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Schultens family collection

Identifier: ubl202

Scope and Contents

A very general collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts and printed books, reflecting the scholarly interests of 18th-century Orientalists. Also a large collection of scholarly papers and notes in the hand of all three generations of Schultenses, and copies and drafts of their diplomatic translations.


  • Creation: Bulk 1500-1750


Language of Materials

Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Latin

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

Albertus or Albert Schultens was born in Groningen on 22 September 1686. He held the Chair of Oriental languages at Franeker from 1713 to 1729 and at Leiden from 1732 to 1749. He died in Leiden on 26 January 1750. He was succeeded by his son Johannes Jacobus (Jan Jacob), born Franeker, 19 September 1716. Johannes Jacobus held the Chair of Oriental languages at Leiden from 1749 until his death in Leiden on 27 November 1778. The last, Hendrik Albert Schultens, was born in Herborn, Germany, on 25 February 1749. Hendrik Albert succeeded his father in the same Chair on 11 December 1778, holding it until his death on August 1793.

Albertus Schultens was widely renowned among his generation for his theory that Arabic is the 'twin sister' of Biblical Hebrew rather than a corrupted dialect, and that knowledge of Arabic is indispensable for a thorough understanding of the Old Testament. His perception of Arabic as 'ancilla theologiae' ('the handmaiden of theology') was influential until well into the nineteenth century. He was followed in his footsteps by his son Johannes Jacobus, who, nevertheless, never contributed to Oriental studies per se. The last of the three generations, Hendrik Albert, a typical product of the Enlightenment, was the first to divert his attention to Arabic belles lettres. He was deeply influenced by William Jones, whom he met on a voyage to England in 1772-1773.


148 manuscripts, c. 500 printed books

Abstract in Dutch

Handschriften en boeken uit de collecties van drie generaties van de familie Schultens, die achtereen de Leidse leerstoel voor oosterse talen bezetten tussen 1732 en 1793.

Abstract in English

Manuscripts and books from the collections of three generations of the Schultens family, who held the Leiden Chair of Oriental languages consecutively from 1732 to 1793.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

See literature.

Custodial History

Apparently, all manuscripts and books were acquired in Europe from sales and auctions.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Apparently, Leiden University never acquired any manuscripts or books directly from Albert Schultens. However, they may have been among the materials bought from the auction of the collection of his son Johannes Jacobus Schultens in September 1780. On this occasion Leiden University acquired 81 Oriental manuscripts, the largest single acquisition of Oriental materials since the Warner collection of 1665 (Bibliotheca Schultensiana 1780).

The collection of Hendrik Albert Schultens was put up for auction in October 1794. Due to the policital situation, however, the auction was cancelled (Catalogus Bibliothecae quam reliquit Henricus Albertus Schultens 1794). The entire collection was subsequently bought by Johan Hendrik van der Palm from H.A.Schultens’s widow in 1796. Van der Palm was professor of Oriental languages at Leiden intermittently from 1795 until his death in 1840. His private collection, which was still known as 'Bibliotheca Schultensiana' at this time, was auctioned in April 1841 (Catalogus librorum ac manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Schultensianae 1841). At this auction Leiden University purchased 479 printed books and 27 Oriental manuscripts from the Schultens collection, together with 89 printed books and 7 manuscripts from Van der Palm’s own private collection.

In 1836, unpublished papers and scholarly notes in the hands of all three Schultens generations turned up in the possession of Jan Rudolf van Eerde, professor and university librarian at Groningen (Bibliotheca Eerdiana 1836). They were bought by King William I of the Netherlands, who in turn donated them to Leiden University.

In 1856, another 26 manuscripts from the Schultens collection found their way to Leiden University library when the Oriental manuscripts of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences were given on permanent loan. The Royal Academy had acquired these in 1837 from the collection of Joannes Willmet (1750-1835), professor at Harderwijk and Amsterdam (Bibliotheca Willmetiana 1837, De Jong 1862).

In addition, Leiden University Library holds a large number of copies and drafts of diplomatic translations by the three Schultenses and, to a smaller extent, their predecessor Johannes Heyman (1667-1737). The registration numbers seem to indicate that they were added to the collections under the curatorship of Hendrik Arent Hamaker, who held office from 1817 to 1835.

For a general overview of the Schultens collections in Leiden University Library see Vrolijk 2009.


No future additions are to be expected.

Related Materials

All three Schultenses were prolific letter writers. The Collection Bibliotheca Publica Latina (BPL) contains the following correspondence files:

  1. Albert Schultens: recipient 6, sender 3;
  2. Johannes Jacobus Schultens: recipient 303, sender 65
  3. Hendrik Albert Schultens: recipient 211, sender 16

All correspondence files in the BPL collection can be found in the online catalogue (search with 'Special Collections' and select 'Letters').


  • Bibliotheca Eerdiana. Sive catalogus librorum, qui studiis inservierunt viri cl. Jani Rudolphi van Eerde. Groningen 1836.
  • Bibliotheca Schultensiana, sive catalogus librorum, quoscollegit […] Johannes Jacobus Schultens […]. Leiden 1780.
  • Bibliotheca Willmetiana. Catalogus bibliothecae instructissama equam in suos usus comparavit Joannes Willmet. Amsterdam 1837.
  • Biografisch portaal (Schultens, Albert)
  • Biografisch portaal (Schultens, Hendrik Albert)
  • Biografisch portaal (Schultens, Jan Jacob)
  • Catalogus Bibliothecae quam reliquit Henricus Albertus Schultens […]. Leiden 1794.
  • Catalogus librorum ac manuscriptorumBibliothecae Schultensianae, qua, dum in viviserat, usus est Joh. Henr. Van der Palm. Leiden 1841.
  • DBNL (Schultens, H.A.)
  • DBNL (Schultens, J.J.)
  • Jong, P. de, Catalogus codicum orientalium Bibliothecae Academiae Regiae Scientiarum. Leiden 1862.
  • Vrolijk, A., A sublime treasure of pretious manuscripts. The Schultens’s legacy in the Leiden University Library and the elusive purchase of 1806, in: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 19/3 (2009), pp. 281-292.


The manuscripts can be requested and consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room. The printed books can be requested through the online catalogue.

Processing Information

Schultens manuscripts were registered in the Oriental collections in the following years or periods:

  1. 1780: Codd. Or. 1222-1302 – J.J.Schultens auction
  2. 1817-1835: Codd. Or. 1353, 1365, 1367, 1376-1387 – probably registered by H.A. Hamaker
  3. 1836: Codd. Or. 1455-1502 – Van Eerde auction
  4. 1841: Codd. Or. 1571-1599 – Van der Palm auction, originally acquired from H.A. Schultens’s widow in 1796.
  5. 1856: Acad. 26, 31, 48, 52, 55-58, 60, 64, 74, 76, 80, 86, 88, 96, 138, 140, 142, 144, 150-151, 178, 183, 207-208: Permanent loan Royal Academy, originally acquired by Willmet in 1836.

The printed books bought at the Van der Palm auction were originally registered in Bibliotheek Archief A 4 'Libri emti in Auctionibus publicis 1837-1855', see under the year 1841. All books are now available through the online catalogue, although they bear no distinguishing mark.

Collection guide of the Schultens family collection (1500-1750)
Collectie van de familie Schultens
Arnoud Vrolijk, 2012
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Revision Statements

  • 18 April 2013: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

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