A Brill Calendar: March 28

Brill's General Shareholders

Few connoisseurs of publishing specifically, and commerce in general, will have expected in 1872 that a former theologian, Van Oordt, co-operating with a secondary school teacher, De Stoppelaar – both strangers in the trade – would make a resounding success of exploiting the legacy of a paragon of scholarly publishing in The Netherlands, Evert Jan Brill.

Occasionally, lack of experience and absence of routine may be assets.

Some quarter of a century later both friends, now well over sixty, had expanded and diversified the company into a much larger enterprise, employing four times as many people as Brill himself earlier; who would have appreciated the jeopardy his successors faced: just as in his case within both ranks of in-laws and offspring no viable candidates could be found to succeed this Castor & Pollux.

In the evolution of publishing in Leyden, it is seldom that the entrepreneurial potential of continuity is underestimated; and the two directing co-owners were no exception to that belief and conviction in 1896. Van Oordt’s declining health called as well for resolute action early that year.

They decided to transform the private Firm ‘E. J. Brill’ into the ‘N. V. Boekhandel en Drukkerij voorheen E. J. Brill’. The abbreviation ‘ N. V.’ (‘Naamloze Vennootschap’) indicates a company with ‘limited liability’ in Anglo-Saxon parlance; ‘vennoot’ corresponds with ‘participator’. All shares, twenty in total, priced at Dfl. 5000,- each, were owned by the two current Directors and five Board-Members of the Company, while a third Director was appointed in the person of Cornelis Marinus Pleyte. Pleyte's father, Willem, Egyptologist and Director of the State Museum of Antiquities, also served on the Board - together with Professors Jan de Goeje, Arabist, and Albert Vreede, Indonesian Languages - where one brother of Van Oordt, and one of De Stoppelaar joined them.

The first official General Meeting of Shareholders was held March 28 1896. Not in a bleak office building, to be sure; De Stoppelaar’s comfortable town-house was a more appropriate and intimate venue for these eight men, determined to maintain and expand a unique scholarly tradition.