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The library of Hendrik Gabriël van Gameren, Bishop of Antwerp (1700-75)

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Little is known of the books belonging to private owners in eighteenth-century Antwerp. This article describes the library of one of the prelates of the city; numerous other studies will have to be published before a reliable overview can be provided. Before he was appointed Bishop of Antwerp in 1758 Hendrik Gabriël van Gameren had been a professor in the Theological Faculty of Louvain University. In this capacity he had, among other things, collaborated on the new edition of 'Duhamel's Bible' (Louvain 1740). Otherwise Van Gameren played no distinguished part in society either as a professor or as a bishop. He was however a close friend of the highest official in the country, Patrice-François de Neny; it seems very probable that he shared the latter's Jansenist convictions. There are two documents which allow us an insight into his collection of books: a printed auction catalogue (Louvain 1775) and the ledger of the Louvain auctioneer-bookseller Jan Frans van Overbeke. The latter organised the auction of Van Gameren's library and carefully noted in a register the names of buyers and the prices obtained. He furthermore indicated which of the titles in the catalogue had really belonged to Van Gameren. These sources disclose that Van Gameren possessed a scholarly library of only limited extent (550 titles) which consisted almost exclusively of theological, church-historical and canon law books. The authors most represented were Karel van den Abeele, J.B. Thiers and Louis Maimbourg. But polemical literature concerning the Jesuit problem and Jansenism was also widely represented. The books were mostly of Southern Netherlandish and French origin. It is further noticeable that they are mostly recent works, especially in Latin or French, far fewer in Dutch. And although the Bishop's exlibris is known, he does not appear to have been a true bibliophile. The limited and single-track nature of the collection and the complete absence of any works in connexion with the Enlightenment lead to the assumption that the Bishop's heirs did not send his complete library to auction. To gain a definite answer to this we would have to dispose of an estate inventory. Regrettably no such document has been preserved.


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