Constantijn Huygens

Table of contents

Overview of the Constantijn Huygens collection

  • Contents: correspondence, autographs and notes of poet and statesman Constantijn Huygens.
  • Size: about 2.400 letters and 52 manuscripts, bundled or otherwise (poems, travel journals and biographies).
  • Access: can be found in the KB catalogue. Most of the manuscripts can be viewed in the Special Collections reading room, but we do not lend them out. Some manuscripts are so fragile that they are not available for viewing. The letters have been included in the Catalogus Epistularum Neerlandicarum (CEN) online catalogue and are available digitally in the database of Huygens correspondence at the Huygens Institute.
  • More informationJeroen Vandommele.

About Constantijn Huygens

Constantijn Huygens (1596-1687) was born in The Hague. His father was Christiaan Huygens, secretary to the Council of State and confidant of Prince Maurice of Nassau. He made sure that Constantijn received an excellent education. Constantijn Huygens became a writer, poet, statesman, musician and artist. He served under three princes of Orange (Frederick Henry, William II and William III). He spoke several languages and saw much of Europe. He was part of the cultural elite, “discovered” Rembrandt and maintained contacts with great thinkers such as Spinoza and Descartes. Huygens was very much in keeping with homo universalis, the humanist ideal of the time.

About the Constantijn Huygens collection

Constantijn Huygens’ written legacy comprises both personal documents and literary works. The collection includes:

  • De vita propria (his autobiography)
  • Dagboek en Staet en administratie van alle mijne goederen (diary and inventory of his effects)
  • Documents related to the marriages of Huygens’ children
  • His complete literary works survive in several manuscripts (drafts, copy manuscripts): epigrams, the farce Trijntje Cornelis, famous poems such as Daghwerck, Ooghen-Troost and his ode to his country estate Hofwijck.
  • About 1800 letters: many in draft form or as copies, and also original letters to and from Huygens.

Several documents related to Constantijn Jr: Latin poems, an account of a trip to France and other countries in 1649-1650, and diaries covering the period 1673-1696. Christiaan’s travel journals and those of his third son Lodewijk (1631-1699) can also be found in the collection.

  • Brief from Constantijn Huygens to P.C. Hooft, April 1625, KB KA 171ac, fol. 35.

History of the Constantijn Huygens collection

Huygens’ estate remained largely in his family’s possession. The collection was expanded to include the archives of Constantijn Huygens Jr (1628-1697), secretary to Stadholder-King William III, and Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695), mathematician and physicist. After the death of Huygens’ last direct descendant, Susanna Louise Huygens (1714-1785), dowager Willem Baron van Wassenaer van Ruijven, the estate was divided between more distant cousins.

Much of it came up for auction in 1823. With the support of King William I, the estate was purchased for the kingdom and divided between a number of government institutions. Christiaan Huygens’ correspondence went to Leiden University, while the more literary estates of Constantijn Sr and Jr went to the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW). The KB received these manuscripts and letters on loan in 1937.

More recent additions include those acquired in 1955 (Dagboek en Staet en administratie van alle mijne goederen) and in 1970 and 1992 (documents on the marriages of his children).

  • Collection of documents from Constantijn Huygens, KB KA 48.

Accessibility of the Constantijn Huygens collection

The collection can be consulted in the KB's Special Collections reading room. The Huygens Institute has a database containing Huygens’ correspondence.

Literature about the Constantijn Huygens collection

Books

  • Horst, D. J. H. ter. Catalogus van de handschriften der Koninklijke Nederlandsche Akademie van Wetenschappen, in bruikleen in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek. Algemeene landsdrukkerij, 1938, p. 22-31.
  • Huygens, C. De gedichten. Naar zijn handschrift uitgegeven door J.A. Worp. J.B. Wolters, 1892-1899.
  • Huygens, C. Nederlandse gedichten 1614-1625. Historisch-kritische uitgave. (Editie Ad Leerintveld). Constantijn Huygens Instituut, 2001.
  • De briefwisseling van Constantijn Huygens 1608-1687. Uitgegeven door J.A. Worp. Martinus Nijhoff, 1911-1917. [Zie ook uitgebreide database op de website van het Huygens ING.]
  • Leerintveld, A. Constantijn Huygens. De collectie in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek.  Bekking & Blitz, 2013.
  • Leerintveld, A & Huysman, Ineke (red.), Constantijn Huygens. Een leven in brieven. Uitgeverij Catullus, 2022.