Brill – 325 years of scholarly publishing
Sytze van der Veen with contributions by Paul Dijstelberge, Mirte D. Groskamp and Kasper van Ommen
In 2008 Royal Brill commemorates its 325th anniversary as a publisher for the world of learning. Such a time-honored pedigree makes Brill the oldest publishing house in the Netherlands, and one of the oldest in the world. Its history goes back to 1683, when Jordaan Luchtmans established himself as a bookseller in Leiden. Five generations of his family ran the bookshop and publishing house on the Rapenburg Canal, near the Main Hall of Leiden University. The Luchtmanses produced a steady stream of scholarly books and served as “Printers to the University.” In the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Leiden printer Johannes Brill and his son Evert Jan became involved with the firm. The latter took over the business in 1848, combining it with his father’s printing works and continuing it under his own name. Since then the company has been known as “E. J. Brill,” which in recent years was shortened to “Brill.” Especially in the period between 1850 and 1900 the foundations were laid for a publishing program that still characterizes present-day Brill: Arabic and Oriental studies, languages and linguistics, classical studies and history.
In his day Jordaan Luchtmans published six books per year, while Brill’s assorted catalogs now offer some six hundred new titles every year. In an ever-changing world the publishing house has managed to persist well over three centuries, adapting itself to circumstances and using the opportunities that came its way. Still, in all its metamorphoses the firm steadfastly clung to its historically grown identity. Brill’s longevity is a remarkable story of continuity and change. The research for this book is based on the company archives, which are now housed in the Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam Library. With a span of more than three hundred years they offer a fascinating view on the development of Brill, and of the publishing business in general.
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