A Brill Calendar: August 8
Few masters of typography have considered themselves the equal of Pieter Boudewijnszoon van der Aa (1659 – 1733).
And no-one thought they could surpass him in the sophisticated splendour of his book-productions.
Doctor Sytze van der Veen (1952), main author of a monograph on 325 years of scholarly publishing at Brill’s (Leyden, 2008) doesn’t hesitate to call Van der Aa’s typographical swansong and the most voluminous of this productions, entitled ‘Galérie Agréable du Monde’, the most beautiful collection of printed plates ever published in The Netherlands. After the Elzevier era and its last scion, Abraham; Pieter van der Aa succeeded the extinct dynasty as Printer to the Academy and to the City; an consumate professional given to grand projects.
It is seldom that succession in that Leyden Office – carrying not only local and national but also Europe-wide prestige – was arranged later with less controversy; and when the ‘Galérie Agréable’ had come off the presses, the health of Van der Aa, a married man (without children but with a wife sharing in her husband’s craft, projects and interests), was already failing.
On August 8 1730 the Leyden Academy appointed Samuel Luchtmans (1685 – 1757) as Van der Aa’s successor. It is hardly possible to underestimate the power and the glory of Leyden as an intellectual and cultural European centre at the time. A few months earlier, the incomparable Hermannus Boerhaave (1668 – 1738) had delivered his final public lecture, and a book not to be found in one way or another in or around Leyden could hardly be said to exist. After this calendar day’s transfer of tasks and responsibilities, the Luchtmans era in Brill’s evolution came into its own.