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Johan Peter Gumbert collection

Identifier: ubl656

Scope and Contents

The Gumbert collection includes books and archival documents:

1. The collection of books (from GUMBE 1 A 1 to GUMBE 4 D 26):

  1. Translations of the Dao de jing;
  2. Translations of Zhuangzi;
  3. Biographies of translators of the Dao de jing;
  4. Publications on Taoism, Chinese philosophy and religions;
  5. Parodies and adapted versions of the Dao de jing.
  1. Digital files (Word files, PDF files, website links etc.), printed and added to the collection in 2017;
  2. documents found inside books (e.g., invoices from suppliers, e-mails with translator or bookseller, bookseller’s bookmarks, handwritten notes by J.P. Gumbert etc.);
  3. other documents kept by J.P. Gumbert (e.g., print-out of Dao de jing translations, handwritten notes, bibliographical data printed from the internet or from books, correspondence with publishers and translators etc.).


  • Creation: 1839-2014

Language of Materials

Various languages, including Dutch, German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Danish, Russian, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Turkish, Indonesian

Conditions Governing Access

Section 3 of the archival material contains personal information about Gumbert’s students or colleagues. It is for now closed in order to protect individual privacy.

Conditions Governing Use

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

Biographical / Historical

J.P. Gumbert (1936-2016) was an internationally renowned professor of Latin palaeography and codicology who taught at Leiden University between 1979 and 2001. Co-founder of the Gazette du livre médiéval, J.P. Gumbert was also a member of the Comité International de Paléographie Latine. In 1997 he became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, prior to being appointed Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau in 2011.

Gumbert started to collect translations of the Dao de jing in 1956. Soon after, he started to make an inventory of translations into western languages of the Dao de jing, attributed to Laozi. Gumbert collected 662 of the 787 editions included in his bibliography. In 2002 Gumbert organized an exhibition of Dutch translations of the Dao de jing at Leiden University Library (Gumbert 2002). In 2007, a different selection of his books was shown in Hong Kong.


1431 titels + 1 meter archief

Abstract in Dutch

De collectie-Gumbert bevat vertalingen van de Dao de jing voornamelijk in westerse talen maar ook vertalingen van Zhuangzi, biografieën van vertalers van de Dao de jing (Willhem, Matgioi, enz.), publicaties over taoïsme, Chinese filosofie en godsdiensten, parodieën en bewerking van de Chinese tekst, etc.

Abstract in English

The Gumbert Collection contains translations of the Dao de jing mainly into western languages, but also translations of Zhuangzi, biographies of translators of the Dao de jing (Willhem, Matgioi, etc.), publications on Taoism, Chinese philosophy and religions, parodies and adapted versions of the Chinese text, etc.


The archival documents have been organized as follow:

1. Archival material on the Dao de jing collection and on the process of collecting

  1. 1.1 Correspondence
  2. 1.2 Invoices from booksellers, shipping documents from bookseller’s platform
  3. 1.3 Flyers and bookmarks, book launch invitations etc. from booksellers
  4. 1.4 Bibliographies, book descriptions, bookseller’s catalogue
  5. 1.5 Lists and descriptions prepared by Gumbert on his Dao de jing collection: bibliographical lists (by language); lists of Dao de jing editions by translator/year; collection of different translations of selected Dao de jing chapters
  6. 1.6 Documents related to the Dao de jing exhibition at Leiden University Library (2002) and in Hong Kong (2007)
  7. 1.7 Acquisition of the Yiddish Dao de jing edition
  8. 1.8 Handwritten notes by Gumbert (bibliographical notes, notes on Dao de jing editions)

2. Archival material related to the Dao de jing

  1. 2.1 Dao de jing complete translations (printed out from digital files, photocopied from books etc.)
  2. 2.2 Old Jesuit Dao de jing translation manuscript in British Library
  3. 2.3 Photocopies of Dao de jing translations (selected pages only, e.g., front page, title page, or (part of) individual chapter)
  4. 2.4 Articles related to the Dao de jing
  5. 2.5 Biographies of translators of the Dao de jing
  6. 2.6 Others ("Lauciana"). Includes book reviews (mainly from newspapers), unsorted documents.

3. Documents related to Gumbert’s work as professor in Latin Paleography and Codicology.

Physical Location

Leiden University Library, Special Collections

Other Finding Aids

The books can be found in the online catalogue; shelf marks start with GUMBE. See the inventory for the archival material.

Custodial History

In Gumbert’s view, translation must be understood in a wide sense. Both his collection and his bibliography therefore include not only complete or partial translations of the original Chinese text, but also editions with comments or added content. Many ownership marks can be found in the books. Gumbert affixed his stamp (an oblong composition of his initials in a peculiar medieval form) on his book and nearly systematically wrote down where and when each book was purchased. For further information on the composition of this collection, see Remarks on a ‘bibliography’ of translations of the Tao Te King, dated June 2013, in Gumbert’s archival documents.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Acquired from Mrs. Gumbert in December 2016.


No future addition is to be expected. If acquired, new translations of the Dao de jing will not be added to this collection.


  • Gumbert, J.P., "Tao teh king van Lao Tse in het Hollandsch overgebracht" : Nederlandse vertalingen van de Laozi uit de verzameling van J.P. Gumbert. Lopik 2002.
  • Gilbert, M., The Way of Collecting the Dao, in: A. Reeuwijk (ed.), Voyage of Discovery. Leiden 2017, pp. 275-283.


The material can be requested in the online catalogue, use the button Request uncatalogued material for the archival material. It can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room. See also the availability restrictions.

Processing Information

J.P. Gumbert organized his books according to the language of publication. This organization was basically kept, with some exceptions due to format reasons. The books have been catalogued in 2017 and can be searched in the online catalogue.

The shelf mark of the Gumbert collection is GUMBE. [number + letter + number] (e.g.: GUMBE. 1 A 1).

Many of the archival documents were sorted by J.P. Gumbert himself and kept in separate folders or binders. They have been described per folder / binder. The unsorted documents have been organized for the purpose of the description.

The archival documents are kept under shelfmark Or. 27.236.


Collection guide of the Johan Peter Gumbert collection (1839-2014)
Collectie Johan Peter Gumbert
Marc Gilbert, 2018
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Beschrijving is in het Engels.

Revision Statements

  • 9 July 2019: latest update

Repository Details

Part of the Leiden University Libraries Archives & Collections Repository

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