Knowledge Networks in Early Modern Holland

Knowledge Networks in Early Modern Holland: The Case of Ernst Brinck (1582-1649)

Claudia Swan

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Ernst Brinck, Annotations on the Bird of Paradise, OAH 2057, fol. 15r.

This research project concerned the literary remains of Dutchman Ernst Brinck (1582–1649) and focused on preserving and activating the exceptional annotations, inscriptions, lists, and commentaries contained in his surviving Adversaria (nearly 50 notebooks, never previously published or studied in detail) and three alba amicorum. This project comprised a conventional published component and a digital component. In the exceptionally well-preserved three volumes of signatures and inscriptions in the Koninlijke Bibliotheek, The Hague, Brinck collected signatures from contemporary luminaries as well as examples of as many as 200 languages. Brinck also amassed curiosities and antiquities, a substantial library, and an expansive garden in the course of serving as diplomatic agent and mayor of the city of Harderwijk. Brinck’s endeavors—as agent, as collector, as social networker, as civic representative, as author—qualify him as a key figure in the networks of knowledge his interests and his experience spanned in early seventeenth-century Europe. In addition to the alba amicorum in The Hague, just under 50 notebooks compiled by Brinck before his death at the midpoint of the seventeenth century survive. These contain extensive textual annotations and observations of natural historical phenomena, travel accounts, and multiple lists and indices of information. Brinck’s literary legacy comprises an extraordinary resource for the study of seventeenth-century practices as varied and as interconnected as reading, collecting, shipping, trade, and travel; and throughout the Adversaria, Brinck records and participates in the circulation of knowledge in signal. Something of a listmaniac, Brinck was an admirator and administrator of natural knowledge, and his textual remains comprise an incomparable archive of early modern knowledge formation, production, and collection.