Table of contents

Overview of the pamphlet collection

  • Contents: large collection of pamphlets, published between 1486 and 1853.
  • Size: more than 30.000 issues.
  • Accessibility: the pamphlets are described in the KB catalogue. Dutch pamphlets up to 1801 are also included in the Short Title Catalogue Netherlands (STCN). Available for inspection in the Special Collections reading room. Cannot be lent out.
  • More information: Esther van Gelder

What are pamphlets?

Pamphlets are also called vlugschriften (flyers) and blauwboekjes (blue booklets). They were often printed quickly and cheaply, in response to topical issues such as earthquakes, taxes, wars and political events. As such, pamphlets give us insight into the concerns of citizens in the past. They were often intended to influence public opinion or share information, although the information was not always correct. The style of such pamphlets varies widely, from neutral reports to long-winded sermons.

About the KB pamphlet collection

The KB has the largest collection of Dutch pamphlets in the world, with more than 30.000 items. The oldest dates from 1486. Other pamphlet collections can be found in the Bibliotheca Thysiana, part of the Leiden University Library, and in the Van Alphen collection of the Groningen University Library.

  • Illustration from the pamphlet Een vvarachtich verhael van de schrickelicke springh-vloedt in het landtschap van Summerset from 1608. Call number: KW Pflt 1353.

History of the pamphlet collection

Joan Duncan (1690-1753), a lawyer from The Hague, had a collection of about 20,000 pamphlets dating from the 16th century to his own time. After his death, his heirs named the collection ”Bibliotheca Duncaniana” and gifted it to the stadtholder. In 1798, the stadtholder's library was rechristened the Nationale Bibliotheek, or National Library, which later became the KB. The pamphlets changed hands accordingly. In the 19th century, the pamphlet collection was expanded by other collections, and the KB continues to collect pamphlets to this day.

A dedicated official, W.P.C. Knuttel, was appointed in 1879 to properly catalogue the materials. It took him until 1920 to finish the task. He called his life's work Catalogus van de pamfletten-verzameling berustende in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek (Catalogue of the pamphlet collection housed in the Royal Library). Since then, KB pamphlets have had the code “KW Pflt”.

  • Illustration from the pamphlet Waerachtich verhael eener wonderlijcker ghedaente eenes pausschen ezels, ghevonden inde riviere den Tiber, binnen Rome, Anno 1496 from 1609. Call number: KW Pflt 1674.

Accessibility of the pamphlet collection

Accessibility: the pamphlets in the KB collection are described in the KB catalogue. Links to digitised pamphlets can also be found there. Dutch pamphlets up to 1801 are also included in the (STCN). They can be viewed in the Special Collections reading room.

The pamphlets are described in the printed Knuttel's catalogue and Nederlandse Bibliografie 1801-1832 (Dutch Bibliography 1801-1832). The collection is available digitally to KB members via the website Dutch Pamphlets Online, which also contains more than 200 pamphlets from the Groningen University Library.

Literature about the pamphlet collection (In Dutch)


  • Gruys, J.A. ‘De Bibliotheca Duncaniana’. Verzamelaars en verzamelingen. Koninklijke Bibliotheek 1798-1998. Waanders, 1998. 30-33.
  • Knuttel, W.P.C. Catalogus van de pamfletten-verzameling berustende in de Koninklijke Bibliotheek, 1486-1853. Koninklijke Bibliotheek/Algemeene Landsdrukkerij, 1889-1920.
  • Knuttel, W.P.C. Dutch Pamphlets Online. Brill, 2000.