Golius manuscripts can be found in the permanent loan collection Oriental manuscripts belonging to the Netherlands Royal Academy of Sciences (KNAW), see the collection guide.

Separated Materials

Golius' private collection of Oriental manuscripts was sold at auction in 1696 by the Leiden bookseller Johannes du Vivie. Most of these were bought by archbishop Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713). They are now part of the Marsh collection in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (see Witkam 1980, p. 66-71).


  • Catalogus bibliothecae publicae Lugduno-Batavae. Leiden 1640.
  • [Gassendi, P.], Catalogus rarorum librorum quos ex Oriente nuper advexit […] Jacobus Golius. Paris 1630.
  • Houtsma, M.Th., Uit de Oostersche correspondentie van Th. Erpenius, Jac. Golius en Lev. Warner. Eene bijdrage tot de geschiedenis van de beoefening der Oostersche letteren in Nederland. Amsterdam 1887.
  • Juynboll, W.M.C, Zeventiende-eeuwsche beoefenaars van het Arabisch in Nederland. Utrecht 1931, pp. 119-183.
  • Viré, M.M., Pierre Gassendi orientaliste et sa publication du catalogue des manuscrits que Jacobus Golius amena d'Orient à Leyde en 1629. Avec une traduction annotée de ce catalogue. Digne 2009.
  • Voorhoeve, P. Handlist of Arabic manuscripts in the library of the University of Leiden and other collections in the Netherlands. 2nd enl. ed., Den Haag [etc.] 1980. (Codices manuscripti).
  • Vrolijk, A., Hoeveel geluk kun je hebben? Jacobus Golius en zijn Lexicon Arabico-Latinum, in: J. Bos en E. Geleijns (eds.), Boekenwijsheid. Drie eeuwen kennis en cultuur in 30 bijzondere boeken. Opstellen bij de voltooiing van de Short-Title Catalogue, Netherlands. Zutphen 2009, p. 129-136.
  • Wiegers, G.A., A learned Muslim acquaintance of Erpenius and Golius. Ahmad b. Kasim al Andalusi and Arabic studies in The Netherlands. Leiden 1988.
  • Witkam, J.J., Jacobus Golius (1596-1667) en zijn handschriften. Leiden 1980. (Oosters Genootschap in Nederland, 10).

Processing Information

Unknown to Golius, a first inventory of what is now known as Or. 1-211 was published in Paris in 1630 by the French mathematician Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655), see Gassendi 1630, Viré 2009.

Golius' own description of Or. 1-211 was published in the Catalogus Bibliothecae publicae Lugduno-Batavae of 1640: it contains a list in Latin only (p. 173-186) and another one in a 21-page appendix with added titles in Arabic.

The Golius manuscripts are included in all subsequent printed catalogues, both the general catalogues from 1674 and 1716 and the specialised 19th-century catalogues of the Leiden Oriental collections: Catalogus codicum orientalium ('CCO', 1851-1877) and the Arabic manuscripts in Catalogus codicum Arabicorum ('CCA', 1888-1907). The most recent printed handlist is Voorhoeve 1980.

A description of Golius manuscripts can be found in the online inventory of Oriental manuscripts maintained at the personal website of former curator J.J. Witkam:

The correspondence between Golius and his Oriental copyists, mainly from Or. 1228, was partially edited by M.Th. Houtsma in 1887 (Houtsma 1887).

For a short history of the Golius manuscripts see Witkam 1980.

In 2011, the Golius manuscripts were digitised in a joint project of Brill and Leiden University Libraries, 'Pioneer Orientalists'.

Collection guide of the Jacobus Golius collection (1100-1650)
Collectie Jacobus Golius
Dr Arnoud Vrolijk
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

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