The name ‘Geuzen’ (from the French word gueux meaning beggar), was adopted in 1566 as a name of honour by the Protestant rebels siding with the Prince of Orange in the Dutch revolt against Spanish rule. Apparently they went in for singing songs, besides seizing the port of Brielle, killing the Gorichem martyrs, and doing whatever one would expect from rebels and partisans. Their songs became, of course, first of all known by word of mouth, but soon they were also printed on broadsheets, hawked by pedlars. Fairly soon collections of these songs (now known as Geuzenliedboek) must have appeared, of which the first editions have not come down to us. The information ‘meanwhile partly appeared in print’ and ‘Now recently enlarged and corrected’ on the title page of the oldest extant edition, which is here reproduced on the facing page, suggests at least two earlier editions. The present edition contains 87 extremely diverse songs: historical narratives, political and anti-Roman Catholic satires, incitements to revolt, as well as songs, complaints and exhortations of a purely religious nature. The best-known song is part of a set of songs stirring people to persevere in the struggle against the Spanish tyranny: ‘Wilhelmus’, now the Dutch national anthem. From a literary point of view the texts seldom rise above the level of poetry produced at the poetic circles called Rederijkerskamers (Chambers of Rhetoric), to which most of the authors whose names have come down to us actually belonged. But the volume also contains contributions attributed to Dirck Volckertsz Coornhert, and Philips Marnix van Sint Aldegonde (possibly the author of ‘Wilhelmus'). The book was immensely popular for a long period. More than thirty reprints from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries have come down to us, usually only one or two copies of each edition. Therefore the number of editions that have been lost without a trace must have been considerable; a new edition must have appeared practically every year, with an additional second volume from 1616 onwards. The last edition dates from 1687. In 1924-1925 a scholarly text edition was published, while the Geuzenliedboek served as an example for the title and contents of the Nieuw Geuzenliedboek published underground in May 1941. The 1581 edition was reprinted in 1944, also a clandestine publication.
Een nieu Geusen lieden boecxken waerinne begrepen is, den gantschen handel der Nederlantscher gheschiede-nissen, dees voorleden iaeren tot noch toe ghedragen, [...] eensdeels nu nieu by-gheuoecht. Nu nieulick vermeerdert ende verbetert. 1581. 8º. 1714 E 20, title page and fol. 24v-25r