I have been collecting early printed books since 2014. Here I wish to provide an overview of my collection, gradually curating a virtual reflection of my small library of rare books. Every fortnight I hope to post a brief description of an item, accompanied by a few pictures. The second item to be profiled is another book that I have owned for a while, a copy of one of the most popular series to appear in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic: an installment of the wildly successful Hollandse Mercurius.
Book #2: chronicling the present
“Holland Mercury, bringing the most remarkable [news] concerning the wars and alliances of turbulent Europe, occurred in the year 1657. The eighth part.”
From 1651 onwards Pieter Casteleyn, brother of the Haarlem newspaper publisher Abraham, produced each year the Hollandse Mercurius, a 100-page summary of the most notable events of the year to have taken place around Europe. The issues were largely composed from reports and extracts from contemporary newspapers, pamphlets and other official documents, but interspersed with Casteleyn’s own remarks. This “Holland Mercury” proved incredibly popular; it was pirated by Amsterdam publishers, and was continued after Pieter Casteleyn’s death in 1676 by his brother Abraham Casteleyn, and afterwards inspired numerous similar series. Demand was so great that Pieter Casteleyn frequently reprinted old issues: the copy of my edition, covering the year 1657, was reprinted in 1669 (misprinted 1679). This issue, like all others, featured an engraved title-page with representations of some of the more notable events of the year.
The Hollandse Mercurius can often be found listed in contemporary book trade catalogues, but generally as a complete series, rather than individual volumes. Nevertheless, from the early 1660s onwards individual issues were also frequently advertised in newspapers: Casteleyn often notified potential buyers that the series was available as a set, or as individual issues. On 14 March 1668, Pieter Casteleyn announced the eighteenth instalment in his brother’s newspaper, stating that the issue contained ‘illustrations of Chatham, Sheerness and the earthquake at Ragusa’ - but ‘the previous seventeen parts are also available, all with illustrations’. Copies could be found in Haarlem with Casteleyn, but also in Amsterdam with Pieter Arentsz ‘and with other booksellers’.
Ultimately, Casteleyn’s Hollandse Mercurius proved such a successful venture because there was significant demand for contemporary history amongst serious book collectors in the seventeenth century. Newspaper publishers knew this too, and they were quick to advertise their weekly papers as suitable chronicles of modern times: that is, if one subscribed to every issue, and bound them together. This marketing ploy never really took off: news writers were not well-equipped to judge the future importance of current events, and newspapers invariably included a fair share of inaccuracies and inconsistencies. Pieter Casteleyn, on the other hand, could make his pick in January or February of the new year of the reports which had turned out to be true, and which were clear to be of importance for future developments.
Hollantse Mercurius, Brengende het aenmerckelijckste omtrent de gebeurde Oorlogen, en Verbonts-Actien, voorgevallen in den ontrusten Omme-kringh van Europa, Binnen den Jare 1657. Het Achtste Deel.
Tot Haerlem, Gedruckt by Pieter Casteleyn, Boeck-Drucker op de Marckt, in de Keysers Kroon. Anno cIɔ Iɔ c LXXIX [1679 = 1669]. Met Privilegie.
4to, π4 A-O4, pp.  111 
167904 - b1 A n : b2 O3 rs$
USTC 1805909; STCN 123183642
Four other copies have thus far been documented