The Elsevier Heritage Collection

The Elsevier Heritage Collection consists of over 2,000 volumes with more than 1,000 distinct titles published by the original House of Elzevier from 1580 to 1712.

The collection is divided into our core collection, of around 1,500 volumes and a reserve or “duplicate” collection. Approximately 400 non-Elzevier antiquarian titles and over 30 reference titles are also preserved in our museum quality, acclimatized display shelves in our Elsevier headquarters in Amsterdam.

Elsevier Heritage Collection

Unveiling the Past

In this video, professor Paul Hoftijzer (Leiden University), advisor to the Elsevier Heritage Collection, explores the relationship between Leiden University, Bibliotheca Thysiana, and the 17th-century Elzeviers. The storyvideo sheds light on scholarly life in the 17th century and the publishing house that inspired modern-day Elsevier.

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Elsevier Heritage Collection Highlights

Notable authors include Galileo Galilei, Christiaan Huygens and René Descartes.

Check this page soon for a downloadable booklet with more information on all the collection highlights.

Ptolemy's Geography

PtolemyPtolomy's Geographia, written in the 2nd century and printed in 1618-1619 by Isaac Elzevier, remained fundamental up to far into the 17th century.

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PTOLOMAEUS, Cl.Theatri geographiae véteris. 1618-1619

Double-page engraved map, based on Mercator’s edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia, depicts the ancient world surrounded by a decorative border of twelve heads, representing the winds. 28 of Mercator’s maps and 22 additional maps by Ortelius were incorporated into this deluxe edition of the Geographia, edited by Petrus Bertius, a professor at the University of Leiden.


This work, printed in 1618-1619, is one of the first books ever printed by the Elzeviers.  Though the Elzeviers were active earlier in the book trade as bookbinders, booksellers, and publishers, Isaac Elzevier was the first among them to acquire a press, in 1617.

The Elsevier Heritage Collection copy shown here was formerly owned by Sir George Shuckburgh Evelyn FRS (1751-1804), a notable English mathematician, astronomer, and politician.

[EHC 02.1619.Ber] [Willems 137]

Galileo's Dialogue

GalileoThis 1635 edition of Galileo’s Dialogo Systema Cosmicum was published at the Elzeviers’ expense and printed in Strasbourg while Galileo was under house arrest.
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GALILEI, GALILEO, (Dialogo) Systema Cosmicum. 1635.

Portrait of Galileo Galilei and engraved title from the first Latin and first international edition of Galileo’s controversial Dialogue concerning the two chief world systems. Galileo’s Dialogue, which presented the heliocentric Copernican system as superior to the Ptolemaic system in a none too subtle fashion, was banned by the Catholic Church; Galileo was tried and convicted of heresy.


The engraved title depicts Galileo’s three interlocutors, the Copernican Salviati, the hapless traditionalist Simplicio, and Sagredo, who in the course of the dialogue comes to favor the Copernican worldview. This 1635 edition of Galileo’s work was published at the Elzeviers’ expense and printed in Strasbourg while Galileo was under house arrest.

[EHC 04.1635.Gal] [Willems 426]

Meet our experts

Paul Hoftijzer

Professor Paul Hoftijzer

Paul Hoftijzer (1954) is P.A. Tiele professor in the history of the early-modern book at the Department of Book and Digital Media Studies of Leiden University. He has published widely on various aspects of Dutch and international book history and is currently working on a study of the seventeenth-century book trade in Leiden.

Kasper van Ommen

Kasper van Ommen

Kasper van Ommen (1964) studied History of Art at Leiden University. He is co-ordinator of the Scaliger Institute, the Special Collections Research Centre in Leiden University Library. He has published extensively on the history of collections such as the portraits of 16th-century humanists (J.J. Scaliger, J. Lipsius and B. Vulcanius).

Sjors de Heuvel

Sjors De Heuvel

Sjors de Heuvel (1987) started working for Elsevier in 2013, following his graduation from an MA in Book and Digital Media Studies at Leiden University. Next to his activities as curatorial advisor for the Elsevier Heritage Collection, he is currently developing an Elsevier company history, to be published in early 2016.

Donna Sy

Donna Sy

Donna Sy has been working with the Elsevier Heritage Collection since 2007 as a cataloger and digital curator. She holds a B.S. in Biological Sciences and an A.B. in Classics from Stanford University, and an M.A. in Latin from the University of California, Berkeley.  Her dissertation (in progress) at Princeton University focuses on the history of the early modern Elzevier publishing firm.

Anton Gerits

Anton Gerits

Anton Gerits is a longstanding advisor on the development of the Elsevier Heritage Collection. Born in The Hague (1930). After working in the antiquarian sector for several decades, Mr. Gerits founded A.Gerits – Rare books with his wife, Paula Spiering, in 1981. They were later joined by their eldest son, Arnoud, who took over the company in 1996.

