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The Erasmus Center for Early Modern Studies is a joint initiative by Rotterdam Public Library and Erasmus University Rotterdam. It aims to foster communication between the public and academia, the past and the present, and between Erasmus, his books, and his readers.


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The Erasmus Center for Early Modern Studies unites the expertise on the early modern period within Erasmus University Rotterdam. Subject of enquiry is the way in which between 1450 and 1750 — from Erasmus to Bayle — individual, community, and government in the Netherlands and Europe evolved, and how their relations to one another were viewed. A particular area of concentration is the development of the ideas, opinions, and theories of prominent persons, and their influence on shifting outlooks on the public and private domains.

The Erasmus Collection

Rotterdam Public Library’s Erasmus Collection is one of the largest in the world. It not only includes works by Erasmus himself and his text editions and translations of ancient writers, but also a great deal of literature about Erasmus. Some thirty percent of the works in this collection date from Erasmus’s lifetime (1466–1536). About ninety works are first editions. Letters in Erasmus’s own hand also form part of the collection. The Erasmus Collection is an indispensable resource for the edition of Erasmus’s Opera Omnia which is being published by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

Aside from these Erasmus treasures, Rotterdam Public Library has a large collection of books published before 1801 that are not directly related to Erasmus, but do constitute a valuable resource for study. These special collections together form an essential component of the Netherlands’ heritage.

Citizen of the World

The Erasmus Center for Early Modern Studies fosters and coordinates activities that are necessary for the preservation and use of this rich cultural heritage. This includes restoring the time-worn books that are part of it. The preservation of the book collection is, after all, a conditio sine qua non for the continuity of academic studies in the field.

No less important is the fact that the resources in question are being made more accessible. Not an end in itself, they must actually be used. To this end the Erasmus Center is digitizing its resources. It has also published its own World Catalogue of Early-Modern Erasmus Editions on this website, under the name Erasmus Online. This database contains a wealth of information about all Erasmiana published in the early-modern period. It includes bibliographical descriptions, facsimiles, references, and present locations. Complete with many illustrations of title pages and fifteen fully digitized works by Erasmus plus the collected works editions of 1538-1540 (Basel) and 1703-1706 (Leiden), this treasure trove is freely available to anyone who wishes to avail themselves of it. The Erasmus Center’s online initiative is therefore in the spirit of Erasmus’s words Ego mundi civis esse cupio, communis omnium, i.e. "I wish to be a citizen of the world, a fellow-citizen to all people."

Erasmus Roterodamus

Although setting its sights on the entire world, the Erasmus Center for Early Modern Studies nevertheless maintains a focus on all of Rotterdam as well. After all, it is the city of Erasmus’s birth, and he quite consciously chose to identify himself with it. Furthermore, the city of Rotterdam today — perhaps even more so than during Erasmus’s life — places an emphasis on education, culture, and scholarship. Rotterdam Public Library is also an institution — belonging to and for the use of Rotterdammers — whose aim is to deploy its assets and expertise for the benefit of every single citizen. Thus the Erasmus Center directs its energy at everyone who is interested in the age spanning Erasmus and Bayle in all its various facets. The Center wants to contribute to the current debate on relations between individual, community, and government; between morality, politics, and administration; about the involvement of citizens in society; and about Erasmian thought.


  • Mr. Coen Baron Schimmelpenninck van der Oije, MA
  • Em. Prof. Dr. Laurens Winkel
  • vacancy (curator of Special Collections at Rotterdam Public Library)