Cornets de Groot family archive

Table of contents

Overview of the Cornets de Groot family archive

  • Contents: archive of the Cornets de Groot family from the late 18th century onwards. Contains letters, wills, inventories, genealogical overviews and appointment decisions.
  • Size: 208 books and 50.000 pages of handwritten material, including about 7.000 letters (about 12 metres in total).
  • Access: can be found in the KB catalogue. Available for inspection in the Special Collections reading room; cannot be lent out. Collection made accessible in detail with a printed inventory. The letters have also been included in the Catalogus Epistularum Neerlandicarum (CEN) online catalogue.
  • More informationJeroen Vandommele.

About the Cornets de Groot family archive

The core of the Cornets de Groot family archive (1550-1926) consists of the papers relating to the 18th and 19th-century generations of this family. These are mostly letters and family papers. Because the family spent a long time working in the Dutch East Indies, this part of the collection is also an interesting source on Dutch colonial history.

Another part of the collection consists of letters, books and prints about Hugo and Pieter de Groot, sometimes with notes or enclosed letters from the 19th-century family.

All of these documents were in a large mahogany cabinet, which is also in the KB’s possession. Also preserved was a miniature bookcase containing a variety of personal effects of the 19th-century family, such as eyeglasses, tokens, sewing boxes, children’s shoes and pipes.

  • Miniature chest of the Cornets de Groot family.

Origin of the Cornets de Groot family archive

Johan Pieter Cornets de Groot van Kraaijenburg (1808-1878) had a keen interest in his family’s history. He was particularly intrigued by the link to his famous ancestor Hugo de Groot (1583-1645). He gathered as much archival material as possible and researched his family’s origins. This resulted in an extensive archive, providing insight into the lives of this wealthy Dutch family.

In 1926, a few years after the death of the archive’s last custodian, J.A.W.L. Cornets de Groot van Kraaijenburg (1861-1923), the decision was made to give the family archive to the KB on long-term loan. This was converted into a donation in 2016. The family archive was expanded in 2002 and in 2020, among other things with a scaled-down copy of Hugo de Groot’s famous book chest and parts of the archive that were still in the family’s possession, such as photographs, alba amicorum – as friendship albums were called at the time – and letters from the late 19th century.

Accessibility of the Cornets de Groot family archive

The Cornets de Groot family archive can be consulted in the KB Special Collections reading room. The archive will be digitised between 2022 and 2023. The fully digitised archive will be made available online in 2024.

Literature about the collection Cornets de Groot family archive


  • Horst, D.J.H. ter. Overzicht van de gedrukte werken aanwezig in het archief van Cornets de Groot. KB, circa 1940.
  • Horst, D.J.H. ter. Overzicht van het familie-archief Cornets de Groot. KB, 1940.


  • Ittersum, M.J. van. ‘Confronting Grotius’ Legacy in an Age of Revolution: The Cornets de Groot Family in Rotterdam, 1748-98’. English Historical Review 127, 2012, pp. 1367-1403
  • Nellen, H. ‘Honing en vergif. Grotius’ correspondentie in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek’. Een oud Boeck is oud Goud. Studies over bijzondere werken bij het afscheid van Ad Leerintveld als conservator moderne handschriften van de Koninklijke Bibliotheek. De Buitenkant, 2017, pp. 202-214.
  • Reinsma, R. ‘Uit de aantekeningen van een oud-Indisch ambtenaar’. Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde 122, 1966, pp. 229-254.
  • Thomassen, K. ‘J.P. Cornets de Groot van Kraaijenburg’. Verzamelaars en verzamelingen. Koninklijke Bibliotheek 1798-1998. WBooks, 1998, pp. 63-65.
  • Thomassen, K. ‘Miniatuurboekenkist van Hugo de Groot’, Stijl. Bijzondere aanwinsten van de Koninklijke bibliotheek tijdens het directoraat van Wim van Drimmelen. De Buitenkant, 2008, pp. 100-101.