< Back to chapters
͑Abd al- ͑Aziz ibn Muhammad al-Tha ͑ labi
(c. 1595 – ?)
͑Abd al- ͑Aziz ibn Muhammad al-Tha ͑ labi arrived in Amsterdam in December 1609 as the young secretary of a diplomatic delegation from the Sultan of Morocco. Somewhere in Amsterdam he met Johannes Theunisz. ͑Abd al-͑Aziz did not want to return with the rest of the delegation, because he was anxious about the rough winter seas. He seized on Theunisz’s offer to spend the winter with him. For four months, he helped Theunisz and his friends with their study of Arabic. And they discussed at length what was of central importance to the lives of ordinary people in the east and west: religion.
(1569 – c. 1640)
Johannes Theunisz was originally a twine spinner. He later became a printer and book dealer and learned Hebrew and Arabic. In the winter of 1609-1610, the young Moroccan diplomat ͑Abd al-͑Aziz was his guest at his house on the Oudebrugsteeg in Amsterdam. ͑Abd al-͑Aziz taught the Mennonite Theunisz a lot about Islam and Arabic. Theunisz’s attempt to become professor of Eastern languages in Leiden failed. He did, however, produce a number of publications and translations of Arabic texts. In addition, he ran an inn that attracted large numbers of visitors.
Ahmad ibn Qasim al-Hajari
(c. 1570 – after 1640)
Ahmad ibn Qasim al-Hajari was a Spanish Morisco, a descendant of Muslims who had forcibly been converted to Catholicism. Even before the expulsion of the Moriscos from Spain, he settled in Morocco and became the Spanish translator and secretary of the Sultan Mulay Zaydan, at his court in Marrakesh. In 1611, he travelled to France to resolve a legal problem facing a group of Moriscos. He came into contact there with a number of French scholars and also met Erpenius. In 1613, he travelled back to Morocco by way of Holland, where he spent several months in Leiden and was received in The Hague by prince Maurice, stadtholder of the Dutch Republic. From Marrakesh, in 1623-24, al-Hajari carried on a frequent correspondence with Golius, during the Dutchman’s stay in Morocco. He wrote a detailed account of his experiences in France and Holland, which has been translated into English.
(Van Erpen, 1584 - 1624)
Thomas Erpenius became the first professor of Arabic and other Middle Eastern languages in Leiden in 1613, as well as the first in the Dutch Republic. He was considered to be a brilliant scholar by his European colleagues. Erpenius had spent some time studying Arabic in Paris and had met the scholar Ahmad ibn Qasim al-Hajari there. After his return to Leiden, Erpenius continued to correspond with him concerning the Arabic language and the acquisition of manuscripts. He wrote textbooks for the study of Arabic that were still used 300 years later, and gathered an important collection of Middle Eastern manuscripts.
(c. 1560 - 1616)
Samuel Pallache was born in Fez, to a Jewish family with Spanish roots. He spoke and read Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew and Arabic and probably also Dutch, and was an excellent translator. Thanks to his knowledge of languages and the diversity of his talents, he played an important role in diplomacy and commerce, despite anti-Jewish sentiments in the Republic. From 1607 (probably) to his death in 1616, he lived in Amsterdam and The Hague as a merchant and representative of the Moroccan sultan. Pallache was a friend of prince Maurice, the stadtholder of the Republic.
(Van Gool, 1596 – 1667)
Jacob Golius studied Arabic with Erpenius in order to be able to read books on mathematics and medicine. He also learned to speak the language: he spent a year and a half in Morocco to investigate whether a Dutch port could be established along the coast near Safi, and he later lived in Aleppo and Istanbul. He built up an extensive network of scholarly friends and correspondents and acquired a large collection of Middle Eastern books. After his return to Leiden (in 1629), not only did he teach Arabic, Persian and Turkish there but also mathematics. He was one of the leading Arabist scholars in Europe. Middle Eastern intellectuals like Shahin Kandi and Niqulaus ibn Butrus were his house guests for long periods of time and praised the hospitality and friendliness of his family.
(c. 1618 – 1665)
Levinus Warner came from Germany to Leiden in 1638 to study Middle Eastern languages with Golius and the Hebraist L’Empereur. In 1644, he left for Istanbul as the translator and secretary of the Dutch envoy, whose successor he later became. He lived and dressed according to Turkish style and customs and remained in Istanbul until his death. Much more a literary scholar than a diplomat, he translated works from various Middle Eastern languages into Latin. With the help of local friends like Muhammad al-Urdi and Niqulaus ibn Butrus, he collected nearly a thousand manuscripts, many of them very beautiful, and dozens of printed books in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew and a few in Greek and Armenian. He purchased them at auctions from prominent Turks and had others copied. He bequeathed them all to the University of Leiden.
Niqulaus ibn Butrus al-Halabi
(or Nicolaus Petri, c. 1611 – c. 1661)
Niqulaus ibn Butrus al-Halabi was an Orthodox Christian from Aleppo who lived in Istanbul and was very knowledgeable about Arabic literature. From 1642 to 1647, he lived in the Republic of the Netherlands, initially at the invitation of the scholar Christiaan Rau or Ravius (1613 – 1677), for whom he copied books in Utrecht. He accompanied Ravius on a journey to London and made the acquaintance of English Arabists there. Ibn Butrus preferred to work with Golius, however. In 1647, he returned to Istanbul, where he spent years helping Warner collect books. He wrote to Golius that he regretted not having stayed in the Republic, where life was prosperous and where he was not discriminated against for being a Christian.
Shahin Kandi was an Armenian Christian from Aleppo, who moved to the Netherlands, possibly for reasons of business. He remained here until 1669 or later. He lived in Amsterdam, where there were many Armenians, but, with Golius’ mediation, he gained employment at the University of Leiden for at least a year (for the reasonable sum of five guilders a week) to correct and copy books in Persian, Arabic and Turkish. Shahin Kandi may have been trained as copyist and calligrapher. His handwriting was beautiful and very legible. He also copied and emendated books for Golius' own library.