Leiden University partnership

Leiden Scaliger Logo

Since 2012, Elsevier has collaborated with the Scaliger Institute of Leiden University Libraries to enable international rare books and humanities scholars to study 16th-18th century scientific scholarship and publishing. The fellowship program builds on Elsevier’s 2011 launch of the Elsevier Heritage Collection’s online catalogue comprising over 2,000 rare books with more than 1,000 distinct titles published by the original Elzevier publishing house from 1580 to 1712. Based in the Netherlands with close ties to Leiden University, the original company published groundbreaking work from contemporary scholars including Descartes, Huygens and Galileo. The modern publisher Elsevier, founded in 1880, was named after the original firm as a tribute to the publishing achievements of the Elzeviers.

The Elsevier Scaliger Fellowship Program

The fellowship program supports two - three scholars to work with the extensive Leiden University Libraries Special Collections and the Elsevier Heritage Collection for a period of one to three months annually. A special preference is given to scholars focusing on the history of medicine, science and publishing.  At the end of the fellowship period, scholars are invited to share their research through public lectures and ElsevierConnect .
Closing date for application: April 1st 2016.

Elsevier Fellowship Conditions

Elsevier Fellowship applicants should carefully read the following grant conditions. Read more

  • Fellows are expected to conduct their research in Leiden University Libraries and/or The Scaliger Institute during the period of the Fellowship.
  • Fellows are responsible for ensuring they have the correct visa to support a research trip in the Netherlands for the duration of the Fellowship.
  • An invitation to take up a Fellowship will be made subject to agreement on the dates of the visit. Applicants should indicate their preferred dates on the application form.
  • All Fellowships are to be taken up and completed during the period Mai  2016 to 31 December 2016, except by special agreement.
  • It is the Fellow's responsibility to find accommodation (with the support of the Housing Department of the University) and to fund all the costs of the visit with the support of the funds awarded. Applicants should be aware that accommodation costs in Leiden may exceed the funds offered.
  • The Fellow will provide the Scaliger Institute with a written research report on the completion of the Fellowship.
  • The Fellow will provide Leiden University Libraries with a copy of any publication resulting from the research visit.
  • The Fellow will summarize their research into a short article (for a general audience) on Elsevier Connect.
  • The Fellow will present their research to Elsevier in an informal presentation for ca. 25 interested employees.

Applicants are reminded that if they require a visa in order to take up a Fellowship in the Netherlands, they must secure the appropriate visa and, once a proposal has been accepted, award of the Fellowship will be conditional on fulfilling this requirement.

Applications must include:

  • A completed application form stating personal details, the name of the Fellowship, the title of the proposed research project, the preferred dates of the intended visit and the names and addresses of two academic referees.
  • A proposal for research to be carried out in the Special Collections of Leiden University Library during the term of the Fellowship (1,200 words or fewer). Applicants should indicate how the proposed study advances their own research goals and how the study satisfies any particular aims of the award.
  • The research proposal must specify the relation between the proposed research and the primary sources, which are to be researched and consulted in the Special Collections Department of the library.
  • A list of manuscripts, editions of other items to be consulted in the library, supplied with shelf marks.
  • A start and end date of the proposed research.
  • A curriculum vitae.
  • A list of relevant publications.
  • Two letters of recommendation from the academic referees named in the application form. Applicants should ask the referees to comment on their professional knowledge of the applicant and the contribution the proposed research would make to scholarship. The The referees should be asked to send their letters by email to Attention: K. van Ommen, Coordinator of the Fellowship Programme, Scaliger Institute.
  • Researchers who have yet to obtain their doctoral degree also need to have a letter of recommendation from their supervisor(s).
  • Fellows who have previously received a fellowship from the Scaliger Institute, cannot obtain this grant a second time.

The Elsevier fellow is expected to contribute to the activities of the Scaliger Institute, and to give a public lecture.

The application closing date for Elsevier Heritage Fellowship 2016 is April, 1st 2016.

Evaluation Committee

Fellowship applications will be reviewed by a special board consisting of: Prof. Dr. H. Beukers (President Scholarly Board), Professor Paul Hoftijzer (History of the Book, UL) Kasper van Ommen, MA (Coordinator Scaliger Institute) and Ylann Schemm, (Head of Corporate Responsibility, Elsevier).

Application Form

Applicants for the Elsevier fellowship are required to fill out this application form (see below) and send it to the co-ordinator of the Scaliger Insitute, Kasper van Ommen, MA, Leiden University Library, Postbus 9501, 2300 RA Leiden, the Netherlands. Applications must comply with a number of conditions.

Our stories

Mathematics text

View a marked up mathematics text — from 1646

Valerie Teng-Broug & Evalyne Wanjiru, 20 August 2014, Elsevier Connect

Take a video tour of the Elsevier Heritage Collection – and download a copy of Opera Mathematica.


In restoring Elsevier’s 17th-century books, even the damage tells a story

Sjors de Heuvel, 14 May 2014, Elsevier Connect

Restoration expert Femke Prinsen shows how she restores books from Elsevier’s Heritage Collection.


Flipping through a 1635 edition of Galileo's 'Dialogue' and other historic books

Angelina Ward, 11 July 2013, Elsevier Connect

A behind-the-scenes glimpse of Elsevier’s Heritage Collection – and how you can view the books online.

Tale of Fonts

A Tale of Fonts illuminates the history of the House of Elzevier

Len Maniace, 1 May 2013, Elsevier Connect

Elsevier works with Leiden University scholars to publish book about its historic namesake.